Skip to main content

Full text of "Organized foxhunting in America"

See other formats




S" 7 9%. )■= 

Published by the 

Masters of Foxhounds Association of America 

1044 Exchange Building 

Boston 9, Mass. 

This pamphlet is written in the hope that it will 
serve as a guide or reference for those wishing to 
know more about the type of foxhunting referred 
to as "organized" Foxhunting or Riding to Hounds. 

Organized Foxhunting in America 

The sport of Foxhunting or Rid- 
ing to Hounds is a very old sport 
in America; in fact it commenced 
in this Country in Colonial Days. 
George Washington was a keen 
foxhunter. He kept his own pack 
of foxhounds at Mount Vernon 
where many of his friends and 
neighbors hunted with him regu- 
larly. Washington's diary contains 
many accounts of his days with 
hounds, with notations as to the 
number of foxes found, comments 
on the behavior of individual 
hounds, and the names of friends 
who were with him in the field. In 
fact his diary is very largely the 
diary of a foxhunter. 

Foxhunting has been carried on 
in America ever since then with 
modifications in different parts of 
the country to adapt it to terrain, 
climate and the preference of par- 
ticipants. It is estimated that some 
two hundred thousand persons en- 
gage in foxhunting in some manner 
in the United States. A very large 
number of hunters enjoy the sport 
in the form of night-hunting on 
foot, which is usually conducted in 
a hilly, wooded or even mountain- 
ous country that would be un- 
suited to the mounted form of the 

These night-hunters are keen 
lovers of foxhounds, and have de- 
veloped a number of strains of 
American foxhounds noted for en- 
durance and speed. The hounds 
are owned individually or in small 
groups, and each owner knows the 
voice of his own hound or hounds 
and can tell their position in the 

chase as their cry comes to him 
from afar. 

These foxhunters are organized 
by state and national associations, 
hold large field trials and bench 
shows, maintain foxhound stud 
books, and have a number of publi- 
cations such as "THE CHASE" 
published at Louisville, Kentucky, 
and "THE RED RANGER" pub- 
lished at Rushville, Missouri. 

Mounted foxhunting, however, is 
the only type officially recognized 
by the Masters of Foxhounds Asso- 
ciation of America. 

Today there are one hundred and 
nine organized Hunts recognized 
by the Masters of Foxhounds As- 
sociation of America or registered 
with the Association awaiting rec- 
ognition. There are twenty-one 
in Pennsylvania, nineteen in Vir- 
ginia, nine in New York, eight in 
Maryland, and the rest are distrib- 
uted among twenty-one other 
States except for four in Canada. 

In addition to these there are a 
considerable number of Hunts not 
affiliated with the Masters of Fox- 
hounds Association of America, in- 
cluding many farmers' packs main- 
tained for mounted hunting. 

The organized Hunts fall into 
two general classifications: the 
Hunt Club and the Private Pack. 
The cost of maintaining hounds 
and other expenses of a Club are 
met by dues of members and fees 
of subscribers. Hunt Clubs have 
officers and committees responsible 
for details of organization and 
management. In the case of a Pri- 


vate Pack, however, the hounds are 
owned by one person or one family 
that finances and manages the 
Hunt. In some cases, the owner of 
a private pack accepts donations 
from subscribers to a fund com- 
monly known as the Panelling 
Fund to help defray the cost of 
maintaining the hunting country. 


The purpose of organized fox- 
hunting is to enable a group of 
mounted followers, collectively 
called the "Field," to enjoy the 
sport of riding to hounds. 


Perhaps the best impression will 
be gained by describing a typical 
day with hounds in an average 
hunting country in America. Such 
a day might be with one of the 
larger Hunt Clubs with perhaps a 
Field of one hundred fifty riders 
out, or it might be with one of 
the Private Packs with only ten to 
twenty followers ; or again it might 
be a bitter cold day in January, 
with snow on the ground, and only 
the Hunt staff and a handful of 
keen foxhunters out to follow the 

Most Hunts mail fixture cards to 
members and subscribers each 
month during the season giving 
the time and place of hunt meets, 
which are usually held three or 
four days each week. The duration 
of the season depends upon the 
geographical location of the Hunt. 
In Pennsylvania, for example, cub- 
hunting commences in late Au- 
gust, and the regular season ex- 
tends from September 1st or 15th 
to the end of March. With many 

Clubs the hunting is informal in 
character up to the traditional 
opening day in early November 
when it commences in formal man- 
ner. The Hunts in the northern 
States have a shorter season by 
reason of more severe winter 
weather and deep snow. 

The hunt we shall describe is 
held on a Saturday in December. 
The fixture card shows the meet 
called for ten o'clock at a point say 
five miles from the kennels. 

The hunting horses are usually 
fed an hour before they are to 
leave stables, then groomed and 
saddled. Hounds are not fed until 
their return to kennels at the end 
of the day. 

The Huntsman and one or two 
Whippers-in appear mounted at the 
kennels at nine o'clock to road 
hounds to the meet. Some Hunts 
take hounds to and from hunting 
areas in a motor hound-van, but 
most Huntsmen prefer the old 
method if road and traffic condi- 
tions permit. 

There is but one Huntsman for 
each pack of hounds. He is the 
man who manages the hounds in 
the hunting field, and usually has 
charge of them in kennels. In some 
Hunts the Master himself "carries 
the horn" — that is, acts as Hunts- 
man — but more often the Hunts- 
man is a professional. If the 
M. F. H. hunts the hounds, there is 
either a Joint-Master or a Field- 
master who assumes the important 
duty of managing the Field. 

The Whippers-in, who may be 
professional or amateur, have the 
duty of assisting the Huntsman in 
numerous ways during the course 
of a day's hunting. Their work is 


very important, and a "Whip" who 
really knows his business plays a 
vital part in enabling a pack to 
show a successful season of sport. 

It is needless to say that the 
Huntsman knows each hound by 
name, and each hound knows his 
own name and answers to it. In- 
deed a good Huntsman knows each 
hound as well as a mother knows 
her children. He knows their indi- 
vidual characteristics and abilities, 
and can usually recognize the 
voices of individual hounds when 
they speak in a woodland. 

The Huntsman gives the signal, 
the kennel door is opened, and the 
hounds rush joyfully out to romp 
around his horse. The horse is 
friendly with the hounds. They 
jump up at him ; he lowers his head 
and nuzzles them. John Jorrocks, 
the great old sporting character of 
Surtees' novels, said: "The 'orse 
and the 'ound were made for each 
other, and natur' threw in the fox 
as a connectin' link between the 
two !" 

The pack may consist of any- 
where from ten to twenty-five 
couples of hounds. Hounds are 
spoken of in "couples" because that 
is the quickest and most convenient 
way to count them in the field. It 
may be wondered why a pack of 
twenty to fifty hounds should be 
used to hunt one fox. There are 
three principal reasons: First: a 
fairly large pack can spread out 
over a wider area in "drawing," 
i. e., trying to find a fox, and conse- 
quently may find more quickly than 
would a few hounds. Secondly: a 
big pack, provided it is really an 
evenly matched, well-coordinated 
one running well together, fur- 
nishes the mounted Field with a 

better objective for which to ride. 
Third: the more hounds, the 
greater the volume of cry, or 
hound "music," when the pack is 
on the line of a fox. This, to many 
foxhunters, is the greatest single 
pleasure in hunting — hearing the 
cry of the pack. It is indeed music 
in the truest sense of the word. 

But let's get on to the Meet! The 
Huntsman speaks to the hounds; 
they pack up around his horse and 
set out along the road. A pack of 
foxhounds should have good road 
discipline. At the Huntsman's com- 
mand the hounds should all stay 
back so that none moves in front 
of his horse's head. If the road be 
narrow and a vehicle approach 
from the rear, the Huntsman trots 
on to the first driveway or place 
into which he can withdraw from 
the road, and every hound should 
move off with him to allow the 
vehicle to pass. If he be on an un- 
frequented road or dirt lane, he 
may say: "Trot along boys," and 
many of the hounds will move out 
ahead of him. 

The Huntsman, pack and Whip- 
pers-in arrive at the meet at ten. 
The M. F. H. or the Fieldmaster is 
there, and the Field are arriving, 
most of them riding to the meet on 
their hunters, some in motors to 
meet their horses which have been 
ridden or led there or perhaps sent 
on by motor horse-van. Others may 
arrive with their hunters in a 
horse-trailer behind their automo- 

The Master of Foxhounds has no 
doubt planned in advance, at least 
in a general way, how that area of 
country is to be "drawn," i. e. 
hunted. Such plans are, of course, 
subject to last minute modifi- 


cations on account of the direction 
of the wind, condition of the 
ground, etc.; or perhaps he may 
learn that a fox has been "viewed" 
that very morning at some particu- 
lar spot. 

The Master holds a short council 
with the Huntsman, then looks at 
his watch, and, having given say 
five minutes' leeway for late com- 
ers, signals the Huntsman to move 
off to the first "draw," which in 
this case is a "covert," i. e. a piece 
of woodland, about a mile upwind 
from the point at which the meet 
was held. 

As the Huntsman approaches the 
covert, he sounds a short, sharp 
note on his horn to warn any fox 
of the approach of hounds and 
avoid surprising or "chopping" 
him. Meanwhile a Whipper-in has 
moved on at the gallop and posted 
himself in a strategic position on 
the far side of the covert from 
whence he has a chance to view a 
fox away. The other Whipper-in 
may accompany the Huntsman 
through the woodland to put 
hounds on to him or to stop riot 
if necessary. 

The Field follow the Master out- 
side of the covert, preferably on 
the down-wind side where they can 
follow the progress of the "draw" 
by ear and be ready to ride in the 
event of a "find." They keep well 
together to avoid "heading" the 
fox, i. e., turning him back into the 
covert when he breaks out of it. 

As the Huntsman nears the 
covert, his hounds still packed up, 
he gives them a wave of the arm 
and the command: "Leu-in!" and 
the pack spreads out on the run and 
enters the covert on a fairly broad 
front. They deploy through the 

covert, and advance on a line in 
front of the Huntsman. 

As hounds drift into their first 
covert of the day, there may be a 
little burst of cry — the result of 
keenness and enthusiasm. After 
this, however, no hound should 
give tongue until he strikes the 
scent of a fox. A hound that uses 
his voice to no purpose is a "bab- 
bler," and any experienced hound 
that makes a habit of this should 
be elimated from the pack. 

The Huntsman, however, uses 
his voice generously while drawing 
a woodland. It encourages the 
hounds, helps to get a fox afoot, 
and tells hounds and Field just 
where he is. 

Perhaps no fox is found in the 
first covert, and, when the Hunts- 
man comes out into the open at the 
far end, he may call his hounds to 
him with a long, slow note of his 
horn, and then trot on to draw the 
next covert. 

He may, however, decide to draw 
on over the fields in the hope of 
finding a fox in the open. Foxes 
often choose to lie out on a sunny 
hillside out of the wind, particu- 
larly on a cold day in late fall or 

The Huntsman allows hounds to 
spread out ahead of him in a sort 
of forage line extending say a 
furlong to either side. He should 
be able to control them by the di- 
rection of his horse and by arm 

The Master and Field follow 
along at a comfortable distance 
while a Whipper-in may scout 
ahead and to a flank. 


Soon, perhaps, the Huntsman 
may see two reliable old hounds, 
winding a fox. Their noses are to 
the ground ; their sterns are feath- 
ering, i. e., their tails are erect over 
their backs and are waving from 
side to side. Then MELODY 
speaks uncertainly; FREELANCE 
echoes her with a more confident 
tone. The rest of the pack rush to 
them. The Huntsman encourages 
them with: "Hark to MELODY, 
hark !" and a couple of short, sharp 
notes of the horn. The pack are 
on a cold line trying to work up to 
their fox. 

The scent gets stronger and 
stronger; the pace and the volume 
of cry improve. The hunters, with 
ears pricked forward, strain at 
their bits, eager for a gallop. 

Now, on a hilltop ahead, the 
Whipper-in is seen standing up in 
his stirrups, holding his hunting 
cap aloft. He has viewed the fox! 

Now the pack really hits the line 
with a crash of music. The Hunts- 
man blows "Gone Away," a stir- 
ring series of long and short notes 
in rapid succession; the pack is in 
full cry, and the run has com- 
menced in earnest. 

Fences, ditches and streams 
come thick and fast; the blood of 
the horses is up, and they outdo 
themselves to stay with the 
hounds. Even the more timid rid- 
ers find themselves clearing ob- 
stacles they would not dream of 
facing in calmer moments. 

The speed and duration of the 
run depend on many things, but 

chiefly on scenting conditions, 
which vary greatly. 

On a day when scent lies well 
and hounds can run with their 
heads up, a fox will have to seek 
shelter in an earth in twenty to 
forty minutes. On a more difficult 
scenting day, he may lead hounds 
over the country for several hours, 
but much of the time the pace will 
be slower and there will be occa- 
sional checks while hounds puzzle 
out the line. 

When hounds are at fault, the 
Huntsman should make no effort 
to give them the benefit of his 
ideas on which way the fox has 
gone until they have cast them- 
selves in wide arcs to right and 
front and left. Only when he sees 
that they have exhausted their 
own ingenuity should he gently and 
unobtrusively cast them where he 
thinks the fox may have gone. Of 
course, if the pack be making 
slower and slower time of it on a 
failing scent, and the Huntsman 
knows definitely that the hunted 
fox has been viewed ahead, he will 
"pick them up" (move them for- 
ward at the gallop) and put them 
on to the hot line. 

The line is recovered, and the 
hunt is on again. 

If all goes well, the pack event- 
ually marks its fox to earth, per- 
haps in an old den under a tree on 
a hillside. The Huntsman dis- 
mounts, cheers his hounds at the 
earth, and sounds his horn. In due 
course, hounds are called away to 
draw for another fox, or, if it be 
late in the day and all are satisfied, 
to return to kennels. 



There are few sports, if any, con- 
cerning which so many misconcep- 
tions are held as mounted fox- 

Three such misconceptions are 
quite common: 

First is the belief the hunted fox 
is an animal that has been kept in 
captivity and released for the 
chase, or, in other words, that 
most, if not all, foxhunts are "drop 
hunts." On the contrary, the sport 
consists of finding a wild fox with 
hounds in his native environment 
and hunting him by scent. 

The rules of the M. F. H. Asso- 
ciation contain a condemnation of 
the practice of drop hunts. 

Such drop hunts, as may occur 
from time to time, are generally 
staged at some country tavern by 
an unorganized group, and the par- 
ticipants are for the most part one- 
day-a-year foxhunters. Such hunts 
have nothing in common with the 
regular fixtures of the organized 
Hunts, although the former, unfor- 
tunately, frequently receive con- 
siderable publicity. 

A second misconception is the 
idea that the hunted fox is a 
frightened, confused creature flee- 
ing in desperate panic from the 
pack. This is far from a true pic- 
ture. Those who have had frequent 
opportunities to observe the hunted 
fox know that he appears cool, col- 
lected and complete master of the 
situation. He hunts by scent him- 
self and consequently knows just 
how good or bad the scent may be 
at any moment, and governs him- 

self accordingly. An old campaigner 
will usually keep about half a mile 
ahead of hounds and within hear- 
ing of their voices. 

A third misconception is that the 
fox is usually, if not invariably, 
killed, and that if by chance he 
makes his escape the foxhunters 
feel cheated. In other words, the 
idea seems to prevail that foxhunt- 
ers are out for the blood of the fox 
and feel frustrated if they don't 
get it! 

Any real foxhunter will brand 
this idea as silly. He is out to en- 
joy seeing a pack of hounds at 
work, hearing their cry, feeling the 
thrill of a cross-country ride on a 
good horse, and spending a day in 
the open in the company of con- 
genial fellow-hunters. If he be lucky 
enough to catch a glimpse of the 
fox as it breaks covert or tops a 
hill, it gives the day an added zest. 

As a matter of fact, "the kill" 
in America is the exception rather 
than the rule. The great majority 
of runs end in one of two ways: 
either the fox is lost through fail- 
ure of scent or is marked to earth 
in one of the numerous earths or 
dens, the location of which is well- 
known to him. 

This latter is considered an en- 
tirely appropriate finish to a run 
and every one is well-satisfied — the 
Huntsman, the Field, the hounds 
and certainly the fox. 

Of course, the Huntsman keenly 
desires to account for every fox his 
hounds find, whether by killing him 
or marking him to earth. A good 
huntsman never admits a fox to be 
lost until he has exhausted every 
effort to recover the line, but, as 
John Jorrocks said : "It arn't that 


I loves the fox less, but that I 
loves the 'ound more." 

As a matter of fact, most Hunts 
find, as their season draws on, that 
two or three well-known, old red 
foxes are responsible for most of 
their good runs. Such a fox may- 
be found again and again in the 
same general locality, and will lead 
the pack over *a route which may 
conform quite closely to that which 
he has taken on preceding occa- 

Perhaps the tendency on the 
part of non-foxhunters to give un- 
due prominence to the "kill" as a 
typical component of the sport is 
due to the frequency with which 
scenes portraying the death of the 
fox occur in English hunting prints. 

In England the fox population is 
large and must be kept within cer- 
tain limits, and it is regarded as 
the duty of each Hunt to account 
for a sufficient number of foxes 
each season to accomplish this re- 
sult in its particular hunting area. 

Here in the United States, where 
conditions are different, the foxes 
are seldom numerous enough to be 
a nuisance. Many farmers and 
orchardists have learned that the 
fox is a valuable asset because his 
diet consists mainly of field mice 
and other crop-destroying rodents. 
Consequently there is little demand 
on the part of informed landowners 
for the destruction of foxes. 


While there is a vast amount of 
wooded and mountainous country 
in the United States suitable for 
foxhunting of the night-hunting 
variety, there is only a limited 
amount of country suited for the 
mounted form of the sport. Such 

a country should preferably be one 
devoted to agriculture or grazing. 
It should contain plenty of wood- 
land in which foxes can find cover, 
but the woodland should not be so 
large that too much of a day's 
hunting is spent in it. Rather 
should the woodland be separated 
by goodly areas of open country to 
afford good gallops. 

A rolling or undulating country 
adds beauty and interest, but too 
steep hills are exhausting to 

Climate and soil are also im- 
portant. There should be sufficient 
rainfall to provide good scenting 
conditions as scent rarely lies well 
in an arid region. Loam is prefer- 
able to clay which holds water, and 
after a rain or a thaw produces 
days of "deep going" in which 
horses sink to their fetlocks. Ab- 
sence of rocky outcrops and rock- 
strewn fields makes for safe and 
enjoyable galloping. 


Few people realize the amount 
of land that must be assigned to a 
single hunting organization to en- 
able it to furnish good sport. The 
more days a Pack hunts, the larger 
should be its country. A four-day- 
a-week schedule calls for more ter- 
ritory than does a three-day sched- 
ule if overhunting of a given area 
is to be avoided. 

About the smallest area in which 
a Pack might operate with some 
success would be say five miles 
square, which is twenty-five square 
miles or sixteen thousand acres. It 
will be seen, however, that a fox 
found in the center of such a small 
district could only run about two 
and a half miles in any direction 


before he would take hounds out of 
their allotted territory — not much 
of a run. 

A ten-mile square, or one hun- 
dred square miles or sixty-four 
thousand acres, would be better, 
but by no means ideal. As has 
often been remarked: "The fox is 
a toddlin' animal. 


A country may combine all of 
the desirable characteristics to 
qualify as perfect for mounted fox- 
hunting, but all becomes as Dead 
Sea fruit if the country does not 
hold a reasonable population of 
foxes. A day in which no fox is 
found is called a "blank day," and 
an occasional one is to be expected 
in the best of countries. As in any 
field sport, it is the uncertainty 
which gives it zest. Too many 
blank days, however, are discour- 
aging to Hunt staff and Field and 
ruinous to hounds. 

Moreover, as previously indi- 
cated, the most vital need is a sup- 
ply of seasoned foxes, that is foxes 
of several years' experience. It is 
such foxes that furnish the really 
satisfactory runs, and enable a 
Pack to show a season of successful 


It is obvious that the territory 
needed for successful foxhunting is 
so large that generally but a small 
part of it is owned by the Hunt or 
by Hunt members. Ownership 
usually vests in many persons, and 
their permission to hunt over their 
properties must be secured and 

As foxhunting exists only by vir- 
tue of landowners' permission, it is 

incumbent upon every foxhunter to 
see that this permission is in no 
way abused, and that the interests 
of the landowners over whose prop- 
erty the Hunt rides be guarded 
most scrupulously. Gates, if open- 
ed, must be closed ; fences, if dam- 
aged, must be repaired and live- 
stock protected. 

Since foxhunting is a rural sport, 
it is natural that many farmers 
and landowners should participate. 
A foxhunting community furnishes 
the farmers with a good market 
for their grain, hay, straw and 


Before the advent of wire fenc- 
ing and before the chestnut blight 
had destroyed the trees most suit- 
able for timber fences, hunting was 
carried on over a "natural" country 
fenced with timber. It was then 
possible for one mounted on a good 
jumper to stay with hounds wher- 
ever the run might lead, and no 
special preparation of the country 
was required. 

In most hunting countries to- 
day, however, the prevalence of 
wire fencing necessitates the erec- 
tion of jumpable panels of post and 
rail or board fence to make mount- 
ed hunting possible. Such panels 
are, of course, built with the per- 
mission of landowners. 

In some instances structures 
known as "Chicken Coops," made 
of timbers faced with boards, are 
erected over the wire, or panels of 
logs are built in. 

Moreover, as it is unsafe to jump 
onto or off a hard surfaced road, it 
has been found necessary to erect 
panels in fences adjoining such 
roads in a form known as "set- 



ins;" that is, the panels are set 
back from the road a sufficient dis- 
tance to afford room for take-off 
or landing by the horses. 

All of this, of course, has added 
greatly to the expense of maintain- 
ing a hunting country, and, even in 
a country which has been very well 
panelled, the hunts are by no 
means as enjoyable as they were 
in the "natural" countries of for- 
mer days. 


In view of the fact that the sport 
of foxhunting is centuries old, it is 
not surprising that like other 
sports it has developed a distinc- 
tive type of dress or uniform best 
fitted to the needs of its partici- 

The formal hunting attire of the 
present day, while having its roots 
in tradition, is essentially the re- 
sult of practical consideration of 
comfort, usefulness and safety. 

Upon examination it will be 
found that there is a functional 
reason for the type and design of 
each item of dress or equipment 
common to the hunting field. 

This is noted first of all in head- 
gear. The hunting cap worn by the 
Hunt staff, the top hat worn by 
members of the Field when turned 
out in "pink" and the hunting 
derby are all especially constructed 
to withstand blows from tree limbs 
or to cushion the wearer's head in 
event of a fall. 

The scarlet hunting coat is vis- 
ible for a long distance, and so is 
of help to the Field in keeping the 
Huntsman in sight while he is 
drawing, as well as to enable a 
rider who has fallen behind in a 
run to catch a distant glimpse of 

the others ahead with the hounds, 
and to set his course accordingly. 

Scarlet hunting coats, moreover, 
add a certain gaiety to the hunting 
field which is part of the spirit of 
the sport. The word "pink," by the 
way, does not refer to the color of 
the coat, but is a term applied to 
the state of being formally attired 
for hunting. It is thought to have 
had its origin in a tailor by the 
name of Pink who, in the old days, 
is supposed to have made the most 
perfect attire for hunting. 

Similar practical reasons could 
be given for the material, cut and 
design of all other items of dress, 
such as the hunting "stock" or 
neckpiece, gloves, breeches, boots, 

The degree of formality or infor- 
mality in dress varies considerably 
in different Hunts, and for the 
most part is determined by the 
preference of each individual mem- 
ber of the Field. 

In most Hunts, however, there 
will be found a fair number of fol- 
lowers — local farmers and others — 
whose costume will be most infor- 
mal and simple, but nonetheless 
conforming to requirements of 
utility and safety. 

However informal may be the 
preference of the members of a 
Hunt in the matter of dress, it is 
highly desirable that the Hunt 
staff be properly uniformed and 
equipped. This has a definite effect 
upon their efficiency in the hunting 
field, just as a uniformed baseball 
team acquires a certain cohesion 
and esprit de corps superior to that 
of the sand-lot nine. 

A Hunt need not adopt the scar- 
let coat, but may turn out its staff 
in whatever color it may prefer. 



... , ,, 

'. • ■■■ 

, .-.;.: [If 'A , 

, ; : 

■i.u lis; : .