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.
"I have a high opinion of the strength, endurance, and stamina of the foxhound. But then why does he last so short a time? When seven or eight years old he is completely used up, whereas the French hounds of former days (my own Griffons for instance) would last eleven or twelve years. The best quality of the foxhound, apart from his health, is his determination to capture the quarry and to burst him at the finish of a run. Unfortunately he cannot keep up the pace in our forests, which are so full of thick thorns, and he is apt to lose the line of an animal emitting a very slight scent; then, not having a very good nose, he cannot recover it. Another point is that no attention in the training of hounds in England has ever been given to the question of 'change,' which is of so great importance to us. And so it is that, excepting for wild boar hunting, the foxhound, which is so apt to change his animal, is not much used in France.
"When by good luck a foxhound is discovered that guards 'change,' he is, as a rule, perfection, and with a finer nose than any of his sort.
"I should just like to show you now an old Saintongeois of mine which I use for the wild boar. He will hunt yesterday's drag of an animal, often twelve or fourteen hours old, and will unharbour his pig at a distance of six to nine miles. The rest of the pack (foxhounds, and, nevertheless, very good ones, selected for me by Mr. Merthyr Guest out of his own kennels), following the old hound in complete ignorance, and going from right to left on the line without being able to own it until the arrival of the hound at the midden of the boar, The poor old fellow is covered with wounds, and the only wonder is that he has not been killed ten times over.
"I expect to see a great improvement in the English foxhound as regards voice, fineness of nose, and the quality of 'change,' because people in England have been buying many of our Saintongeois and Vendee hounds, and certainly the English hounds we are now receiving are more suitable for our purpose than formerly. It will not, however, do to go too fast, because unless able to acquire hounds of the very highest stamp, the result will be to produce cross-breds with less stamina than our old breeds. Recollect that with my Griffons, so staunch and hard, I have hunted old wolves over fifty miles from find to finish, and on several occasions both my own horse and that of my huntsman have died from the severity of such runs.
"In my opinion the English buy too many of the Vendee hounds; they would do far better to acquire those of Saintonge and Haut-Poitou, which are much superior to the Vendees, a breed which has been subject to such a variety of bad crosses that one never knows what will be the result. And finally, the hounds that really guard change are the St. Hubert's (or bloodhounds), the Saintongeois, and the Poitevins."
The following is from an article by Mr. G. S. Lowe, that appeared in the Field some half-dozen years ago, and as it deals more fully with our present strain of foxhounds and their pedigrees (there is a foxhound stud book now) than I could, there is excuse for its republication:
"The casual observer in the hunting field might not be inclined to appreciate the laudations bestowed upon certain hounds in almost every pack. Hounds run very much in one form, and a huntsman of, say, forty years' experience might call up hounds to his memory to number in the aggregate several thousands, though in speaking of any exquisites he will refer to two or three only that, according to his idea, were incomparable. The faults of even good foxhounds must be, therefore, numerous - far more so, I expect, than the casual observer could detect, as faultless hounds, it would appear, crop up in the smallest proportions in the lifetime of a huntsman. Mr. Osbaldeston was generally in a position to have the best of hounds only, as in the heyday of his career, at any rate, he had an immense pack, hunted his own hounds six days a week, and, in the style in which he rode over Leicestershire and other countries, it can be fairly asserted that he was never separated from them. It is said that he depended on his hounds with a flying fox, speaking very little to them, but observing all they did, and in strong gorse he went in with them himself, and could make them hunt like spaniels. With all this experience, though, Osbaldeston had one hound out of the many he had to do with, of which he would speak with exceptional regard up to the very time of his death. I remember it was told me that a friend met the veteran in a billiard room, years after he had given up hunting, and, the conversation drifting into matters of the chase, the squire got upon the line of Furrier, and there was no getting him off it. He expatiated on the merit of this hound as the best ever bred; and it must be remembered also that, when Osbaldeston bred hounds, he supported his opinion by breeding from this hound to such an extent that he could take a pack into the field made up entirely of Furrier's progeny.
"Harry Ayris lived, I think, sixty years with the Fitzhardinge pack, and in an interview with him about fifteen years ago, when the old fellow was over eighty, I put the question straight to him as to the best hound he had ever seen. 'Cromwell,' was the ready reply, 'and no man ever hunted another like him.' It was difficult, then, to get Harry Ayris off the line of Cromwell; and it was no easier task to make the late John Walker believe that a better foxhound had ever been bred than Sir Watkin Wynn's Royal. Lord Henry Bentinck had several favourites, and, for the benefit of those after him, he left a written record, showing how these particular hounds excelled their fellows. This is in manuscript still, I believe; but I am perfectly assured that the leading hound breeders of the day have seen it, and hence the great leaning of late years towards the pack that came originally from Lord Henry's benches. One might go considerably further back, to quote how Mr. Corbet is said to have spoilt his pack by excessive in-breeding to Trojan; and how Sir Thomas Mostyn committed the same mistake by appreciating the blood too much of a famous bitch called Lady. It is sufficient, however, to note that this sort of allegiance to certain hounds has had a marvellous effect on hound breeding, and that such hounds can be regarded as landmarks through a veritable maze of pedigrees ranging over half a century. No animal of any sort whatever has been bred to in the same persistency as can be traced to the Osbaldeston Furrier; he was the best hound of his day, in the opinion of an experienced authority; and that opinion was followed by such hound breeders as the late Mr. Foljambe, the late Lord Henry Bentinck, and the late Mr. Parry, besides a host of others, not excepting those who attended to the well-being of the almost classical packs of Belvoir, Brocklesby, Fitzwilliam, and Badminton.