The East Lincs Harehounds (as they were then known) made their first appearance in Lincolnshire in early August 1972 when they were paraded at Revesby Country Fair. They had just arrived in Lincolnshire from Hampshire, where they had been known as the Test Valley Basset Hounds and had been established as such in 1969.
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The hunting country of the Test Valley had been loaned to them by the New Forest Beagles and was within the boundaries of the old Hursley Foxhounds country on the Hants/Wilts borders. By 1972 their country was coming under increasing pressure from urban development and the effects of the construction of the M3 motorway. It was consequently decided to bring the pack to Lincolnshire where there was, at that time, room available to register a new hare hunting country. This area had, many years previously, been occupied by the now defunct Skegness Beagles and was within the country of the South Wold Foxhounds.
The pack was then a mixed one consisting mostly of Bassets, but with an augmentation of some Beagles of the heavier type. Kennels were established in a converted piggery at Croft, near Skegness, and hounds went out each Saturday during the season and occasionally mid-week. The type of country hunted was mostly what is geographically known as the “coastal marshes” of Lincolnshire – land lying between the Wolds and the North Sea. Towards the end of the season, it was possible to take hounds on to the Wolds to hunt, but preferably after the hare shoots in early February had reduced the rather large population. Of course, all this was long before the Hunting Act 2004.
After showing good sport for three seasons, the then Master decided to move to Ireland and took the Beagles with him to augment the pack of Beagles there, where he was to join the mastership. He generously left the Bassets to the committee of the East Lincs and new Joint Masters were appointed in time for the start of the 1975 -76 season. The new regime decided to try and build the pack along similar lines to those of the Westerby Bassets, the Masters of which were very generous in providing some very useful drafts, as were the Masters of the Huckworthy Bassets, who also had similar types.
It would be true to say that the pack was, at that time, somewhat uneven but the new regime of Masters began to learn much from them and they provided a lot of enjoyment in the hunting field! Some of the Bassets in the re-formed pack displayed some very useful abilities and characteristics. Soon, it became possible to formulate a breeding plan in an attempt to reproduce the type of hound the Masters considered ideal for their country. They were also encouraged by winning the Bitch Championship at Peterborough in 1976 with Rebecca ’73, a hound of the desired type. This bitch had actually been bred by the previous Master before he went to Ireland, so the credit was really his.
What they were really looking for was a type of Basset hound similar to that originally developed by Colonel Eric Morrison, a rather famous past Master of the Westerby. He had begun to do some research into breeding his ideal Basset soon after returning home from active service at the end of World War II. He had wanted to improve the physical qualities of the Basset by using various out crosses, including a Beagle, a small Foxhound and other Basset breeds – but without any significant success in achieving what he had in mind. He eventually tried a small Harrier doghound called Dunston Gangway ’48, who sired a litter of exactly what he had in mind. The blood of this stallion hound is now in most (but not all|) Basset hound packs in the UK – and many packs abroad.
Colonel Morrison referred to the progeny as the English Basset Hound, probably to distinguish it in the minds of others from what we might nowadays call the “Hush Puppy” type, sometimes described as the French type. His description of the type of hound he eventually bred and which he considered ideal was …. “one standing about fifteen and a half inches at the shoulders, as near straight as possible in front and with enough bone to give it stamina, without suggesting “lumber”. They move like Foxhounds, come home with their sterns up and are capable of hunting hard two days a week”.
They also, importantly, retained the close scenting qualities and deep voices usually associated with the Basset hound and this was what the new East Lincs Masters decided to aim for. Of course the objective could not be achieved overnight and breeding a pack of hunting Bassets is much more complicated than one might first imagine. Other Masters of the East Lincs have since come and gone – but the objective in hound breeding has remained more or less the same and continues today.
After the Hunting Act 2004 became law the hunt changed its name to the East Lincs Basset Hounds and continues to entertain followers in hunting an artifically laid scent with a pack that gets closer each year to the objective in mind forty years ago.
A 45 page publication entitled “Away Back!” has been produced by the East Lincs Basset Hounds and covers the earlydays of the pack mentioned in this article. The text is well illustrated with 19 photographs and maps. It costs £7 (inc.p&p) and a limited number is available from Alan Pickering, Hon. Secretary of the East Lincs Basset Hounds, who canbe contacted at 07801 053523 or firstname.lastname@example.org