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.
"Trencher fed" packs of hounds are not so numerous as once was the case, though such are still to be found. They get their name from the fact that they are not kept in kennels, but individual hounds have separate homes with the supporters of the hunt, and are regularly got together each morning a hunt is to take place. This is as a rule not much trouble, for, hearing a blast or two of their huntsman's horn, here and there hounds make their way to their master, very much on the same principal that the "bugle call" rouses the soldier from his bed and draws him to the place of muster. Packs ozf this kind are, as a rule, not so extensive as our leading ones, which repose in kennels dry and airy, and arranged on the most modern principles. One of the oldest packs in the country is the "trencher fed" Staintondale, located between Whitby and Filey in Yorkshire. Until recently this pack had, for upwards of 200 years, been hunted by a farmer and supported by farmers. Now the master is a Scarborough gentleman, but he works his hounds on the same old lines his predecessors had done before him. At the close of the day there are no kennels in which to house the pack, so each hound has to make its way home as it best can; and, says a recent correspondent, after the day's work is over, "As we reach different points along the road, first one hound and then another, at a word or sign from the huntsman, leaves us, and, leaping a gate or stile, trots leisurely to its home across the fields, with many a pause and backward glance at the old huntsman and the companions it loves so well. If the hound lives in a remote part of the country, a piece of the fox's skin is tied round its neck as a sign that a kill has taken place. Sometimes two or three hounds living in the same direction are dismissed together, and at times they have a journey of eight miles to make alone. This incident forms, perhaps, the prettiest of any seen during the day."
A highly-esteemed writer on hunting, whose familiar nom de plume "Brooksby" is known throughout the world, writes:
"The essential talents of a foxhound are to be found in his power of nose, drive, and tongue. It is not to be expected that every member of a pack shall possess these in equal degree, but the strongest combination makes the best pack. And, as such characteristics are mainly the product of careful breeding, the family likeness that belongs to a high class pack of foxhounds will probably pertain not only to their appearance, but to their work in the field. All foxhounds should draw covert well, i.e., perseveringly and closely - a faculty that is the result partly of education, partly of natural courage. It by no means follows that a thin-skinned, highly bred hound will not face briar, thorn, or gorse. On the contrary, his pluck, even at the cost of blood and wound, will often take him where his coarser coated relative would not dare to enter. Yet, though a whole pack may be seen busily waving their sterns as they push their way through bracken and furze, it is generally one of only two or three hounds - often almost invariably the same one - who first rouses the fox. An extraordinary instinct appears to belong, now and again, to some special hound, who has the gift, as he or she enters covert up the wind, of raising the head as if to take stock, and then making straight for the fox's lair. This is probably to be credited to exceptional power of nose. But to whatever source it may be due, huntsmen will bear me out in testifying to the frequent existence of such faculty.
"Again, it is generally some single hound - or one of only a few - who puzzles out the line down a road, when all the others are helpless and mystified. A huntsman, of course, soon gets to know upon which of his hounds he can place reliance; and, indeed, at such time he generally looks anxiously for old Bonnyfield or Sarah to help him out of the difficulty. No greater difficulty, by the way, exists than in the arrival upon a cold, scentless road, unless it be in coming to the junction point of four, any of which his fox may have followed. (Memo. - If there be one occasion more than another on which the field should render assistance to a huntsman by remaining perfectly still, it is when he is confronted by four cross-roads.)
"The development of character in a pack of foxhounds (we can best speak of them en masse, though the evolution is but the combined training of a hundred pupils), depends so much upon the influence and sympathy of the individual huntsman that we often see a pack temporarily made, or marred, in a very few seasons. The confidence and eager obedience which hounds show to their huntsman is evident from the time he calls them out of covert for a flying start, to the supreme moment when, every effort of their own being exhausted, he has the opportunity of carrying them to the line of their sinking fox, and there leaving them to run, with hackles up, to the death. By the reliance and readiness evinced by a pack of hounds in their huntsman, you may best take the measure of his talent for getting them to hunt. Foxhounds are very keen critics.
"Their fox away, down a quiet cool breeze, it is not less than marvellous how quickly eighteen couples of hounds will force their way through brake and thicket and thorn, to the man they trust. Fifteen couples will be with the horn, in, perhaps, sixty seconds; the other three couples ere sixty acres are crossed, though they have to dive and dart through twice sixty sets of galloping hoofs. For in the vital urgency (as accepted, at all events, in the shires) of starting close on your fox, it pays not - nay, is held hardly to be justifiable - to wait for every hound. Such practice, besides involving loss of valuable time, might, perhaps, induce the stragglers to believe that after all there was no hurry, and that next, time they can afford to come forth more leisurely still. There is little fear now that, if worth their salt, they will soon reach the front, whatever difficulties they may have to encounter. And herein is evidenced another instance of the drive and courage of a foxhound.