Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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A Christmas Day Hunt on Old Cape Cod

Born in Shanghai, China in 1870, the author of this story crossed the Pacific Ocean with his sea-going father three times by the age of four. A goat was carried aboard ship to provide him with milk. Nason Hamlin was the first recording secretary of the Norfolk Hunt and a member of the field on Norfolk’s first day with hounds in 1896. He took to hunting and polo with exuberance, but his hand-written records are more often expressed in seaman’s jargon than in the language of foxhunting. Here’s Hamlin’s record (abridged) of a Christmas Day live hunt on Cape Cod (pp 27–29, "The Norfolk Hunt: One Hundred Years of Sport" by Norman Fine).

nason hamlin

Soapy Sponge, my new dappled-gray runaway, was yet to demonstrate his worth. On Christmas morn, 1899, just as the sun was peeping over the hill, Captain Samuel D. Parker, MFH was hunting the hounds at Eastham, away down on Cape Cod. It was a frosty, sharp morn and hounds were thrown in at the swamp lands fringing the ponds on the bay-side somewhere opposite Billingsgate Island. Shortly we heard a whimper from one hound, and almost immediately the pack took up the find and crashed away in the direction of the shore.

There were some skeptical suggestions that dead fish were the lure, but dead fish by themselves don’t travel, and when the entire pack kept running along the water’s edge in full cry in a northeast point, we all were convinced it was the real thing after all.

Always Pack a Ham Sandwich

Mark McManus.huntsman and hounds2.ECHEglinton and Caledon Hounds with current huntsman, Mark McManus.The Eglinton and Caledon Hounds (ON) have long been noted for excellent live hunting. Drag hunting has been considered on occasions, but the decision has always been made to stay with pursuing the plentiful live coyotes in the hunt club’s southern countryside. It is not surprising then that the one attempt to incorporate some drag hunting with live hunting did not go according to plan.

The occasion was at one of the meets during the highly successful Ontario Festival of Hunting. The biennial Festival was spearheaded by the late Walter Pady, MFH of the Toronto and North York Hunt with the support of the five Ontario and and Quebec clubs during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Meynellian Science

 

meynell.loraine smithHugo Meynell (seated), in his later years, with his huntsman Jack Raven and a favorite hound Glider. / Engraving after a 1794 painting by Charles Loraine Smith

The father of English foxhunting was Hugo Meynell, founder of the Quorn, who began hunting hounds from his Leicestershire seat Quorn Hall in 1753. He developed the science of hunting the fox at speed in the open, made possible by the clearing of forests and the enclosure of land.

Stirrups and Stays: Riding Habits in the 18th Century

barnes1James Seymour (British, 1702 - 1752), A Lady and a Gentleman Riding Out, c. 1740, gouache on paper, 5 5/8 x 7 1/8 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the men of England were assaulted by a new and uncomfortable sight: women in masculine clothing! Even worse, these were upper class ladies, and they had donned cavalry-inspired costume to invade the male-dominated pastimes of riding and foxhunting. These daring women were often called ‘Amazons’ and were sometimes ridiculed for their riding habits. In 1666 Samuel Pepys lamented that, if not for their long skirts, these ladies wouldn’t be recognized as women at all! About fifty years later, Richard Steele satirically suggested that Amazons should “complete their triumph over us, by wearing breeches.”