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foot, and if not sufficiently long, the frog and heel are deprived of that protection which is imperatively necessary to the safety of both horse and rider.
It is ten times less dangerous to get a fall at a brook than over a drop fence into a lane ; in the former case a ducking is, in most cases, the extreme penalty ; but broken bones, or broken knees, perchance both, are far from improbable, if your horse has to jump on to a quantity of sharp flints.
I have already remarked, a very high priced horse is not required in this portion of Hampshire, but he must be well bred, and, moreover, he must be fit to go ; for, be it remembered, there are hills, and as there is much ploughed land, which, in such seasons as the present, rides very heavy, condition soon tells its own tale. Moreover, as the woodlands are extensive, if a man intends to be with the hounds over the open, he must ride up to them through the woods : this takes a vast deal out of horses ; but if this practice is not adopted four times out of five, he will miss the chance of a start. Far different is it in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, or Warwickshire, where the coverts, in a general way, are so small, that any man may get a start. Even in the Warwickshire woodlands, the line which the foxes almost invariably take is so well known, that a man stationing himself at a certain point may gencrally calculate upon being right-premising, nevertheless, that he does not occupy a position where he will head the fox. But the Hampshire foxes appear to have a will of their own, setting all hunting rules at defiance ; in this respect they are very independent. They will often run up-wind, even when hard pressed, and certainly more frequently than their kindred in other countries are wont to do. It has been stated by an authority, I believe by Beckford, " that if a fox runs up-wind, turns and runs down-wind, that he will seldom, if ever, face the wind again." The aforesaid authority could not have hunted much in Hampshire, or the foxes pursued a different style of running in those days, otherwise the remark could never have been made. That it is not an invariable rule in any country I am perfectly convinced, having experienced its fallacy on former occasions. On the logic of this propensity in the “ wild animal,” divers causes may be assigned as reasons for changing his tactics. When first roused from his kennel, he is perhaps disinclined to quit his native covert, or perchance having had a breathing before, he instantly quits it ; in either case he makes for some well known haunt, possibly to try an earth, which sanctuary is closed against him ; should it happen that the wind blows from that quarter, he disregards it, unless previously dear-bought experience acts as his monitor ; finding himself hard pressed, and that the asylum which he had determined upon is not available as a place of refuge, he turns again, and soon finds his account in having done so, because he is not so closely pursued ; not that he knows the cause, but he experiences, to him, the satisfactory result : if it happens that he is not closely pressed, he continues his course, and escapes ; or, on the other hand, hearing the death warnings of the pack increase upon him, he makes another effort to reach some accustomed haunt as a place of safety, regardless " which way the wind blows.". Foxes that have been constantly hunted will, undoubtedly, adopt these maneuvres more frequently than those which have been suffered to enjoy greater repose. Hunting, then, may be regarded as education, grafted upon a vast foundation of animal instinct. After a good wild fox has afforded a splendid run, unless he is killed, the finale to the day's sport is not considered satisfactory and complete. In this particular, I must présume to differ, in some measure, from the important bias of public opinion, craving pardon for doing so. explain how far my reasoning carries me, and introduce the sentiments of that good old sportsman, the late John Lockley, so well known in Warwickshire during the palmy reign of Mr. Corbet ; he was a man whose experience invested him with great authority. On several occasions when I described to him good runs which 1 had seen, and concluded by informing him the fox was killed, he invariably expressed regret; but if, on the other hand, the narration concluded with an apology for the escape of the “wily animal,” expressions of delight and satisfaction followed. In my juvenality, I wondered and enquired his reason ; his reply was, “ I always like to hear of a bad fox being killed, but never of a good one ; he will give us a run another day, and is worth breeding from." Lockley regarded good breeding in man, horse, hound, and fox-in fact, every species of animal—with great importance, and there is no doubt he was quite correct.
It would certainly be very difficult to persuade a huntsman, that after his hounds had chased their fox thirty minutes or an hour, best pace, doing their work gallantly and well, that they should not be rewarded with blood, if possible. The huntsman would urge that the perfection and making of the pack depended much on the accomplishment. If they had not recently had blood, I would most unequivocally join with him ; but on that account alone. Supposing unfortuitous events prevent the fox being killed, are the hounds materially injured by that circumstance? In a general way, I think not; especially if, afterwards, an early opportunity be embraced of encouraging them with blood.
I think the great evil which arises from a fox making his escape, after having been “hard pressed,” is that he may die from exhaustion, or that it may produce a surfeit, from the effects of which he will never recover. It is not an uncommon thing for a fox to have the hair of his brush come off, and its first appearance inculcates the idea of his being mangy ; but which, on close inspection, is found not to be his disorder. In such case, there is every reason to suppose his bad condition is attributable to over exertion, or distress.
When a country is well stocked with good wild foxes, I would subscribe to the propriety of killing, if possible, one of the best of them, whenever fair and sportsmanlike opportunity presented ; but when it abounds with a number of short running brutes that will not break covert, and are constantly seeking refuge in the first rabbit-hole they can find capacious enough to admit them, I would most decidedly kill them down as closely as possible, and preserve the good ones as much as practicable. Both in horses and in hounds we can trace peculiar faculties or propensities, in certain families : in other words, those properties run in the blood. So, no doubt, it is with foxes. From some particular coverts, it is most generally the case that the foxes fly from them the instant they are found ; sometimes they steal a march as soon as the “ note of preparation is sounded.” In others, the foxes hang so resolutely that it is scarcely possible to force them from their sylvan territories. The members of the same litter will generally evince similar propensities, as compared with each other. It may be argued that, by frequent hunting, the latter will learn a greater extent of country, and eventually become valuable in the way of affording sport. If they be young foxes, that principle is evidently correct ; but if old ones, depend upon it they are incorrigible. They are like vicious, bad hounds, that may be drafted from one kennel to another, but for whom the halter, in the first instance, is the best remedy. Now, it cannot be the covert itself that produces this distinction between good and bad foxes ; it is surely the breed that has been preserved in it for a series of time. Perhaps it may be supposed that the coverts which are the places of resort for good foxes do not abound with food-rabbits, for example ; and that the foxes are compelled to travel for their maintenance, as well as education. There may be something in that, although not much ; for there is scarcely a spot in her Majesty's dominions so scantily provided with food that foxes cannot find sufficient for their support, within a very limited distance from their earths ; or if that were the case, foxes would not resort to those places of famine. A vixen will not lay up her cubs in a locality unprovided with adequate means of support ; she is endowed with too great an allowance of instinct to do that ; neither do they, as may be somewhat generally imagined, rely entirely on game and rabbits; rats, but more especially mice, are, in the estimation of vulpine gourmands, favourite delicacies.
On the practice of digging out foxes, some diversity of opinion exists; as is comnionly the case, relative to other subjects. In a country overstocked with bad foxes it may sometimes be justified, in order to kill them down. Some foxes acquire a habit of going to ground without scarcely any pressing ; such animals are of no use, but for the purpose of blood : in fact, they are a great nuisance, and the sooner the hounds taste them the better. In proof of this, I have several times seen foxes run to ground, got out, and without running a mile have gone to ground again : such foxes are surely not worth preserving. Let me, however, exonerate myself from any desire to uphold an unsportsmanlike system of digging foxes, when they are run to ground, as a general practice ; far from it. I maintain, that when a good run is terminated by the fox taking refuge in an earth, or even a rabbit-hole, then he should be suffered to remain ; the hounds allowed to mark him to his restingplace, encouraged to bay at him, hallooed and who-hooped to, and every ceremony observed similar to those when he is killed, save and except that of
carving him up.” The hounds will thus be led to understand he is there, and that they have, like good boys, done their duty. If a fox is dug out and immediately turned down, it is seldom that he
escapes with his life, after having stood before the hounds even but a short time. The close atmosphere of a subterranean retreat, the opening to which is probably closed during a great portion of the time occupied in the employment, nearly suffocates the already partly exhausted animal, independent of the terror which he must experience ; for his instinct assures him he is surrounded by a host of enemies. After such an ordeal, he requires no friendly embrace previously to his being enlarged, in order to ensure the hounds running into him.
The H. I. is not regarded as a good scenting country, especially in dry weather ; but last season, as well as the present, up to this time,
wind and rain have prevailed, and predominated over fine days. In fact, I suspect there have been sadly too much for scent, and certainly too much for the farmers. There are, however, some peculiarities in the country which, to a certain extent, compensate for the defect in the soil. There are no cattle to stain the ground, and the sheep are mostly confined in flocks, and attended by a shepherd ; consequently, not roaming at large, the foxes cannot run through them, as they often do in Leicestershire, Warwickshire, and many other countries, and thereby cause hounds to come to checks. Foot people are not so numerous as in many other parts ; neither are there any places of fashionable resort at hand, like Leamington or Cheltenham, replete with delicate excitements, tending to stimulate the devices of rival horsemen, who sally forth by hundreds. The fields are, therefore, numerically small, being composed of the gentlemen who reside in the neighbourhood, and a fair sprinkling of farmers. Compared with many other hunts, I am inclined to think, more than an average of the resident gentry are to be met with at the cover side with the H. H. In Leicestershire, not one-tenth of the numbers which compose the large fields constantly in attendance on the Quorn are countymen. The same in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. Earl Fitzhardinge's great fields mostly follow his lordship from Cheltenham. The Duke of Beaufort's are similarly augmented by the votaries at the shrine of King Bladud. The Heythrop derive numbers from Cheltenham and Oxford ; and however gratifying it may be to a Master of Hounds to find that he is well attended, a multitude is certainly not conducive to sport.
It affords me great pleasure to record an excellent day's sport with Lord Gifford on the 23rd of November ; the place of meeting Ellisfield Church. The first fox was found in Hal-wood ; he went away for Herriard Park, and was lost, when some other coverts were drawn blank. A fox had frequently been seen in a turnip field at Hatch Warren Farm, part of the property of that excellent preserver of foxes and true patron of foxhunting, Mr. Bowyer, of Farleigh. On entering the field partridges arose in every direction ; and having gone over somewhat more than half of it, Lord Gifford viewed this gallant, independent specimen of the vulpine race on his legs. Giving a whisk with his brush in a most graceful style of salutation, as much so as if he had been brought up at court, away he went up-hill and up-wind over the Basingstoke and Stockbridge road, leaving Kempshot on the left ; here the hounds came to check ; a cast was made towards Kempshot, which did not succeed, another to the right was more fortunate, and the hounds ran him on good terms to Southwood, forced him through that covert to Bull's Bushes, thence to Ash Park, leaving the house on the right hand, and bearing to the left of Steventon, passing the parsonage house, where some of the horsemen, unintentionally it is true, must have caused some damage to the neatly-kept gravel walks, an injury which the worthy incumbent, who from his parterre evidently enjoyed the scene, bore with most courteous philosophy. From this point the covert at North Waltham was gained in quick time, the hounds having the advantage of running nearly up-wind the greater part of the distance ; becoming somewhat pressed, the fox retraced his steps to Bull's Bushes, and there a fresh fox, which led us to Itchen Row, a plantation on the outskirts of Ash Park, was kind enough to suffer martyrdom for his more gallant kindred. The time occupied one hour and fifty minutes, with variety to gratify every taste, pace over the open, and hunting in the coverts ; moreover, the turnip-field fox saved himself for another day, and the hounds had blood, the well-merited reward of their good conduct.
There is one circumstance worthy of notice, which I referred to before, but which I could not then dwell upon, that of the fox lying in a turnip field surrounded by partridges ; a pretty good proof that the birds felt themselves secure in his company. Had he been in the habit of indulging or amusing himself by disturbing them, however futile his attempts might have been to have made a meal of any, they would not have remained in the field ; one covey rose within a hundred yards of the spot from whence he got up. This fact is the more striking, as the fox was known to be in the habit of reposing in the field, and has been seen there since he afforded this run. Think of this, vulpicides all, if any there be, noble, gentle, or simple, and never allow keepers to assail your good sense by asserting they cannot preserve game and foxes. Wishing Lord Gifford and his hounds the utmost success, I hope they will never kill this good fox. I must “score to the cry” of poor old Lockley, and join in his argument, that five brace of good foxes will afford more sport throughout a season than fifty brace of bad ones.
December 2.-Lord Gifford's hounds, at Tunworth. Found in Sheeplands, a young fox disinclined to break, and he was killed in the covert ; went to Herriard, and found again. After some trouble in forcing him from the covert, he went away through the woods to Henwood, on to Halwood, through which he was hunted, and the hounds brought the scent out into a field of turnips. Fancying he had encountered the fine open country in that direction, his lordship made a cast forward, but could not succeed; he had evidently headed back into Halwood, where he was lost. Time to the turnip field, one hour and fifteen minutes.
December 9th.—Lord Gifford ; Herriard Common. An unimportant run from a covert near the place of meeting to Bradley and back again does not require much detail. Several other coverts were drawn blank, when a fox was found in a large piece of gorse, not a gorse covert similar to those which abound in many other countries, but a vast expanse of stunted gorse such as may be occasionally found upon downs and uninclosed lands. An ill-mannered sheep-dog viewed the fox and coursed him, when a presumptuous harrier, roaming for his own amusement, hunted him ; thus it was unnecessary for Lord Gifford or his hounds to trouble themselves in the matter; so, having followed him back to the gorse in which they found him, retired homewards, earnestly hoping on the next occasion of an inter-view for a better scent, and no impertinent inter-pleading by sheep-dogs or harriers.
Cox, the huntsman to the Vine, met with a most unfortunate accident on the 23rd of November, in consequence of his horse falling upon him. Anxious to get as quickly as possible to a halloo, he was riding through a covert at a fast pace, when his horse struck his leg, and coming in contact with some stubs was unable to recover himself, both falling heavily ; the unfortunate huntsman's shoulder came with great violence to the ground, injuring the point of it materially. Their head man being thus disabled, the hounds were confined to the kennel some ten days or more, much to the annoyance of many of the principal atten