Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Mountain and Muse: A Bicentennial

mountain

museThe Port of Baltimore earned a place in American history two hundred years ago this month during the War of 1812. The British, after burning and sacking Washington, D.C. in August of 1814, turned their attention to Baltimore with an assault by naval and ground troops in September. Francis Scott Key, a witness to the naval bombardment of Fort McHenry, jotted down the words to what became our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The Port of Baltimore earned its place in American foxhunting history that very same month—September, 1814. After the British fleet withdrew to make its final assault of the War of 1812 on New Orleans, a merchant ship entered the Port of Baltimore and disembarked two foxhounds from Ireland, Mountain and Muse.

Unusual for their appearance, speed, aggression, hunting style, and pre-potency, Mountain and Muse turned out to be progenitors of our principal American foxhound strains: July, Birdsong, Trigg, Bywaters, and Walker. The Midland Crossbred, developed by Ben Hardaway, MFH, found today in kennels all over North America as well as England, and having its roots in the July strain, also goes back to Mountain and Muse.

How Old Hounds Pay Their Keep at Red Rock

rr.nancy.retired houndWhat to do with the old hounds? / Nancy Stevens-Brown photo

Most hunts are beset by similar problems: what to do with old hounds, how to attract more members, how to pay the bills, how to train staff, how to train young hounds. Lynn Lloyd, MFH and huntsman of the Red Rock Hounds (NV), found that the solution to one problem provided the key to solving several others.

What to Do with Old Hounds
The average hunting life of a hound is perhaps six or seven years. That means it is retired from the pack at age seven or eight. Beyond that age, most hounds start falling behind the pack, lacking the foot and endurance to maintain the pace over a full hunting day.

But with several years of life still remaining for the retired hounds, most hunts are hard-put to expend their limited financial resources to keep and maintain them. And here’s where Lynn Lloyd found a way to turn a burden into an asset.

The Puppy Walker

 puppy walker

No members of your hunting community are loved by Masters and huntsman as dearly as the puppy walkers. Each year these intrepid folk accept the arrival of a couple of playful pups to their country home in early summer to teach them their names, walking on lead, a semblance of civilized behavior, and a taste of life outside the kennel.

In a couple of months, after the cuddly innocents have grown into marauding, thieving, hunting fanatics, the puppy walkers cry, “Uncle!” and the huntsman returns to reclaim them. The huntsman will be back the following summer, however, and these generous puppy walkers will smilingly welcome yet another couple of wide-eyed puppies to their property.

So, when your Masters praise the puppy walkers at the annual puppy show and bestow a small trophy upon those who walked the winning hounds, recall this poem by Will H. Ogilvie and give the puppy walkers their due!

Will You Walk a Puppy?

‘Will you walk a puppy?’ the Hunt enquired.
Being sportsmen, we did as the Hunt desired.
And early in June there arrived a man
With an innocent bundle of white and tan.
A fat little Foxhound, bred to the game,
With a rollicking eye and a league-long name,
And he played with a cork at the end of a string;
And walking a puppy was ‘just the thing.’

The Tom Smith Cast

tom smith castHounds 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.