CHAPTER XX. THE FOXHOUND

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.