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Author: Robert Leighton
There is plenty of proof that Foxhounds were the very first of the canine races in Great Britain to come under the domination of scientific breeding. There had been hounds of more ancient origin, such as the Southern Hound and the Bloodhound; but something different was wanted towards the end of the seventeenth century to hunt the wild deer that had become somewhat scattered after Cromwell's civil war.
The demand was consequently for a quicker hound than those hitherto known, and people devoted to the chase began to breed it. Whether there were crosses at first remains in dispute, but there is more probability that the policy adopted was one of selection; those exceptionally fast were bred with the same, until the slow, steady line hunter was improved out of his very character and shape. At any rate, there are proofs that in 1710 hounds were to be found in packs, carefully bred, and that at that time some of the hunts in question devoted attention to the fox.
The first known kennel of all was at Wardour Castle, and was said to have been established in 1696; but more reliable is the date of the Brocklesby, commenced in 1713. The first record of a pack of hounds being sold was in 1730, when a Mr. Fownes sold his pack to a Mr. Bowles. The latter gentleman showed great sport with them in Yorkshire. At that time Lord Hertford began to hunt the Cotswold country, in Gloucestershire, and was the first to draw coverts for fox in the modern style. Very soon after this it became the fashion of the day to breed hounds. Many of the nobility and large landowners devoted much of their time and money to it, and would take long journeys to get fresh blood. It was the rule to breed hounds on the most scientific principles, and by 1750 there were fifty such breeders, including the fifth Duke of Beaufort, Lord Lincoln, Lord Stamford, Lord Percival, Lord Granby, Lord Ludlow, Lord Vernon, Lord Carlisle, Lord Mexbro, Sir Walter Vavasour, Sir Roland Winns, Mr. Noel, Mr. Stanhope, Mr. Meynell, Mr. Barry, and Mr. Charles Pelham.
The last-named gentleman, afterward the first Lord Yarborough, was perhaps the most indefatigable of all, as he was the first to start the system of walking puppies amongst his tenantry, on the Brocklesby estates, and of keeping lists of hound pedigrees and ages.
By 1760 all the above-named noblemen and gentlemen had been breeding from each other's kennels. The hounds were registered, as can be seen now in Lord Middleton's private kennel stud book, through which his lordship can trace the pedigrees of his present pack for a hundred and sixty years to hounds that were entered in 1760, got by Raytor, son of Merryman and grandson of Lord Granby's Ranter. Another pedigree was that of Ruby, who is credited with a numerous progeny, as she was by Raytor out of Mr. Stapleton's Cruel by Sailor, a son of Lord Granby's Sailor by Mr. Noel's Victor. This shows well how seriously Foxhound breeding was gone into before the middle of the eighteenth century.
Portraits prove also that a hound approaching very closely to those of modern times had been produced at this early period. By such evidence the Foxhound had outstripped the Harrier in size by nearly five inches, as the latter does not appear to have been more than eighteen inches, and the early Foxhound would have been twenty-three inches. Then the heavy shoulder, the dewlap, and jowl of the Southern Hound had been got rid of, and the coat had been somewhat altered. The old school of breeders had evidently determined upon great speed and the ability to stay, through the medium of deep ribs, heart room, wide loins, length of quarter, quality of bone, straightness of fore-leg, and round strong feet; the slack loined, loosely built, and splayfooted hound of former generations had been left behind. To such perfection, indeed, had the Foxhound attained, that long before the close of the eighteenth century sportsmen were clamouring as to what a Foxhound could do.
With so much prominence given to the Foxhound in the comparatively short period of forty or fifty years, it is no wonder that individual hounds became very celebrated in almost every part of the country. Mr. Pelham's Rockwood Tickler and Bumper were names well known in Yorkshire, and Lord Ludlow's Powerful and Growler were talked of both in Lincolnshire and Warwickshire. From the first, indeed, it appeared that certain hounds were very much better than others, and old huntsmen have generally declared for one which was in the whole length of their careers (sometimes extending to fifty years) immeasurably superior to all others they had hunted. Harry Ayris, who was for just half a century with Lord FitzHardinge, declared to the day of his death that nothing had equalled Cromwell; Osbaldeston said the same of Furrier, and Frank Gillard never falters from the opinion that Weathergage was quite by himself as the best hound he ever hunted.
The Foxhound Kennel Stud Book abounds in the strongest proofs that hereditary merit in their work has been transmitted from these wonderful hounds, and they really make the history of the Foxhound.
There have been many great hounds; but there must be the greatest of the great, and the following twelve hounds are probably the best England has ever seen:--Mr. Corbet's Trojan (1780), Lord Middleton's Vanguard (1815), Mr. Osbaldeston's Furrier (1820), Lord Henry Bentinck's Contest (1848), Lord FitzHardinge's Cromwell (1855), Mr. Drake's Duster (1844), Sir Richard Sutton's Dryden (1849), the Duke of Rutland's Senator (1862), Duke of Rutland's Weathergage (1874), the Earl of Coventry's Rambler (1874), Mr. E. P. Rawnsley's Freeman (1884), and the Grafton Woodman (1892).
Breeding Foxhounds is one of the most fascinating of all the pleasures of animal culture, as the above list, so full of extreme merit, can be traced for nearly a hundred and thirty years.
It cannot be said that the prices paid for Foxhounds in very recent times have greatly exceeded those of the past. In 1790 Colonel Thornton sold Merkin for four hogsheads of claret, and the seller to have two couples of the whelps. Then in 1808 Mr. John Warde sold a pack of hounds to Lord Althorpe for 1,000 guineas, and the same gentleman sold another pack for the same sum a few years later. In 1838 Lord Suffield offered 3,000 guineas for Mr. Lambton's pack, and afterwards sold it to Sir Matthew White Ridley for 2,500. In 1834 Osbaldeston sold ten couples of bitches, all descendants of Furrier, for 2,000 sovereigns, or P100 a hound--a record that was almost eclipsed at the sale of Lord Politmore's hounds in 1870, when twenty-two couples of dog-hounds sold for 3,365 guineas.
Of late years there has been the sale of the Quorn for, it was said, P3,000, and the late Lord Willoughby de Broke valued the North Warwickshire for the county to purchase at P2,500. In 1903 the Atherstone was valued by Mr. Rawlence, the well-known representative of Tattersall's, at P3,500, or something like P50 a hound, and that has been considered very cheap. If, therefore, modern prices have not greatly exceeded those of the far past, there has not been any particular diminution, and there is no doubt about it that if certain packs could be purchased the prices would far exceed anything ever reached before.
Foxhounds have very much improved in looks during the past five-and-twenty years, and unquestionably they are quite as good in the field or better. Whenever hounds have good foxes in front of them, and good huntsmen to assist or watch over them, they are as able as ever, notwithstanding that the drawbacks to good sport are more numerous now than they used to be.
The noble hound will always be good enough, and ever and anon this is shown by a run of the Great Wood order, to hunt over five-and-twenty to thirty miles at a pace to settle all the horses, and yet every hound will be up. There has been a slight tendency to increase size of late years. The Belvoir dog-hound is within very little of 24 inches instead of 23-1/2, the standard of twenty years ago, and this increase has become very general. In elegance of form nothing has been lost, and there can be no other to possess beauty combined with power and the essential points for pace and endurance in the same degree as a Foxhound.
A detailed description of the Foxhound is here given:--
HEAD--Somewhat broad, not peaked like the Bloodhound, but long from the apex to the frontal bones, eyebrows very prominent, cheeks cut clean from the eye to the nostril, ears set low and in their natural condition thin and shapely, but not large, nose large, jaw strong and level, and small dewlaps, expression fierce, and with the best often repellent.
EYES--Very bright and deeply set, full of determination, and with a very steady expression. The look of the Foxhound is very remarkable.
NECK--Should be perfectly clean, no skin ruffle whatever, or neck cloth, as huntsmen call it. The length of neck is of importance, both for stooping and giving an air of majesty.
SHOULDERS--The blades should be well into the back, and should slant, otherwise be wide and strong, to meet the arms, that should be long and powerful.
LEGS AND FEET--The bone should be perfectly straight from the arm downward, and descend in the same degree of size to the ankles, or, as the saying is, "down to his toes." The knee should be almost flat and level; there should be no curve until coming to the toes, which should be very strong, round, cat-shaped, and every toe clean set as it were.
FORE-RIBS AND BRISKET--Deep, fine ribs are very essential, and the brisket should be well below the elbows.
BACK AND LOINS--Back should be straight. A hollow back offends the eye much, and a roach back is worse. The loin wide, back ribs deep and long, a slight prominence over the croup.
QUARTERS AND HOCKS--The quarters cannot be too long, full, showing a second thigh, and meeting a straight hock low down, the shank bone short, and meeting shapely feet.
COAT--The coat is hard hair, but short and smooth, the texture is as stiff as bristles, but beautifully laid.
COLOUR--Belvoir tan, which is brown and black, perfectly intermixed, with white markings of various shapes and sizes. The white should be very opaque and clear. Black and white, with tan markings on head and stifles. Badger pied--a kind of grey and white. Lemon pied, light yellow and white. Hare pied, a darker yellow and white.
STERN--Long and carried gaily, but not curled; often half white.
HEIGHT--Dogs from 23-1/2 to 24 inches; bitches from 22 to 22-1/2 inches.