Factors Affecting Development

 

During the nearly three centuries since foxhunting began, the shape and nature of significant areas of the countryside have changed dramatically. While the uplands and mountainous areas of Wales and the north of England have altered little, the Midlands and South now show a different face. What was largely extensive, wild heathland has become the enclosed country we see today. This, together with changes in farming practice and in the conduct of hunting itself, has required subtle changes in the conformation of hounds.

 

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The Earliest Times

The hunter-gatherers of our pre-history probably used domesticated descendants of the wolf to help in the hunt for food. Then a big change occurred in 1066. The Norman/French came and brought with them a highly-developed concept of hunting for sport with its aristocratic codes of practice. Even so the canines involved were used for hunting game (deer and hare) rather than vermin (fox and polecat). Dogs, or hounds as we must now call them, tended to be heavy, ponderous and slow. And this state of affairs continued largely unchanged for about 700 years.

 

Transformation

 

It wasn’t until the middle of the 1700s that Foxhunting started seriously, some say by accident. In unenclosed countries it had been a peep-of-day affair; expeditions starting at dawn followed by long, slow hunts, with hounds to match.

 

Then came the enclosures, converting much of what was formerly open country into manageable field sizes, bringing about the emergence of Hugo Meynell of The Quorn and all those other thrusting young men who wanted to gallop and jump. Hunting took on a different guise….and so did the hounds. The latter still showed marked variations in type, appropriate to their hunt countries, but speed, dash and drive were beginning to be telling new aspects in the conduct of a day’s hunting. So let us now try to trace the physical development of foxhound types.

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In picture No 1 we see Mr Smith-Barry’s BLUECAP 1759, a tall hound, 25 inches at the shoulder. We see a markedly sloping shoulder allowing a long forward stride, together with a hind leg with great length from hip-to-hock that acted as a lever to propel him forward. Designed for speed, he hunted wearing a drag-chain to hold him back to match the pace of his slower brethren.

In picture No 2 are displayed some of the Marquess of Rockingham’s hounds in Yorkshire. These are quite a different type. This is a picture painted by George Stubbs in 1761-62 and reflects a similarity to French-bred hounds and some of those still to be found in the USA today. Domed heads, long ears, tall and rather light of bone. Long sloping pasterns and perhaps in their work a little short of drive in hunting the fox, as some of the pure-bred American hounds are reputed to be.

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Peter Beckford was a distinguished foxhunter of the early days, penning his thoughts on the subject which are still read today. In picture No 3 are some of his hounds painted in 1785 and it is instructive to tie them in to the precepts he laid down for hunting at that time.

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By way of a diversion, picture No 4 shows New Forest JASPER 1796. He is not the best-looking hound as a type but all the mechanical aspects of his conformation are right enough.

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Picture No 5 is a real treat. It shows Brocklesby RINGWOOD 1788. A surprisingly modern-looking doghound. Well-made and shapely with lovely legs and feet. He has a good shoulder and elbow but if you want to criticise him, perhaps he looks a shade long and then rather chopped-off at the back-end. He is shown together with Brocklesby RALLYWOOD 1843 below who was a direct descendant of RINGWOOD. The younger doghound was rather short-legged, only 23 inches at the shoulder. Light of bone but with good legs and feet, he was still running at the head of the pack at 12 years old and his line remains one of the few prominent sire lines in the Foxhound Kennel Stud Book to this day.

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Sir Thomas Mostyn’s (or Bicester as it later became) renowned LADY 1801 is shown in picture No 6. She whelped 9 litters between 1803- 11 which shows how highly she was regarded. Some of the best Heythrop dam lines of today trace back to her and what a good type of brood bitch she was.

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Lord Henry Bentinck was one of the most distinguished hound breeders ever and in picture No 7 is Mr Henry Chaplin’s GUARDIAN 1867 by Lord Henry’s VICTOR 1861 out of GOOSECAP 1860. Note the false underline caused by the shadow in the picture. He is a lovely type and the blood of this pack still runs widely today in nearly every pack in the country. Lord Henry kept detailed notes in his Kennel Book on the performance of each of his hounds, seeing them as he did on every hunting day. He regularly hunted three horses daily and galloped alongside the leading hounds the better to assess their working ability.

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Picture No 8 shows Croome RAMBLER 1837, bred by the Earl of Coventry who formed this pack. RAMBLER’s dam. RANSOME 1868 was bred by Lord Henry Bentinck. We see the good depths, powerful hindquarters, good legs and feet and overall symmetry. Although he has good quality bone, it is not overdone.

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The Warwickshire HERMIT and WILDBOY both entered in 1889 and appear in picture No 9. They show particular quality in their swan-like necks which is still evident in latter-day hounds such as was apparent in Heythrop PONDER 2005. The noted Lord Willoughby de Broke, Master of The Warwickshire in the 1880s, declared that WILDBOY was the best hound he had ever bred.

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In picture No 10 we see a model doghound, the Craven VAGABOND 1893 by Warwickshire HERMIT 1889. His swan-like neck and well-laid shoulders are  different from the square box shape that became so fashionable soon after. His blood was used at The Kilkenny by Mr Isaac Bell who was Master there and who took it on to the South and West Wilts later. What an aristocratic – looking hound this is.

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……and then Something Seemed to go Terribly Wrong

 

Here in picture No 11 we see a typical doghound of 1909, only 16 years after Craven VAGABOND 1893 and the animal in the accompanying shot (picture No 12) was a brood bitch of the same time.

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Picture No 13 shows South Staffordshire DENMARK 1922, which was judged to be the doghound champion at Peterborough in his year.

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…..but Help was at Hand

 

A group of prominent Masters, including the 10th Duke of Beaufort – or ‘Master’ as he was more generally known, the Berkeley family, Sir Peter Farquhar and the American Isaac Bell, by now at the South and West Wilts, set about putting quality back into the breed, in working ability as well as in conformation. Jack Evans of the Brecon, gave Ikey Bell his PETREL 1932. We see her in picture No 14 with ‘Master’ after she had been passed on as a gift from Ikey. She had the best English and Welsh bloodlines in her makeup, going directly back to Brocklesby CLOUDY 1743.

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Now in picture No 15 is S&WW GODFREY 1928 bred by Ikey; by his Kilkenny GORY 1921 (tracing back to the Craven VAGABOND 1893 shown above) out of Carlow GOOSECAP 1922. The latter was bred by the redoubtable Mrs Olive Hall who bred the Carlow hounds for many years, with their wonderful conformation, quality necks and shoulders and a fierceness in their work that boded ill for the Carlow foxes. A year or two after her death, the pack was disbanded and certain Masters went from England across to Ireland and bought some bitches so that the dam lines were not lost.

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The Earl Bathurst was an adherent to the cause but he was much against the introduction of Welsh bloodlines which he regarded as ‘a misalliance – a blot on the escutcheon’ ! Nonetheless we see in picture No 16 his WILFUL 1932 and her daughter WINSOME 1935. His hounds were full of Lord Henry Bentinck’s bloodlines as is shown here in their type, colour and quality.

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Picture No 17 depicts Beaufort CHASER 1930 and shows how Master was breeding well-balanced, quality hounds. This doghound was Peterborough champion in 1935.

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The Berkeley bitch Entry for 1935 appears in picture No 18. These hounds are never exhibited at Hound Shows so too many people are unaware of their quality and type which have been maintained by the family for so many decades.

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Post World War 2 Results of Careful Breeding

Picture 19 shows Beaufort CULPRIT 1975 and it is clear how these hounds have become more refined in their looks. However even with this type available, people still felt the need to experiment.

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A few tried the Fell Hound as a cross with the established Modern English type. An example is shown in picture No 20. Another example of this cross was the famous example when Blencathra GLIDER 1976 was used by Mr Tim Unwin at the

Cotswold. He bred Cotswold GLENCOYNE 1984 which in turn sired Heythrop GLAZIER 1990, a widely-used stallion hound with a high reputation for his working abilities. The picture shows the shoulders that are an aid to the easy descent of the mountainous fellsides. This bitch also has the hare foot which is an advantage in that type of country. Fell hounds have drive and they cast wide, attributes in country where an independent outlook is welcomed.

Picture20

Other experiments were carried out using Welsh bloodlines and an example of the purebred Welsh hound is in picture No 20 which shows David Davies LUNGER 1978. He is a good example of his type.

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Picture 22 and onwards show a succession of Peterborough Champion doghounds and bitches for the years 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 and they illustrate the trends of the time.

 

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Conformation is a key component in a hound’s ability to deploy its ‘invisible’ characteristics while carrying out its hunting task. A pack that is level in type, conformation and quality will have an increased ability to run up together so that the hounds’ hunting abilities can be delivered to the critical point in a hunt at the same time. The techniques of breeding a pack are a separate consideration but an important part of that exercise must be the development of a standard type of conformation that allows each hound to give of its best when at work. Changing times and circumstances in hunting countries have been mirrored in the way the hounds’ conformation has been adapted to meet changing needs.

 

John Parkes

November 2013.
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