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BY ROBIN HOOD.
The hunting season has now commenced in carnest, and with a prospect of the most flattering description. Accounts from all parts unanimously correspond in the important declaration that the vulpine race are unusually numerous; a certain proof that all landed prietors aad game preservers are convinced of the value of foxhunting as a national amusement, of the benefit which it produces in the immediate neighbourhood, and that the preservation of foxes is not incompatible with the existence of an immense head of game. If any proof can be required to add to the numerous representations that have been made on this point, it is only necessary to notice the quantity of game, especially hares, on Lord Sherborne's estate, in Gloucestershire, and the adjoining property belonging to Mr. Waller, at Farmington : the foxes are so numerous that it is hy no means an uncommon event to find them lying in the open fields. Lord Sherborne having given orders to lis keepers to reiluce the number of hares-in some measure in consequence of the damage which they have done to the crops of his tenants, and, likewise, as it is reported that his lordship intends to establish a pack of harriersupwards of five hundred were lately killed in one week on thc farm of Mr. Garne, at Aldsworth, the extent of which does not exceed from four to five hundred acres. Partridges and pheasants are likewise very numerous, though probably not in proportion to the hares.
There is no country in which a pack of harriers can be more acceptable : constantly hunting about the fields, they would be the means of preventing the foxes being out of the covert so frequently as they do; a circumstance which materially operates against hounds finding them; and if they should occasionally run through some of the fox coverts, they will do more good than harm by disturbing the wily varmint, and arousing him from his luxurious liabits—the antidote to exertion in all animals; and in this neighbourhood they are notorious for hanging in the coverts, and running short.
The exceedingly dry and hot weather which we experienced during the greater part of the months of September and October, was extraordinarily favourable to scent, such is the wonderful character of that phenomenon. The general impression is, that in bot weather, and especially when the ground is very dry, no scent whatever will be found; but during the past cub-hunting scason it was quite the reverse-at least, so it has been declared by all the masters of hounds and huntsmen with whom I have as yet had an opportunity of conversing. Such authorities on the subject as Lord Gifford, Ayris
(huntsman to Lord Fitzhardinge's hounds), and Wills (huntsman to Lord Redesdale's), cannot be disputed.
After having killed twenty-two and-a-half brace of cubs, a greater number than many packs can enumerate during the whole season, Lord Fitzliardinge, in accordance with his usual arrangement, commenced the regular winter's campaign in the Cheltenham country, where the abundance of foxes will, no doubt, enable his lordship's hounds to indulge in a greater portion of blood than any other pack in England, for which they have been proverbially celebrated. The magnificent manner in which everything connected with this establishment is conducted, is certainly not to be surpassed. The stable of horses is not only great in numerical force, but they are of a powerful description, equal to any weight which the human frame is capable of attaining. On all occasions there are four or five spare horses out besides those ridden by his lordship, Ayris (the huntsman), Kit Atkinson (the head whip), and the second whip; thus, should an accident occur, there is always a horse at hand to supply the place.
Lord Fitzhardinge's great experience as a master of hounds enables him, on all subjects connected with hunting, to form an opinion with precission and quickuess, which is seldom if ever erroneous. His lordship almost invariably attends, and hunts the hounds himself; unless any circumstance happens to prevent his being with them, when the important post is assumed by Henry Ayris, the huntsman; who, having lived many years in his present situation, is well qualified for the task. So thoroughly is Lord Fitzhardinge acquainted with the habits of the fox and
the working of his hounds, that, whenever he takes hold of them to make a cast, it is very rarely ineffectual; and it is extraordinary that hounds should work as these do, either under the guidance of master or man, especially as his lordship does not often visit them in the kennel. It is very certain that some persons have the faculty of ingratiating themselves with animals in a manner which others can never accomplish. This happy art Lord Fitzhardinge possesses in an unrivalled degree; and the manner in which the hounds recognize his approach, on reaching the place of meeting, is wonderful. When not within half a mile of them, it is no uncommon thing for them to give evidence of their noble master's arrival by those demonstrations of joy which the canine race are so faithfully capable of expressing.
It is not only in the field, but in the kennel also, that Ayris is conspicuous as being thoroughly conversant with his duties. 'Doubtless all important events are dictated by his lordship; but however good a master's directions may be, if he have not servants of ability to fulfil his mandates, disappointment must ensue; and in nothing is this principle more conspicuous than in the management of a hunting establishment. The duties of the kennel naturally devolve upon the huntsman; the condition of the hounds, therefore, which depends upon their food and exercise, must be awarded to him: no hounds can be superior to these in that respect. As a horseman, he is particularly steady and good; always mounted on horses of great value, which are never taken from him so long as they are efficient, he crosses the country with that confidence which a man can only do who knows his nags; and as he has lived in the service of Lord Fitzhardinge either seventeen or eighteen seasons, he likewise knows the country,
Without having had any runs of unusual severity, these hounds have up to this time had a sufficient share of sport to enable them to exhibit their very superior hunting qualifications. On Tuesday, the 7th November, they met at Westwood, where they found, forced their fox away to the left of Charlton Abbotts, when he headed back to Corndean Plantations, where he was run into, killed, and eaten, before any one was aware of the circumstance. A second fox was unkennelled at Puckham Scrubs, which, having run a ring, sought temporary shelter in a rabbit hole, whence he was taken out and given to the pack.
Thursday, November 9th-Puzedown was the place of meeting, on which occasion a large field were in attendance, including Sir James Musgrave, Mr. Price Lewis, Major Hardinge, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Bennit, Mr.
Hopkinson, Mr. and Mrs. Price, Mr. Fortescue, and his niece (Miss Northey), Mr. Wallace Hall, Mr. Biss, Mr. Penrose, Mr. Croome, Mr. Barton (the master of the stag-hounds), Mr. Evans, and about two hundred of the residents and visitors in Cheltenham.
The hounds were no sooner in Hazleton brake, than a fox was on foot, which went away at the lower side for Hazleton village, which he left on the right, across the Cheltenham road, near Puzedown inn, as if intending to steer bis course for Withington Woods, but was headed at Compton, and bearing to the
left, ran up to the toll-gate, where he again bore to the right to Sapperton-brake, in which he hung a short time, and where it is not quite certain a fresh fox did but serve to confuse the hounds, but on quitting the covert the hounds run into and killed him. The pace was pretty good, but the line of country not being straight, detracted from the interest which riding men enjoy. It was, however, highly crcditable to the hounds, who performed to admiration. A piece of gorse at Sapperton and Westfield brake were then drawn unsuccessfully, but on reaching Winniatts brake, a second fox was soon on foot. Going away across the meadows at the bottom of the covert, and over the brook, he made his point for the lodge, up to which the pack were forced to work for the scent, after which they settled down, and ran him to Guiting Woods, and through part of them, when hé, like his predecessor, fell to the share of the gallant pack.
Lord Fitzhardinge's hounds hunt the Cheltenham and Berkeley countries alternate months; always coming to the Cheltenham kennels by the first of November. The first four days of the week, the places of meeting are invariably within reach of the town; on Fridays they go to Broadway, to hunt in that neighbourhood on the succeeding day. And in order to fill up the time of the residents and sporting visitors, a pack of stag-hounds, under the management of Mr. Barton, is liberally contributed to by his lordship, who presents them with stags, hounds, and the important assistance of the needful as their necessities may require. Thus the taste of all sportsmen who make Cheltenham their head-quarters is provided for. In the intermediate months, when the fox-hounds are at Berkeley Castle, the stay-hounds are a great acquisition; during which time they go out more frequently. For my own part, I must confess, I am not particularly partial to stag-hunting ; at the same time I have not the most remote desire to influence any persons to become converts to my way of thinking. Let every man judge for himself, and follow those amusements which the dictates of his own feelings guide him to. It is true you are nearly certain of a run ; but with either Lord Fitzhardinge's, Lord Redesdale's, or Lord Gifford's hounds you are equally certain of a find, whilst the interest and excitement of foxhunting is immeasurably superior to that of stag-hunting.
The zeal with which Mr. Barton has entered into the management of the establislıment cannot fail to recompense him for his exertions. With the best intention, he has issued circulars, expressive of the restrictions which he will require from all who attend his hounds; and it is to be hoped none will fail to bear them in miod. Nothing can proclaim greater ignorance, either with fox-hounds or stag-hounds, than for men in the moment of excitement to break through those rules which every sportsman conforms to for the sake of allowing the operations of the pack to proceed unmolested.
Riding round coverts, taking a position where a fox is likely to break, and
thereby beading him back, and over-riding hounds when running, cannot be too severely censured ; at the same time, the infraction of similar observances in stag-hunting are equally reprehensible. The post of a master of lounds is in this respect by no means a sinecure; and it behoves cvery man desirous of seeing sport to respond to and render every support to the maintenance of good intentions.
The brilliant success which distinguished Lord Redesdale's hounds last season surpassed any they had previously enjoyed, and it is almost too much to anticipate one equally good in succession, but present appearances bold forth sanguine expectations; their condiiion is superlative: it is a feature in the management of these hounds for which Jem Hills, their huntsman, is pre-eminent; and he has hitherto been particularly fortunate in not having had the distemper to contend against-a complaint which has been seriously felt in Lord Fitzhardinge's kennel; but his lordship’s unbounded resources for breeding hounds render the devastation which that malady produces of less importance than it would be in almost any other establishment.
I had an opportunity of seeing an excellent day's sport with Lord Redesdale's hounds, on Friday, November 3rd, when they met at Eyford. It is unnecessary to say another word about their condition, or that of the horses. Jem Hills was on his old brown one-cyed horse, looking as fresh and as well as ever; Jack Goddard, the first whip, on Isaac of York, a thorough-bred one, formerly in Scott's stables, one of the most promising yonng horses I bave seen for a long time; lie is in hanils where he cannot fail to learn his busijess. The field was not particnlarly large, but included many of the gentlemen who reside in the neighbourhood. Sir Charles Cockcrel, Sir Johu Cathcart, the Hon. James and Ralph Dutton, Mr. Waller,
Captain Evans, Mr. Clifford —one of the most staunch preservers of foxes, as a farmer, this or any other hunt can boast of-numbering in all between fifty and sixty. The hounds were not long in the coverts before they got a fox on his legs, which without much trouble they ran to Shirley's gorse, where they killed him. They returned to Eyford, and, in drawing one of the plantations, fourteen couples of hounds slipt away with a fox, without any but the two whips and five of the field being aware of the circumstance. Jem Hills was not long, however, in detecting that a great portion of the pack was missing; but they had made such good use of their time, that they had reached Talbot's plantations before the direction which they had taken was discovered. The huntsman succeeded in getting up to them, with the ten couples of hounds which were with him, in one of the Guiting woods, where they had come to a check ; and, although they just owned a scent over two fields out of the covert, the fox liad evidently been gone some time, and was in consequence given up. Whether under such circumstances the whisper-in ought to go on with the hounds or stop them, is a question which demands attention ; at all events his duty should be detined. When the majority of the pack go away with a fox, it appears nothing more than reasonable that they should endeavour to kill him; on the other hand, it may be said, that the office of a whipper-in is to keep the hounds to the huntsman's horn. On their first breaking covert it is impossible for the whipper-in to judge how quickly-the huntsman having ascertained the fact—he may get to the head, and in that case it would be improper to stop them ; likewise in the event of going away on good terms with a fair scent, and having more than half the pack, it seems rather contradictory to reason and the customs usually observed in fox-hunting to attempt to destroy the prospect of a run. Having got the hounds together, they proceeded to Swell village, to draw the osier bed by the turnpike, when a fox jumping up in the midst of them was nearly being killed before he had time to think of the danger he was 'in; however, by dint of that activity for which the vulpine genus are remarkable, he succeeded in getting clear away, making his point as if for Clifford's Spinnies, but bearing to the right round the outskirts of the village, took his line over the hill, and through a small plantation, when he deviated a little to the left over a splendid country, bearing again somewhat to the right, over Hinchwick to Seizincote, where they ran into him just before he reached the earths. It was as pretty a forty minutes as the most fastidious could wish to see, at a capital pace; and it is but justice to observe, the hounds were not in the least blown or distressed. Sam Darling, who rode a well-bred clever chestnut horse, was the first man up at the finish, and picked up the fox. He is one of the few jockeys who can ride to hounds, but his nag is so perfect it would be his own fault if he did not keep a good place. The kennel where these hounds are kept is at Heythrope, near Chipping Norton, and is the same which was formerly occupied by his grace the late Duke of Beaufort, when his hounds hunted this country. It will be remembered that the greater part of Heythrope house, which is the property of Lord Shrewsbury, was consumed by fire about the year