Foxhunting or Foxchasing?

Release the hounds!
Release the hounds!

Last week I was invited to attend a “meet and greet” with a local foxhunting club to learn about the sport and ostensibly to entice new members to join. I made it clear at the outset that I had neither the appropriate hunting horse nor the riding skills at this point to join. The friendly club members told me to worry not, that they could certainly find me a suitable mount and that I could go out during the slower cubbing season to get my legs back, as it were. Well, the jury is still out whether I’ll get up the courage to try, although it does intrigue me a great deal.

Part of the hunt club evening included a tour of the kennels, which was impressive to say the least. Approximately one hundred hounds were housed in luxurious and spotlessly clean accommodations, one side for the dogs and the other for the bitches. We learned that this particular pack of Maryland hounds could trace its bloodlines back 200 years to an original pair from Ireland. All the hounds know their names and the huntsman knows all their individual cries. They are amazingly well trained both from the ground and while hunting with horses. In fact, they are called off if a fox has gone to ground or cornered. The highlight of the kennel tour was when they opened the gate and a flood of puppies charged out to greet us with exuberance. Who can resist that?

Fox hunting can be an intimidating sport to break into in part because of the inflexible traditions, but it is such a part of the history of this area, I also hate to see it dying out. Fall is nearly upon us with kids back in school, leaves turning color, and the cry of the hounds on the hilltops…


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