Mention of hunting the fox with hounds is made in the fourteenth century, but the first pack, kept solely for this form of the chase, was probably the Charlton in Sussex, which existed in the latter quarter of the seventeenth century, although the honour is also claimed for the Leicester, and a pack hunted by an ancestor of Lord Arundels in Hampshire and Wiltshire, which subsequently blossomed into the Meynell. Today the hunting number of The Field advertises 164 packs in England, 25 in Ireland, and 10 in Scotland, and it is computed by competent authorities that over four millions sterling are annually expended, directly and indirectly, in the sport, and a hundred thousand of the finest bred horses engaged in it.

Although the most perfectly developed dog of the day, the foxhound owes nothing to the Kennel Club or its dog shows. It is as superior as royalty to those institutions, and even at the Kennel Club's own show an exhibit is something of the nature of a favour, to obtain which the authorities of Grafton Street had to pocket their pride and agree to bench hounds that coldly declined registration in their archives. The Peterborough Show is the one where the blue ribbon of the hound world is adjudged, and there, and there alone, you may see all that is best and most perfect in the hunting and working hound - world collected in emulation.

The foxhound requires, really, a book to itself, and has had many. Into a compilation like this it enters an angel unawares, to whom proper adoration cannot be paid. Indeed, I doubt if it can decently be included in the designation “dogs." A foxhound sire is a stallion hound, and to call it a dog, conventionally or accidentally, in the company of hunting hobbyists, is to damn yourself entirely. Wherefore I most willingly

let those specialists speak who are most conversant with the subject.

MR. HARDING Cox.—There is no breed of dog or hound so true and level as the foxhound, or that maintains its type and quality so surely. Some masters have erred in their pursuit of abnormal bone, and thus encountered coarseness. I consider great good is done by local puppy shows, and Peterborough Hound Show is an institution. It would be a good thing if similar exhibitions were arranged for in remoter parts of the country, but judges should be employed who are not only experienced as regards the keeping and handling of hounds, but have the technical knowledge and the critical faculty of the acknowledged show-judge. The grand sport which is dependent on the foxhound places him on a pedestal ; but his general character, as a member of the canine race, is only known and appreciated by those who have control of him. His nature is full of good possibilities, and his intelligence, as an individual, is far in advance of the average dog. A thousand anecdotes of the foxhound have been written, and as many more go unchronicled. Here is one showing the deep devotion which is often displayed by a pack that is hunted by the master.

When master of the O.B.H. I often had to bring my hounds back to kennel from afar. One day, after hunting, I had to proceed to London on a matter of urgency. As we were within reach of a convenient station, I instructed the kennel huntsman and whippers-in to take on the hounds, and trotted off. After proceeding for about a mile and a half I heard an awful clatter, whips cracking and rating behind, and up came the entire pack. On reaching me they jumped all over my hunter, and one bitch actually succeeded in landing on the saddle in front of me, overwhelming me with her tokens of affection. It was with the utmost difficulty that the hounds were turned from me, and each time I moved on they broke away from the hunt servants. There was nothing for it but to allow them to accompany me to the station. As soon as my train steamed off they trotted kindly away. They knew!

A story, I take it, that does as much credit to the master as to the hounds, and leaves me lamenting that I have not others from the same pen to adorn this article.

MR. ROBERT LEADBETTER (Master of the Old Berkeley West). - In the foxhound I would lay great importance on a powerful back and loins; the places hounds have to get over and through in a run, to a hound deficient in either of these points, would be impossible, or would take such an animal so long as to render him useless. The foxhound's thighs must be muscular and long ; short from his hock to his foot ; no galloping animal can be flat-sided if he is to have speed, as a hound must have. Flat-sided horses and hounds usually suffer from want of wind. Let his ribs be well sprung, then ; let him be dead straight in front, with plenty of bone running right down to his feet, which must be round and close, with well-arched toes ; let him carry his stern high, and for colour be the rich black and tan, with white or yellow pied, the former for preference; but a good hound is never a bad colour, as is said of a horse. A moderately long neck, and arched where it meets the head, which should be long, lean, and with keen, intelligent expression ; eyes dark, ears small and well placed in the head ; rounding the latter is fast going out of fashion. The fore legs are often flecked, which adds to a hound's charms. The best hound is he who is best in the field. Different countries require different hounds to show sport, of course. For instance, hounds from a grass country, where scent is usually good, if taken to a woodland, or country with much plough,-in other words, a cold-scenting country,—would overrun the line probably, as the scent would be different to the shires where they hunted. For a woodland country, or, in fact, any country, in which steady, persevering hounds are wanted, nothing can beat our English hounds crossed once with pure Welsh hounds. These will stick to a line and puzzle it out when an English hound will throw his head up. The English-Welsh hound can go on the grass, too, and is very fast.

I am furthermore beholden to Mr. Harold Tremayne, the well-known novelist and sporting writer, for the following contribution, penned at a time when he was particularly engaged, and far away from the hounds he loves so well, and has ridden after so often and so widely, for he can claim to have followed, on some occasion or other, no less than forty-two packs in the kingdom ::-

Can a painter's brush or the most enthusiastic hound-lover's pen do justice to the beauty, the intelligence, and the sagacity of the foxhound ? They can ? Then the writer frankly admits his is not the pen which should be requisitioned, and in doing so trusts to disarm criticism. The artist may describe on canvas one incident of the chase ; he may depict a “find," "full cry,” or “ running for blood, with the hackles up”; but the whole description of a good run, from start to finish, no brush or pen can do thorough justice to. The broad effect can be obtained, certain details may be included, but the thousand and one little incidents of interest to the lover of the hound cannot necessarily be brought within the limits, or carried in its entirety in the mind's eye of the man or woman who has participated in such a field-day. It is the poet perhaps who has done most to immortalise the joys of the chase, and it is to his pen that we owe some of those thrilling descriptions of runs which “they talk about still with a thrill of pride.” Who can read with unmoved feelings those stirring lines of Somerville's descriptive of the foxhound :

See there, with countenance blythe,
And with a courtly grin, the fawning hound
Salutes them cowering ; his wide opening nose
Upward he curls, and his large sloe-black eyes
Melt in soft blandishments and humble joy :
His glossy skin, or yellow pied or blue,
In lights or shades, by Nature's pencil drawn,
Reflects the various tints ; his ears and legs
Fleckt here and there in gay enamelled pride,
Rival the speckled pard ; his rush-grown tail
O'er his broad back bends in an ample arch;
On shoulders clean, upright and firm he stands,
His round cat-feet, straight loins, and wide-spread thighs,
And his low drooping chest, confess his speed,
His strength, his wind, or on the steepy hill
Or the extended plain ; on every part
So well proportioned to the nicer skill
Of Phidias himself can't blame thy choice ;
Of such compose thy pack.

Compare Somerville's description of 1765 to Whyte-Melville's, and there is nothing to quibble over :

On the straightest of legs and the roundest of feet,
With ribs like a frigate his timbers to meet,
With a fashion, a fling, and a form so complete
That to see him dance over the flags is a treat !

« ForrigeFortsett »