Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Fox Hounds

'Ware Flitters!

Just had to republish Andy's story as the cubhunting season draws to a close!

andy bozdan3Huntsman Andy Bozdan at the Tennessee Valley Hunt

When I was learning to whip-in I would watch the huntsman and the way he effortlessly walked his pack out in the spring and summer. This particular spring the swallows had arrived early and would flit low across the fields in front of hounds. To my surprise he let his hounds chase them.

Keen to learn, I asked why he did not want me to turn hounds back. He said that this was their time off, and he wanted them to relax and unwind.

A Level Pack or a Team of Specialists?

The sheer beauty of a level pack of foxhounds is indisputable. There is a uniformity of appearance and traits, and such a pack tends to run well together. But there is another option.

Why not a pack consisting of foxhounds of various types, welcoming the unique attributes of each hound type? Breeders know that no single type offers all the best attributes we want in a pack; hence the English-American Crossbred. But within those two categories there are still more individual types with more concentrated attributes that could allow each type to contribute at the appropriate stage of any hunt just when needed.

The Tom Smith Cast

tom smith cast2Hounds speak confidently in covert; the whipper-in on the far side lifts his cap to the sky; and hounds burst into the open in full cry.

Suddenly all of life is in motion. Your head fills with the sights and sounds of the chase—the cry of hounds, the huntsman’s horn, the thud of hooves, the wind in your ears. Bliss. Then it all goes quiet.

The pack fractures, hounds searching for the lost line. The huntsman gives them a chance to recover it on their own. He doesn’t want the line to go cold, nor does he wants hounds to lift their heads and look to him for help every time they are at fault. Hounds make their own swing. The huntsman weighs all the factors—wind, scenting conditions, time passing, landscape, how the foxes have run here in the past. He decides to make a cast.

Will Goodall and the Belvoir

Surely, one of the great foxhunting packs of Old English (or traditionally bred) foxhounds—as distinguished from the Modern English foxhound—is the Belvoir (pronounced “Beaver”) in the UK. The kennels are at Belvoir Castle and have always been the property of the Dukes of Rutland. The hunt dates from 1750, and, except for a twenty-seven year period in the 1800s, the Mastership has always been held by the reigning Duke of Rutland. The Belvoir kennels are still considered by many breeders to be their primary source of Old English bloodlines.

belvoir video

Will Goodall served as the Belvoir huntsman from 1842 to 1859. Goodall’s hunting methods greatly impressed Lord Henry Bentinck, one of the leading MFHs of the day. Captain Simon Clarke, MFH of the New Forest foxhounds (UK) tells us that Lord Henry hunted three horses a day, kept copious notes, compared the best of England’s huntsmen, and believed Will Goodall to be the premier huntsman in England.

When in 1864 Lord Henry sold his famous hound pack, he wrote a letter to the purchaser, Mr. Henry Chaplin, describing Will Goodall’s hunting methods. The information in the letter so impressed Mr. Chaplin that, some years after Lord Henry’s death, he had it published under the title, The Late Lord Henry Bentinck on Foxhounds: Goodall’s Practice.

"Goodall’s Practice,” says Captain Clarke, “is the best treatise on hunting hounds ever written.” The revered Master and hound breeder Isaac “Ikey” Bell, the single individual most responsible for the modern English foxhound, is said to have had Goodall’s Practice painted on the ceiling over his bathtub! If you watch while hunting this season, you may see and recognize some of these same practices being used by your own huntsman. Here’s an extract: