網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

NOTITIA VENATICA.

BY R. T. VYNER, ESQ.

(Continued.)

To return to my subject. It was at the end of the seventeenth century that fox-hunting first became an amusement in England; before that time the sport chiefly consisted in driving him to earth, and digging him out, or trapping him. Hunting the hare and stag are of much earlier date. We read in the account of King James's journey from Edinburgh to London, in the year 1603, that "he left Newark on Friday, the twenty-third of April, and advanced towards Belvoir Castle, the splendid seat of the Earl of Rutland, hunting all the way; next morning after breakfast he set forward to Burleigh, dining by the way at the seat of Sir J. Harrington. His Majestie on the way was attended by many lords and knights, and before his coming there were prepared train-scents; and live hares in baskets being carried to the heath, made excellent sport for his Majestie, all the way betwixt Sir John Harrington's and Stamford; Sir J.'s hounds with good mouths following the game, the king taking great leisure and pleasure in the same." The noble family of Manners, and the far-famed Vale of Belvoir, scem still to support their well earned celebrity for hunting. If the royal sportsman took so "great leisure and pleasure" in the train-scents and box-hares, what would be the extent of his delight in witnessing some of the severe bursts of modern days, with the magnificent pack of the present noble possessor of Belvoir Castle,+ from Melton Spiny, or Clawston Thorns?

Nichol's Progress.

Royalty has been again attracted to, and delighted by, the hounds of Belvoir; not by the cold arrangement of scent, and the hand-canter, which marked James's antique style of sport, but by the honest finding of a fox, "in SaltSpring Wood"-the fast thing through Knipton Plantation, and the kill at Blackberry Hill! Long may this splendid pack maintain its high character! "Belvoir Castle, Jan. 5, 1842.-The hounds met at the stables this morning, which are directly underneath the lofty towers of the castle-there was an immense field. The general appointments of this far-famed pack excited the admiration of all strangers, and of none more than the Duke of Cambridge, who entered into familiar conversation with a number of veteran fox-hunters, and expressed his admiration at the condition and beauty of the horses, and the remarkably adapted character of Leicestershire as a sporting country. His royal highness rode a powerful hunter of the Duke of Rutland's, and kept a good place throughout the day. The first fox found in Salt Spring Wood, threaded Knipton Plantation, skirted the Spiny, and was kled at Blackberry Hill. The Duke of Cambridge received the brush on this his first initiation to Leicestershire fox-hunting. The second fox found at Musson Gorse, went away in gallant style to Woolsthorpe, returned in the direction of Redmile; but falling into a lock of the canal, he was taken out by the whipper-in, muzzled, and conveyed to the royal carriages for the inspection of the ladies. This concluded the day's sport, which gave infinite pleasure to all engaged therein.”

I

What sort of a figure he would cut is quite another thing;* at any rate, I fear he would not be gratified with quite so much music as he was entertained with by the old-fashioned Towlers of Sir J. Harrington.

Since the commencement of hunting the fox in the open, so many different descriptions of hounds have been bred for the purpose, that to describe all the sorts, and to give a statistical account of the divers "strains of blood" which have been celebrated in their time, would be far too tedious for my readers, and quite foreign to my present purpose; the following short account of the pedigrees of some of the principal packs of the present day will suffice. The original stocks, from whence the most fashionable sorts are descended, are from the packs of the Earl of Yarborough (the family of Pelham having possessed hounds of the same breed for nearly two centuries); from that of the Earl of Fitzwilliam, which may soon be entitled to celebrate their second jubilee; the Duke of Rutland's, which were bred from the packs purchased of Mr. Heron and Mr. Calcraft, many years since; Mr. Osbaldeston's (purchased by Mr. Harvey Combe for two thousand guineas), descended from the celebrated pack of Lord Monson, and also from Lord Yarborough's; Lord Middleton's; Mr. Warde's; and the Duke of Beaufort's, which have been in the family for a very considerable period, and are perhaps the steadiest and best pack of hounds of their day; Lord Londsdale's, descended from Mr. Noel's, the commencement of which pack, Col. Lowther informed the author, went back about 140 years, when they were sold by Mr. Noel to Sir W. Lowther for 1,000 guineas. This celebrated pack were sold at the hammer in lots in 1842. The sort known as the old Pytchley blood, so justly celebrated when the property of the present Earl Spencer, at that time Lord Althorp, were descended in a great measure from the old Beaufort Justice, relationship to which renowned dog many of the best hounds of the present day can proudly boast. The Pytchley country, so much celebrated in modern days, seems to have been equally adapted to the "crafte of venerie" in ancient times, for "in the fortythird year of Edward the Third, Thomas Engain held lands in Pytchley, in the county of Northampton, by service of finding at his own cost, certain dogs for the destruction of wolves, foxes, &c., in the counties of Northampton, Oxford, Essex, and Buckingham."t

There is a pack in Hampshire, rather low in stature, but possessing great power, called the Vine Hounds; they have now been under the

The reader will perceive, by the following true picture of this sporting monarch by Sir Walter Scott, the ludicrous style in which he was wont to pursue this his favourite diversion :-"A single horseman followed the chase upon a steed so thoroughly subjected to the rein, that it obeyed the touch of the bridle, as if it had been a mechanical impulse operating upon the nicest piece of machinery; so that, seated in his demi-pique saddle, and so trussed up there as to make falling almost impossible, the rider, without either fear or hesitation, might increase or diminish the speed at which he rode; which, even on the most animating occasions of the chase, seldom exceeded three-fourths of a gallop, the horse keeping his haunches under him, and never stretching forward beyond the managed pace of the academy. The security with which he chose to prosecute even this favourite, and in the ordinary case, somewhat dangerous amusement, as well as the rest of his equipage, marked King James.”—The Fortunes of Nigel.

+ From Blunt's ancient tenures.

management of Mr. Fellowes, a relation of Lord Portsmouth, for many years; they were originally bred from drafts of the old Egremont blood, by the late Mr. Chute, of the Vine* (the hunt taking its nomenclature from that place); they have been much crossed by stud hounds from the Duke of Beaufort's and Mr. Assheton Smith's kennels; still there is a great deal of the original character of the old fox-hound of days gone by, which is visible in no other established pack-an inclination to be rough, and, as it is termed, sour about their muzzles and chaps. I saw them in the season of 1834, both in the kennel and in the field, and was much struck with their appearance and the excellence of their work; they were most remarkably steady from all descriptions of riot, quick and yet patient, very determined, and altogether particularly calculated for the sort of country they hunted-a cold, flinty, and cheerless tract, with immense woodlands. If young breeders of hounds, who reside in what are denominated the "slow" or "provincial" countries, would encourage that style of animal, instead of going to the most fashionable kennels, merely because they wish to have a pack resembling in appearance those which hunt in the grass countries of Leicestershire or Rutlandshire, they would have a much greater chance of possessing good as well as handsome hounds. When I say that the Vine hounds look rough in their faces, I beg to be understood that I am not describing that rough, vulgar-looking animal, so constantly seen in every village in Wales; for although the hard and ferocious character of the foxhound is stamped on them, a better shaped, more powerful and truly sporting pack does not exist in the world. They are remarkably clear in their throats, and strikingly level. Hounds bred in a high scenting country, accustomed to be ridden over and pressed upon every day they go out, become much wilder than those which are left more to themselves; and this practice being continued from one generation to another, engenders in them a second nature. When in the study of animals we consider nothing but their organic structure, we often fail to ascertain a sufficient cause for their peculiar modes of action, and for the way in which they perform the various parts assigned to them in life. The organization of all dogs is very nearly the same, yet their destination is far from similar; the lot of one is cast in the thickest woodlands, while the life of the other is spent in an open country, the powers of speed being much oftener put to the test than the more refined organs of the nose. A difference in the powers and the dispositions of animals must arise from the force of education, as well as from the effects of reproduction. It is an old and trite saying, but nevertheless true, that "like begets like," and in no instance is it more applicable than in the breeding of hounds: if the vices or even colours fail to show themselves in the first, they are frequently perceptible in three, or even four generations after; still by degrees their natures become changed, and after a certain number of years, under the management of a judicious breeder, the pack which was characterized by its impetuosity, wildness, and skirting,

Over Mr. Chute's kennel-door were these words-" Multum in parvo.” + Mr. Muster's are chiefly descended from the Vine; e. g. Voucher, Broker, Lionel, &c.

becomes no less celebrated for its capabilities in hunting and its steadiness in work. We might go one step further, and even say that the organic structure of animals might be changed. In the natural history of the dog it has been stated, that all that tribe descended from the shepherd's dog; and that, from various causes after their removal to other countries, they became, some greyhounds, some mastiffs, some spaniels, &c.; many of the fox-hounds of the present day resemble greyhounds much more than what they are called, not only in their speed and actions, but also in their appearance; and I see no reason why, with the increase of their speed and their similarity of shape to that animal, they should not also become, like him, deficient in the powers of smelling. Baron Cuvier, in his "Régne Animal," gives the following reason for the greyhound being less gifted with the powers of smelling than other dogs with larger and broader heads. In speaking of their long noses and flat foreheads, he says, "The flatness of the forehead is produced by the obliteration of the frontal sinuses from those cavities which are formed at the base of the nose, which being immediately connected with the nasal cavities, and covered with the same membranes as they are, increase the sense of smelling; this is generally accompanied with an extraordinary slenderness and length of the legs, as well as a great contraction of the abdomen-phenomena which, although not explained, are without exception." Although a small head may be considered by some as a mark of beauty in a fox-hound, large-headed hounds are in nowise inferior; and as a proof of this I must be allowed to relate an anecdote upon the subject. A draft hound, named Glider, many years since, went from Lord Fitzwilliam's to Lord Foley's kennel; upon which occasion Will Deane, his lordship's huntsman, remarked that he could not guess at his lordship's dislike to Glider, which was the best blood in the country, being by Mr. Meynel's Glider, out of Lord Fitzwilliam's Blossom, unless it was the size of his head; but he begged leave to say that, although it was a trifle out of proportion, there was a wonderful deal of mischief to the foxes contained in it. And so it turned out: Glider proved himself an excellent worker, and afterwards became a favourite stud-hound in the kennel of his new master.

As I have before observed, it was at the commencement of the career of the "great Meynel" that the "dawn of science" began to cast its rays upon that system, out of which has grown the modern style of fox-hunting; he was, as an old sportsman and excellent judge of hunting* (now no more) has justly remarked," without doubt, the most successful master of hounds of his time, producing the steadiest, wisest, best, and handsomest pack of fox-hounds in the kingdom. His object in breeding hounds was to combine strength with beauty, and steadiness with high mettle. His idea of perfection of shape was short backs, open bosoms, straight legs, compact feet, as the greatest and first considerations in form; the first qualities he considered were fine noses and stout runners. In the spring of the year he broke in his hounds at hare, to find out their propensities, which, when at all flagrant, they carly discovered, and he drafted them according to their defects; after hare hunting they were, during the remaining part of The late J. Hawkes, Esq.

summer, walked daily amongst riot. When the hunting season commenced, his hounds were hunted in the woodlands, amidst abundance of foxes for two months. In the month of November the pack were carefully divided into the old and young pack; the old pack consisted of three-year-olds and upwards, and no two-year-olds were admitted, except a very high opinion was entertained of his virtues and abilities. The young hounds were hunted twice a week as much in woodlands as possible, and in the most unpopular covers; the young pack had always a few couples of steady old hounds with them. The old pack hunted the best country: when any bad faults were discovered, they were immediately drafted for fear of contamination. Skirting, overrunning the scent, and babbling, were considered the greatest faults; perfections consisted of true guiders in hard running, and close patient hunters in a cold scent, together with stoutness. Mr. Meynel's hounds were criticised by himself and his friends in the most minute manner; every hound had his peculiar talents, and was sure to have a fair opportunity of displaying them; some had the remarkable faculty of finding a fox, which they would do almost invariably, notwithstanding twenty or thirty couple were out in the same cover; some had the propensity to hunt the doubles and short turns; some were inclined to be hard runners; some had the remarkable faculty of hunting the drag of a fox, which they would do very late in the day; and sometimes the hardest runners were also the best hunters, and fortunate was the year when such excellences prevailed. Mr. Meynel prided himself on the steadiness and the docility of his hounds, and their hunting through sheep and hares, which they did in a very surprising manner. He seldom or never attempted to lift his hounds through sheep, and from habit and the great flocks the hounds were accustomed to, they carried the scent on most correctly and expeditiously, much sooner than any lifting could accomplish. Mr. Meynel was not fond of casting hounds; when once they were laid upon the line of scent he left it to them; he only encouraged them to take pains, and kept aloof, so that the steam of the horses could not interfere with the

scent.

When a fox was found in a gorse cover, very little noise or encouragement was made: and when he went away, as soon as the hounds were apprised of it, they did not go headlong after, but commenced very quietly, settled and collected together gradually, mending their pace and accumulating their force as they went along, completing what was emphatically termed a terrible burst. When his hounds came to a check, every encouragement was given them to recover the scent, without the huntsman getting amongst them or whippers-in driving them about, which is the common practice of most packs. The hounds were halloed back to the place where they brought the scent, and encouraged to try round in their own way, which they generally did successfully, avoiding the time lost in the mistaken practice of casting the hounds at the heels of the huntsman. When the hounds were cast, it was in two or three lots, by Mr. Meynel, his huntsman, and whipper-in, and not driven together in a body like a flock of sheep. They were allowed to spread and use their own sagacity at a very gentle pace, and not hurried about in a blustering manner, but patiently.

« 上一頁繼續 »