Rhoda Hopkins, one of the first female professional huntsmen* in North America, died peacefully on June 18, 2017. She was eighty-eight.
Rhoda hunted the Fairfield County Hounds (CT) for fifteen years, from 1979 to 1994. Her pack of Penn-Marydel foxhounds provided excellent sport in the field, and excelled at the hound shows, winning the Pack Class at Bryn Mawr for seven consecutive seasons. Hers were the first Penn-Marydels I ever hunted behind, and I remember galloping as fast to keep up as I have behind any other pack of foxhounds since.
On a recent Saturday the Old Chatham Hunt (NY) had a rare hunting day. Hounds ran their first coyote hard for an hour before huntsman and staff had to stop them from going into country where it was difficult to follow. Hounds then found another coyote and ran it through their wooded country in fine voice for another forty-five minutes to finish an excellent day of hunting. What’s remarkable about that? one might ask. Nothing, except that the huntsman had never hunted a pack of hounds before in his life until that day.
At the end of last season, Old Chatham members made some difficult and controversial organizational changes in an effort to improve their sport. A new huntsman—Tommy Hopkins—was named, and a new Master—Jef Murdock—was appointed. Hopkins had been whipping-in for years and was familiar with the hounds, but Murdock, though he’d been following hounds as a field member for years, was better known for his skiing acumen—he owns the popular Butternut ski area in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts—than for his prowess with foxhounds.
A Crossbred bitch rolled down to Massachusetts from the hills of Vermont and snatched the Grand Championship trophy from its habitual resting place at the venerable Myopia Hunt kennels. North Country Luna 2008 was judged Grand Champion of the New England Hound Show, hosted this year at the Berlin, Massachusetts home of Virginia Zukatynski, MFH, Old North Bridge Hounds on June 10, 2012.
“Largo's story is a great testament to how hunts and huntsman can work together to help each other out and find the right fit for hounds,” says David Hyman, MFH and huntsman of the Full Cry Hounds (AL). “It's truly a unique fraternity.”