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.
"Eighteen couples all together - or at least with a front some ten couple broad, the rest in a cluster in close and vociferous attendance - the horn pushed back into its case; one scream of encouragement and delight from the ruddy, deep-mouthed, huntsman; fifty good fellows riding as near abreast of each other as the nature of the country will allow - this is the old picture; and this is what many a man will tell you has brought him in touch with Paradise. Ah, those sheep have been over the line! Steady, gentleman, steady ! Now you shall see the drive of a foxhound, as we draw rein to give them time and room; and the huntsman stands mute, with a silence more eloquent than any immature exposition on his part. To the right they swing wide - a twenty acre cast. To the left they swing back, making good their ground in a longer sweep still. Then up go their heads as they gallop back - every old hound in the field knowing to a yard the spot where last the line was felt. Sit still, Jim, sit still! They haven't half done. Your talent is not wanted yet awhile. Old Nabob and Ravisher are already feathering forward. Out ring their tocsin notes. Ye'et, old fellows, well done. They have the situation in a moment; they dash past the crowded flock; gain the unfoiled ground, and the scent in full power, as they reach the fence - and the glad pursuit goes on as merrily as before.
"But the dash of the earlier minutes has sobered down. Their fox has made all use of the moment's breathing time to put further distance between himself and those terrible voices. Travelling down wind - as ninety-nine times out of a hundred he will when pressed - he finds the clamour of pursuit growing fainter; and now, though sorely strained - almost burst, as the term goes - by his first efforts, he has time to pull himself together, and carefully to avoid any sign of danger in his path. Thus he sheers off from a plough team, whisks aside from a hedgecutter, and doubles for his life from a sheepdog. Now it becomes a question on the part of hounds - not of drive, but of nose - not of dash, but of patience; and this is a time when consideration on the part of the field is again absolutely essential.
You would not rush up from either side upon your setter when at point. Why, then, try to baffle a much more excitable animal, when he, too, is working to his best ability, and needs, above all things, not to be driven or hurried. Yet, as the pace slackens, the rearguard come up, and, if allowed, will of a certainty over-run the van, and over-ride the hounds.
Now is the master wanted - if hounds are to have a chance. Then will come out their faculty of nose, their instinct of hunting, their patient unravelling of a skein to which - nine times out of ten - they hold a better clue than can be suggested by the cleverest huntsman. Yonder it is, down a wet, chilly furrow!
Mark that rogue Ramilies yonder - silent, though running hard! Mark him for the draft, Jim; or hang him, if you like, to-morrow! Hark forward to Prompter, my beauties! He'll tell you all about it.
Now we are on the grass again. Now they are storming ahead; and we'll unbutton his waistcoat yet. Never mind that holloa, Jim. There are more foxes than one running about the country. I told you so. They've left it behind. And look at their bristles. See old Marigold go to the front. That means blood, for a thousand. Ten minutes more, and they race into view. The young ones are speediest at sight. But 'tis for Hector, the cup dog of two summers ago, to grip and to hold. Fifty minutes and a six mile point. Who-hoop! my beauties! Every hound up. And the blood of Belvoir Weathergage to be found in at least ten couples."
The largest packs of foxhounds are, as a rule, divided into dogs and bitches, each sex running separately and distinctly on different days. The "ladies," as they are mostly called, are said to be the smarter in the field, and to possess dash and casting powers in greater perfection than the "dogs." In some few of the big packs dogs and bitches are run together, being matched according to size as nearly as possible. The dog hounds are, of course, the bigger of the two, and run from 23 to 24 inches at the shoulder, the bitches being from one to two inches or so below that standard. One of the smallest pure foxhounds that ever ran with hounds was the Blue Ransom, of the Pytchley, and said to be about 17½ inches, whilst the giant of the race, the Warwickshire Riddlesworth, was 27 inches. At the present time our most extensive packs are the Blackmoor Vale, with 90 couples of hounds; the Badminton, formerly the Duke of Beaufort's, 75 couples; the Belvoir, 64 couples; the Puckeridge, 62 couples; whilst the Berkeley, Crawley and Horsham, South Berks, Fitzwilliam, and Mr. Garth's have each 50 couples of running hounds in kennel. Other packs number anything between the nine couples of the Coniston to the 58½ couples of the Oakley, and the 55½ couples of the H.H. (Hampshire).
For a hundred years or more, it has been, and still remains, though some packs now discountenance it, the custom to "round" the ears of foxhounds, which is neither more nor less than shortening their aural appendages, to prevent the latter getting torn in covert, or in going through or over the fences. This is done at about four months old. Most hound puppies leave the kennels, after being taken from the dam, to be located, "walked" with the farmers and other friends of the hunt. Here they are fed well and wax strong until the time comes round, during April and May, for them to return to the kennels, to be properly entered with the cubs in the autumn.
The occasion is utilised for a "show of the puppies." Prizes are awarded, silver tea and coffee pots and such like "useful pieces of furniture" dear to the farmers' wives and daughters. A pleasant day is spent; the Master gives a luncheon, and he "toasts" and is "toasted" in return.
The hounds each year drafted to make room for the puppies are usually the perquisite of the huntsman, and they may go to other kennels, or become squandered over distant parts of the universe, where they form a connecting link with "home." Or they may go into the hands of some dealer or other, who finds a ready market for them to an enterprising theatrical manager, who seeks to add to the truthfulness of some country scene the increased attraction of a "scratch pack." During the past few years foxhounds have repeatedly appeared on the stage in our leading theatres, where, to the sound of the horn of the "super" and the clash of the orchestra, or the strains of "John Peel," their reception has been such as any debutante might have envied. But a stage hound's life behind the scenes cannot be a happy one, nor are their exercising grounds, through the thronged streets adjoining our great thoroughfares, so healthy as a roll on the grass in the Pytchley pastures.