This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
The most perfect of his race is the foxhound - perfect in shape, in pace, in nose, in courage. Not one of his canine companions is his equal, for in addition to his merits as a mere quadruped, as a hound he is the reason for the maintenance of expensive establishments, for the breeding of high class horses, and generally for giving an impetus to trade and causing a "turnover," without which the agriculturist might starve and the greatness of our country be placed in peril. Our bravest soldiers have been foxhunters; our most successful men in almost every walk of commerce have had their characters moulded in the hunting field, or later in life have regained their shattered health by gallops after hounds across the green meadows of the Midlands or along the broad acres of Yorkshire.
At the present time there are about 200 packs of foxhounds hunting regularly in the various districts of Great Britain, and I am well within the mark when I estimate the cost of keeping up the kennels, including hounds, food, wages of hunt servants, masters' expenses, etc, at over three million pounds per annum. Nor do these figures attempt to cover the ordinary expenses disbursed by those hunting men who have not hounds of their own, the cost of their horses, their keep, and other items. What in addition these amount to cannot well be ascertained, but he will be a bold man who attempts to deny that foxhunting, as one of our national sports, possesses a place in the economy of the State. Special trains on our great railway system are repeatedly run to fashionable meets of foxhounds. Some large hotels are to a considerable extent supported by customers who visit them because of their contiguity to foxhound countries. We have been called a nation of shopkeepers - a nation of foxhunters would have been more appropriate. One way and another the expenditure upon this healthy amusement during each successive season may be reckoned in millions of pounds sterling, and still there are so called humanitarians who decry the sport as a discredit to our country. Lord Yarborough estimated the cost of hound keeping at over four and a half millions yearly, and estimates that 99,000 horses are engaged therein. Again it is said that in Yorkshire alone over twenty packs of hounds, including harriers and otter hounds, hunting there, are kept up at a cost of not less than 600,000/. per annum. Of course such figures, in the absence of carefully compiled statistics, can only be approximate. Some few years ago, a well known master of hounds (Lord Middleton) found it necessary to appeal to his country to support him in continuing the hunt by subscription, he stating that his family had spent over 100,000 l. on the sport.
"The fox was made to be hunted, and not to kill geese and lambs," said a sporting farmer to me one day, "and he likes it too," continued the good agriculturist, "or would he take such long rounds as he does when he could lurk and skulk about and thoroughly baffle hounds whenever inclined to do so?" Maybe our good red fox does like to be hunted; at any rate, when bedraggled and beaten he seldom looks sad and pitiful, and the hunter loves him as much as he does his pack; and why should he not love him and hunt him at the same time? The most kindly of all men, Izaak Walton, implies that an angler should love the worm with which he baits his hook, and no one decried such sympathy, excepting, perhaps, the cruellest men, or those of the Lord Byron type.
Foxhounds have for more than three hundred years been carefully bred and reared for hunting purposes, and for that length of time the sport has been carried on in England pretty much on the same lines as now, taking into consideration the change in our mode of living and in the cultivation of the land. But long prior to this period, foxhunting was a fashionable pastime, and Edward II. had a huntsman named Twici, who, early in the fourteenth century, became an author and an authority on sport. He said:
Draw with your hounds about groves and thickets and bushes near villages; a fox will lurk in rude places to prey upon pigs and poultry, but it will be necessary to stop up earths, if you can find them, the night before you intend to hunt; and the best time will be about midnight, for then the fox goeth out to seek his prey . . . The best time for hunting a fox is in January, February, and March, for then you shall but see your hounds hunting . . Shun casting off too many hounds at once, because woods and coverts are full of sundry chases, and let such as you cast off be old and staunch hounds, which are sure. . . Let the hounds worry and kill the fox themselves, and tear him as much as they please.
And so proceeds the ancient royal huntsman, who doubtless enjoyed his sport in those times with as much gratification as do we ourselves at the present day.
Although thus early there were hounds similar to those of modern times, they were not kept entirely for the purpose of hunting the fox, and to be actually perfect in work they should not be entered to any other quarry. There is some amount of uncertainty as to the earliest date when hounds were kept solely for the chase of the fox. I quite agree-with that painstaking and researchful writer, Mr. W. C. A. Blew, who, in his new edition of "Notitia Venatica," ascribes the earliest date to a few years-prior to 1689; for at that time the Charlton Hunt in Sussex, conducted by Mr. Roper, who managed the hounds for the ill-fated Duke of Monmouth and Earl Grey, hunted the fox. Particulars of this appear in the fifteenth volume of the "Sussex Archaeological Collection." In 1750 the Charlton were called the Goodwood.
In the Field of Nov. 6, 1875, there is an illustration of an old hunting horn, at that time in the possession of Mr. Reginald Corbet, master of the South Cheshire hounds. On it there is the following inscription: "Thomas Boothby, Esq., Tooley Park, Leicester. With this horn he hunted the first pack of foxhounds then in England fifty-five years.. Born 1677, died 1752." Here is another early date, and where could be found plainer proofs, though some writers have thrown discredit on them because they thought it possible these hounds occasionally hunted any out-lying deer that might be doing damage to the farmer's crops. As well say some of our modern harriers are not harriers because, when the legitimate chase is scarce, they have a day or two with the "carted" deer.