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.
There was a very interesting old hunting story Lord Wilton writes, in his "Sports and Pursuits of the English," that, not until 1750 were hounds entered solely to fox; but against his statement must be placed that of Charles J. Apperley, who died in 1843, and is favourably known under his nom de plume of "Nimrod." He says that an ancestor of Lord Arundel of Wardour had a pack of foxhounds at the close of the seventeenth century, thus about coeval with the Sussex and Leicestershire already named; and the same reliable writer proceeds to say that, remaining in the same family, they hunted in Wiltshire and Hampshire until 1782, when they passed to Mr. Meynell, a name historical in foxhound annals. Another such pack was that of Mr. Thomas Fownes, who was hunting from Stapleton in Dorsetshire very early in the eighteenth century; but the Charlton Hunt and Squire Boothby's hounds had before this been entered to fox, and, with our present knowledge, with them must rest the credit of being the earliest packs of foxhounds in this country.
Mr. Fownes' pack went to Mr. Bowes, of Streat-lam, Yorkshire; and the Belvoir hounds kennelled at Belvoir Castle, near Grantham, with Sir Gilbert Greenall as their master, are lineally descended from those alluded to by Lord Wilton. Since these early times and up to the present, every care has been taken, and no expense spared, to produce a foxhound as near perfection as possible, in order to follow the calling which finds such favour in our land. Squire Osbaldeston, Colonel Thornton, Mr. John Musters, Lord Henry Bentinck, and others of a past generation owned hounds that, either collectively or individually, could not be surpassed. With so much attention given to them, it was no wonder a great writer on the subject arose, and in 1810 we have Peter Beckford's magnum opus, which, so far as it goes, has had no rival in its complete description of the foxhound, its work and management. And what he wrote of him is equally true to-day, for no hound or dog has changed so little in appearance and character during a century, as the foxhound. There have been no crazes for fashionable colour, or for head formed, or ears hung, on purely fanciful principles. Hunters wanted a dog for work, they soon provided one, and have kept and sustained that animal for the purpose.
The duties a foxhound has often to undergo are of the most arduous description; he is repeatedly on his legs for eight or ten hours at a stretch, often galloping a great portion of that time, or may be doing more laborious work in the thick coverts, or even walking on the hard road to or from the meet.
Though not bred with great precision and with such care for pedigrees, as is the case with fashionable packs, there are lightly built hounds hunting in the mountainous districts of Cumberland and Westmorland whose stamina must be phenomenal. Their country is the roughest imaginable, up the mountains and down the vales, edging precipices and scaling deep, dangerous passes. Every season these hounds have a run that may last into the teens of hours, beginning soon after daybreak and not ending when stars have studded the heavens and hunters are left far behind. A few years back hounds were heard in full cry at ten at night, and next morning stragglers found their way home to the kennels, others turning up a day or two later. Some had to be looked for, having become "crag bound," i.e., clambered down to a projection in the rock from whence they could not return. During such runs, owing to the rough country, hounds do not go the pace of ordinary foxhounds, but they possess greater patience in working out a cold line, and are perfect in making casts on their own account. The latter a most necessary gift when they are at fault and no one near to assist them in hitting off the lost line, for this hunting at the lakes is done on foot - horses could not follow, nor mules either, where men and hounds have to go.
In March, 1892, the Coniston hounds, the Rev. E. M. Reynolds, master, had an extraordinary run in the neighbourhood of Troutbeck and Kent-mere. They were either dragging or hunting for over ten hours, in a terribly rough and wild country, and their fox, dead beat and only just in front of them, had his life saved by a severe storm - the like of which is only known in the Lake district - coming on, and effectually driving both hunters and hounds off the mountains into the valley. Although the finish was not far from kennels, the hounds had been out for thirteen hours before they were safe at home again.
A notable run was that of the Mellbrake, in February, 1896. Drawing Withop Woods, which skirt the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake, they roused four foxes. The pack, small as it was (twelve and a half couples), divided into four, three of which, after very good hunting runs, killed their foxes; the fourth lot went right away out of sight and hearing, and, although hounds turned up at their kennels towards night, it was not ascertained whether they had killed their fox or not. Hounds were entirely left to themselves, as it is too rough a country to ride over. Probably the longest and most severe run on record is that told by Mr. John Crozier, for over fifty years master of the Blencathra. This was in 1858. The fox was started soon after noon on Skiddaw. He tried to shake off his pursuers by travelling in a ring several times, but finding that of no avail, he took to the lowlands, going by Millbeck to Applethwaite, past Crosthwaite church, through Portinscale village, along Cat Bells, through Borrowdale, and over the mountains into Westmorland. Still keeping to the south-west, fox and hounds by midnight were at Black Hill, where shepherds heard them marking the fox at the earth. The men went to the place, but under cover of the darkness reynard got away towards Broughton-in-Furness, in Lancashire. The hounds were found next morning lying asleep near Coniston Crag, in Lancashire. The distance in a straight line from Skiddaw to the place where the hunt ceased is thirty-five miles, but at least another fifteen must be added for the many deviations, thus making a run of fifty miles over the roughest part of the Lake district.