|He guides them in covert, he leads them
Tho the young and the jealous try hard for his place,
'Tis Bachelor always is first in the race;
He beats them for nose and he beats them for pace;
Hark forward to Bachelor
THE frost was holding and getting
keener, and it was difficult to get horses exercised, for there was
not much snow; so hounds were physicked and their coats dusted with
sulphur; and we took to curling. Billy did not care much for the
game, but rode out to the pond and came home with me. Our horses had
frost nails in their shoes, and we were able to jog slowly along the
crackling roads, making as much noise as would an artillery waggon.
As we approached the out-buildings behind the stable we heard a
scrimmage of some sort going on, and Billy said, My word, those
tom-cats are having a battle royal!
Chut, Bill, its two foxes fighting.
And sure enough, as we came round the corner we saw two long forms
separate and pop over into the deep glen behind the kennels.
There was more frost and snow during the night, and the morning was
spent in the kennels. To Tom the feeder we related the incident of
the night before, and that worthys reply was, Oh! thats nothing,
sir. The foxes were barking and fighting at the gallows over the
bones so loud two nights ago that they wouldnt let the hounds get
to sleep, and I had to get up twice with the lantern to them!
We gazed at the huddled-up forms on the sleeping benches, and they
were heaped closer than usual during this cold weather. I tested
Bills knowledge by asking him to tell which hound the smallest
portion of exposed surface belonged to, and this we did by spelling;
for if we had named them, it would have made the hound named uncurl
himself and disturb at least two or three of his fellows; so it was
Whats that lying with his head on R-a-m-b-l-e-r-s flank?
Thats P-i-l-g-r-i-mno? Then its P-i-r-a-t-e. Thats right. Now
find D-e-x-t-e-r, and so on. Tom told how some hounds bossed the
benches and always had their own favourite to make a pillow or a
footstool of; how some were liked and some disliked by all the
others; how much space was needed before feeding, and how much more
after feeding; and many other items of supreme importance in his own
I like to see them best when they are tired and fed after a long
days hunting; how they do snuggle up and snore; and when I look in
last thing at them not one of them looks up but Regent, and he only
opens one eye. Except on the night after a hunt, hes the
restlessest beggar ever was, and as he will lie at the back of the
bed, and must get up at the least outside noise, he often disturbs
the lot. And then they disturb me" he added half shamefacedly.
I daresay you dream
of hounds" said Billy to Tom, as the latter was going off to dinner.
Well, very often, sir. The other night I dreamt they were all
hunting me, and I couldnt run a yard and broke into a cold sweat as
Forager drew close up to me.
When the kennel-man had gone I had a score of questions to answer.
"Which is the best all-round hound?
Well, Bill, I dont think theres any best of all; theres three or
four couple best of all, and each good in a different way. Theres
Woodman, who will draw find, challenge; then hunt, speak, and drive;
and is patient and untiring at a check: not so brilliant, perhaps,
as Regent, but more reliable. Regent of course is grand for dash and
drive and tongue; but sometimes he is too free, and again is
sometimes too fast and gets away by himself. We have more than once
come upon him, having run up to the fox, sitting and keeping him at
bay till the others came up; for, curiously enough, the poor chap
has no teeth at all, and though he is plucky enough, he cannot
tackle the fox to any purpose. He is very quick at a check, and
always makes a bold wide forward cast down wind first, and then a
similar up wind one, and he is nearly always the first to recover
it. Of course, he is the best-known hound in the pack, being so
prominent and 'kenspeckle with his rough coat and his white colour,
a colour that is most useful, as you can often pick him up against
the dark heather at a distance when the others are invisible. Some
of the shepherds have said to me: *A see ye ha gotten a beardie
amang them; hell be mair gleg as the feck o them. I wish I had a
few more like him.
Pirate, is that?
Yes; alongside of Dexter. Those two are at their best in a
straight-out chase; dont try very well sometimes, and are too eager
for a startthat is, they dont work a fox close in a big thick
cover to push him out; but they, along with Challenger, are always
first out; demons to drive a straight-going fox; run consistently at
head and keep there until the finish. They are not the least jealous
of each otherin fact, seem to work to each other; but I fancy I
have seen them a little jealous of the rest.
A little light of tongue, Challenger, isnt he?
He has plenty, but its soft and very high-pitched, and although
hes always using it, on a windy day you dont always hear him at a
distance; but as he is generally with those other two and Regent,
who all speak freely, its not felt as a fault.
A bad point in a pack is a mute hound, eh?
The worst sort of all, and not to be tolerated for a day, however
good he may be in all other respects. But you cant complain of
this now, for the last time they ran down the glen, and only twelve
and a half couple out, every hound was speaking freely. It
positively made me tingle all over, and the cry might have been from
twenty couple of throats.
Yes; theyre all right for tongue.
"Sometimes a little slack in drawing, eh?
Well, if they are, I put that down to the fact that the country is
so well stocked with foxes (in the early season, anyhow); every bit
of cover seems to hold him, and they have no trouble to find him.
It's mostly a case of 'Hooi in there! and the fox goes off at the
farther end, so that the careful drawers and triers don't get a good
start. Ruffian and Royal, for instance, on some days, if they think
there is a fox in a strip of plantation say, Ive seen them put
their noses up and race through it in a straight line.
Do you like to get away with a few hounds close behind a fox?
Yes; I generally go. Though I dont like it, least of all from a
close thick whin, because the honest hardworking hounds that have
shoved into the thickest parts are at a disadvantage in the matter
of a start, and the skirting hounds get away on better terms. But I
dont believe in waiting for hounds to come out. If you wait for
them, they expect to be waited for, and become apt to dwell; whereas
once left behind out of the fun and having to gallop hard to catch
up, they take jolly good care not to hang back and be left behind
But dont it disgust them and make them lose interest in trying to
No; I don't believe it. They are all mad keen to find him and run
in chase, and the sooner it comes to that the better. Then, in this
country, foxes find themselves so often, and often lie out and rise
from the plough or the rough ground.
I suppose some are better finders than others?
Yes. There's gallant little Woodman, my favourite if I have one, he
has the knack and has found more foxes by himself than any other. He
seems to know where they are lying and goes straight to the spot. He
is most careful, and tries every yard of the ground. Im sure he has
never missed one. He was once or twice left with a bad start; but
now hes away like a dart with the best of them.
I see you let them alone at a check?
Yes; most decidedly, unless they have tried wide all round and are
completely at fault, and then only do I help them if I have
positively correct knowledge of his line; for if they are helped too
often they will expect to be helped. Besides that, in this country
you cant always get to them on account of wire, or those deep
glens, and you must leave them alone; and in my humble opinion this
is what makes these hounds work so hard at a check and hunt so close
and determinedly. Each wants to be first to recover the lost line,
and acts independently on that account. All I like to do is to turn
my horses head in the direction I wish them to try, and move
quietly along. Its no use having them shouted at or rated when they
are all doing their level best.
Then, what about a mixed pack?
Well, weve always hunted a mixed pack; twelve couple at least of
dog hounds and five or six of bitches seems to be a useful
proportion. Of course, in an open and flying country Id like an
all-bitch pack; but here the first essential is tonguewithout it
youd be looking for hounds all day; for dog hounds are freer and
stronger in this respect. They may not be so quick and handy as
their sisters, and you may get a stubborn or 'dour one
occasionally, but on a cold scenting day, with a twisting,
short-running fox, I think they are more reliable; for their sisters
on a cold line might be apt to flash and be more impatient.
But a few couple hunting and running with them sharpens up the dog
hounds, I think, and perhaps the spirit of emulation is roused more
by their presence. Of course, one has to keep a few more to take the
place of those that are laid up in spring, and in the closing weeks
we often have an all-dog pack of fourteen couple.
I see my little friend, Rosebud; she is surely out of condition?
Well, you see, she was left behind at the hill farm to have her
whelps; then she was brought back to kennels on a cart in a large
crate, with her five puppies six weeks old. They were soon
afterwards weaned, and a week or so later Rosebud was taken out for
exercise with the hunting pack, and shut up at the place of meet to
be let out in the afternoon to find her way back to kennel. On
getting home later I found a wire from Peter Amos saying Rosebud had
come on thereto the hill farmabout six oclock P.M.a distance of
nineteen and a half miles on the map from where she had been let
out. Poor old lady, said Bill; I suppose she was looking for her
whelps, and expected to find them there. Spose shes good in her
work like her mother, eh?
Yes; but not quite so good. She inherits most of Rosamunds good
qualities, and she and her brother Rambler both inherit many of
their mother's little tricks and habits. They both on the roads like
to be a sort of vanguard about twenty-five yards in advance and on
the off-side, and to jump into every water-trough they come to, as
Rosamund did. As they are rather handsome, and have a fine carriage,
and are as alike as two peas, I dont insist on their being kept in
the cluster. Then Rambler invariably carries the mask or nose home;
and if he cant get that, a pad; just as his mother used to do.
Funny how hounds sometimes miss seeing the hunted fox when they
have run up to him and he has lain down?
Well, I think they are so intent on their noses, as it were, that
the other senses suffer to some extent. Youve seen, I daresay,
hound after hound so bent upon carrying on the line as to run full
tilt into wire netting which they would have jumped or avoided had
they not been so engrossed; and youve seen them run a line up
through a wood while the fox ran back parallel to them quite openly
and within a very short distance; and Ive seen the whole pack
actually run right over the top of a crouching fox without being
aware of it. I sometimes think that once the olfactory power is
excited and stimulated to full operation the scent penetrates
through the eye, through what anatomists would call the lachrymal
duct, to the smelling nerve, as well as through the nostrils.
Anyhow, it is believed by naturalists that some deer possess this
faculty. If you hold any object to them they feel it not only with
their noses but with the corner of their eyes where the lachrymal
duct opens. Anyhow, hounds dont see so well when they are carrying
a head and in full chase on a hot holding scent, as they do when
their smell nerves are not stimulated and excited. And it is as well
they dont get taken off the line, for the whole essence of hunting
is to get hounds to find a line, carry it, and never leave it.
Said Bill: I once saw a curious instance of this intentness with
the Dukes. Hounds had brought their fox very blown into a small
whin cover where they were pressing him hard and he was crawling
along the top of a low bank alongside a patch of thin whins, when a
big powerful hound coming to the cry met him and grabbed him and
proceeded to shake and worry him. While this operation was going on
the whole pack swept past, paying no attention to it, but racing
along on the line which the fox had travelled about three minutes
previously. Pause for a few minutes. Then a question
What is the principal cause of the hounds missing a fox after
having run him hard and being close at him?
Well, I suppose its more often a failing scent or owing to the fox
lying down and keeping perfectly still; so long as he doesnt move
he is quite safe, unless a hound happens to blunder against him and
shift him. But a very frequent cause with us is the changing to a
fresh fox. This would not happen so often if onlookers or others
would keep quiet, but so often a run fox is seen to enter a cover
and a fox is seen to leave it. This last is at once taken for the
hunted one and holloaed away by some one who ought to know better.
My experience is that the sore-pressed and hunted fox gets to a
stage when he does not show himself; his only hope of escape is to
hide, which he can do, and does do, in the most unexpected place,
and in the most complete manner. It's the fresh fox that shows
himself in most cases of this sort. He has digested his nights
supper and had a sleep, and now feels fresh enough and bold enough
to risk a game of romps, and goes off with no attempt to conceal
Is there any way of telling from the hounds if they have changed?
Well, I sometimes think that if, say, three or four couple have
been running steadily at head during a chase, backing each other and
without jealousy and with a regular cry, and when they run through a
holding place, and all at once these hounds stop speaking and a
fresh lot join in with a noisy cry, this may be sign of a changing
scent with a change of fox.
A shrill whistle from outside the yard and a voice piped up
Whatever have you been doing? Its 2.30, and lunch is cold. Fie,
Dont say weve been wasting time; weve been having a grand 'hound