Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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With the kind permission of the author, here is the first chapter of The Great Hound Match of 1905 by Martha Wolfe. The Library of Virginia has selected Martha’s work as a potential Best Book of 2016 in the Non-Fiction category. Readers may cast their votes by clicking here.

higginson and cotesworth with houndsA. Henry Higginson, MFH, Middlesex Hunt, in derby and spats with huntsman Robert Cotesworth and his imported English foxhounds of the period.  /  Courtesy, National Sporting Library and Museum

     Storytellers claim that there is really only one story in the world: “A Stranger Comes to Town.” In this case, two strangers came to two towns in Virginia bringing with them their separate entourages—private train loads of friends and their horses, trunks of tack, boots, formal and informal clothing, food and wine, servants and of course their hound dogs. Neither Middleburg nor Upperville, Virginia, had seen the likes since J. E. B. Stuart established his headquarters at the Beverage House (now the Red Fox Inn) in Middleburg during the Gettysburg Campaign. Alexander Henry Higginson of South Lincoln and Harry Worcester Smith of Grafton, Massachusetts had determined that the Loudoun Valley in Virginia’s pastoral Piedmont was the best place to prove the relative worth of their chosen foxhounds.    

     It was November of 1905, the peak of foxhunting season across the Midlands of England and up and down the east coast of North America and these folks had come south from already snow-covered New England to the relatively mild winter in Virginia to hunt her plentiful red foxes. There was to be a contest, a Great Hound Match, between two packs of foxhounds, one English and one American. The English hounds carried, on their great stout forearms and deep chests, the monumental weight of centuries of foxhunting in England and were expected to make their hound dog ancestors proud of their New World conquest. The American hounds were expected to show those stodgy old Brits how it was done over here—with spunk and intuition, individuality, drive and nerve. Of course the dogs just wanted to chase a fox or two; it was their Masters who loaded the poor hounds and The Match, this moment in history, with the weighty question of worth.

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