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.
As to the "rounding" of the ears, "Stonehenge" believed it useful in "preventing canker either from foul blood or mechanical injury. . . . The sole use of an abnormally large ear, as far as I can see, is to aid the internal organ of hearing, and it is only found in hounds which depend upon co-operation for success - that is to say, that hunt in packs. In this kind of hunting, the ear is required to ascertain what is given out by the tongues of the leading hounds, so as to enable the tail of the pack to come up; but whether or no 'rounding' diminishes the sensitiveness of the organ of hearing, I am not prepared to say. It is, however, admitted by physiologists that he external ear aids by the sense of hearing, and as this large folding ear is confined to hounds hunting in packs, which, as above remarked, depend upon hearing or co-operation, it is reasonable to suppose that the hound's large ear is given to him to aid this kind of hunting; and, if so, it is by no means clear that 'rounding' is an unmixed good."
Foxhounds on the bench of ordinary dog shows are more a rarity than otherwise, though, whenever they do appear in such an odd position, always prove an attraction. In Yorkshire some attention was given to special exhibitions of foxhounds about twenty-five years ago, but they never appeared to quite take hold of the Tykes, and were allowed to lapse, the last of them being a large gathering that took place on Knavesmire, in 1877. Following this came the establishment at Peterborough, that is held in June, and it has so grown under its excellent management, that it now must be recognised as one of the institutions of our land. At Peterborough Hound Show, Masters, Huntsmen, and Whips, meet as on a common threshold, and they talk of their prospects, admire the hounds, and criticise the awards in the most friendly spirit imaginable A day at Peterborough is one that hunting men look forward to as a kind of connecting link between that time when hounds race on a burning scent, and when they are the pets of the household. Almost all the best foxhounds of the day are to be seen at Peterborough Show, and no prospective Master should miss the gathering; few of the present Masters do so.
Already I have mentioned the odd price for which Merkin was sold, but it seems rather strange that whilst comparatively useless dogs of a purely fancy breed occasionally bring from £500 to£1000 apiece, a whole pack of foxhounds may often be purchased for the latter sum, or even for less. There are hounds that a master would not sell at any price, but if he would there could scarcely be the demand for them at such enormous figures as a terrier, a sheep dog, or a St. Bernard will often command. Mr. Corbet bought that crack pack the North Warwickshire for 1500 guineas, but John Ward paid 2000 guineas for the same hounds when they went into his hands. Mr. Osbaldeston knew what he was about when, in 1806, he purchased the Burton for 800 guineas; but when the "Squire's' hounds came to be sold at Tattersall's in 1840, they realised 5219 guineas (Sir Reginald Graham said 6400 guineas), which may be taken as the best on record for a pack of foxhounds. Some of them went back to Mr. Harvey Combe, and Lord Cardigan bought ten couples to remain in the Pytchley country. Against this may be set the modest item of ] 5 guineas which twenty-one couples of the Haydon hounds brought at auction in 1884; but this lowly record was beaten in 1895, when the Forest of Dean foxhounds were sold for a five pound note. There were fourteen couples of hounds here. Ten couples of Mr. Osbaldeston's realised 2380 guineas. Then, in 1845, Mr. Foljambe's hounds sold for 3600 guineas; Lord Donerail's, in 1859, for 1334 guineas; Mr. Drake's, 2632 guineas; and, in 1838, Ralph Lambton paid Lord Suffield 3000 guineas for his highly-bred hounds. These are, no doubt, the most unusual prices ever made for foxhounds. In 1867 the Wheatland hounds were sold at Tatter-sail's in different lots for £750. In May, 1894, twenty-four couples of entered hounds, four and a half unentered, and sundry litters of puppies - the Herts and Essex - sold at Rugby for 675 guineas; and in 1896, Mr. Vaughan-Davies' pack realised at Aldridge's, in St. Martin's-lane, 139 guineas for nineteen and a half couples of entered hounds, and 58 guineas for seven and a half couples unentered. Yearly, at Rugby, drafts are sold by auction almost at any price, varying from a sovereign to £10 a couple. These figures will give some idea of the value of a pack of hounds at the present day.
"Stonehenge" jocularly remarks: "Nose combined with speed and stoutness have always been considered as the essentials for the foxhound, but of late years, owing to enormous fields which have attended our leading packs, and the forward riding displayed by them, another feature has been demanded, and 'the supply' in the 'grass countries' has been obtained in a remarkable manner. I allude to the gift peculiar to our best modern hounds of getting through a crowd of horses when accidentally 'slipped' by the pack. This faculty is developed to a very wonderful extent in all packs hunting the 'Shires,' varying, of course, slightly in each, and it is no less remarkably absent in certain packs otherwise equal to the Quorn and its neighbours, or even superior to them." I may say that through force of circumstances this valued gift of self-preservation has lately been exhibited by Her Majesty's and some other packs within easy railway distance of our great metropolis.
Allusion has already been made to the eminent French author on Venerie, le Comte de Canteleu, and the accompanying translation of a letter from his pen will, I think, be of interest:
"I have a perfect knowledge of the foxhound, and I am also fairly well informed as to the packs where the best blood is to be found. There are also plenty of packs of otter hounds infused with the blood of my old Griffons crossed with other breeds. I supplied a number of hounds to the otter hound pack belonging to Mr. Waldron S. Hill, Murray-field House, near Edinburgh, from whence a good many of my hounds were scattered over England for otter hunting, to Wales amongst other places. Moreover, during the war of 1870 I sold Mr. Waldron S. Hill seven or eight hounds, the result of a cross with the wolf. I think, I remember, he told me he sold them to go to North America for cariboo hunting.