Edward II, the Duke of York wrote in his book “The Master of the Game”, when he was in jail following the defeat of Agincourt:
“The hound is a creature of reasoning and the best of all divine creatures.”
In 1937, Sir John Buchanan-Jardine published the book “Hounds of the World” which still constitutes the best study of the French origins of the Foxhound.
Before hunting the fox, England used to hunt hare and stag in the traditional French style, but with two different types of hound:
The first type was the Southern Hound which was mainly black and white with blue mottle and four eyes (meaning prominently marked round eyebrows above its eyes), and the origin comes back effectively to the gift of Gascon hounds from Henry IV of France to James I of England at the beginning of the 17th Century. Gascon hounds were slow of pace, with an excellent nose and had a passion for hunting hare. The descendants of this breed can still be found in kennels such as the Duke of Beaufort’s at Badminton in Gloucestershire.
The second type was the Northern Hound and is mainly tricolour. It was widely used in the 18th Century to hunt stag, such as in the Duke of Rutland’s hunt, at the Belvoir Kennels as well as the Brocklesby hunt of the Yarborough family in the north of England. This hound was much faster and was a cross-breed between the greyhound and the old Talbot. The Talbot was originally a blood hound bred in the monastery of St Hubert in the Ardennes, and brought to England in the early days of the Norman Conquest with the Grosvenors, William the Conqueror’s family, now the Duke of Westminster.
The history of the Foxhound is probably best described in the writings of the 8th Duke of Beaufort which first of all explains the disappointment of one of his forebears in 1743, when having hunted a stag too quickly, on the way back to Badminton Kennels, found a fox on Silk Road and had a superb chase across open land. Ever since then, the English started to hunt the fox on the vast open pasture-land after the deforestation of the 18th Century, which was undertaken to satisfy the construction of the ships in order to better conquest India.
The Foxhound developed from the combination of the qualities of both the Southern and Northern hounds. Lord Henry Bentick, at the beginning of the 19th Century, was the first grand breeder of Foxhounds who based his selection on stamina and nose. Himself a very keen hunter, Lord Bentick hunted six days a week for more than half a Century.
At the end of the 19th Century, the Foxhound was standardised under the Belvoir type, and the fashionable standard at the time became an animal resembling a small lion but with little line, big bones, and legs resembling those of a four poster bed.
The First World War broke out with this fashion of hound, and then introduced new blood from the kennels of Sir Edward Curre. This animal was much lighter in conformation, and predominantly white in colour. The second transformation was done between the two World Wars with the direct injection of Welsh blood which produced a kind of French Griffon with long hair, a relatively supple hound with very strong and deep voice. This was known as the Welsh Cross.
The first hunt of this new type of hound was done by the 10th Earl of Coventry at the Kennel of Croome. He was also famous for building the railway line between the City of London and Croome in order to provide the King and his hunting guests easy access to their sport.
There is nothing better than to read the book about The Foxhound written in 1964 by Miss Daphne Moore, and to also study the MFHA Stud Book which has been published annually since 1841. This constitutes “the bible” of any Foxhound breeder. With this Stud Book one can trace back the origin of literally every single Foxhound since the middle of the 19th Century.
Every year, all the British hunts register their puppies. Outside the MFHA Stud Book of 1841, there are certain hunts which keep their own pedigree records, some going back more than 300 years. Brocklesby, for example, has kept its Stud Book since 1746. For instance Ringwood since 1788 was immortalised by a Stubbs painting in 1792. Also the Badminton Kennel has Stud Books dating back to 1728 and many of their hounds captivated in time by the paintings of Wotton.
The Kennel of Selore in France is fortunate to have “Colonel 2009”, a generous gift from the current Earl of Yarborough. This hound won the Best of his Breed in his category in the National Fontainebleau Competition and also at the World Dog Show in 2011. “Colonel” is a direct descendent from the Ringwood 1788 line. The Master of the Hunt at Selore also received another beautiful gift from the 11th Duke of Beaufort, a bitch called “Daylight 2007”. This hound won the Champion Bitch Hound at the Puppy Show of the Selore Hunt in 2009. She descends from “Justice 1805” (Badminton Hounds) which became very famous in the stories of 1930’s, among them Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour 1830.
In “Daylight” the entire history of the Southern Hound is there for all to see. Her loving eyes and blue mottle colour make you think easily of Gascon origins – from the pack offered by Henry IV to James I. (Henry IV in the early 17th Century, offered a Pack of Gascon Hounds to James I. James I hunted them as did Charles I (his son). Charles II was not a participant in the sport and in the 18th Century, gave the Pack to Lord Worcester, who became the first Duke of Beaufort at Badminton).
The line that has been used for more than 100 years is “Rambler 1873” from the Earl of Coventry, and this descends from “Crasy 1840”, bred by Lord Henry Bentick. As a consequence, “Rambler 1873” can be descended like “Godolphin“in the Anglo-Arab standard of the breed. Therefore the blood of “Rambler 1873” is in every vein of every Foxhound existing in the present time. When you study the Stud Book, you have the proof of this extremely important fact.
The second most widely used line comes from a Welsh cross after the Second World War with a sire called “Salesman 1944”, a relatively white hound. “Salesman” is a descendent of “Marmaduke 1925”, from the kennel of Sir Edward Curre, and the white colour remains dominant in this bloodline.
The Foxhounds of the Equipage of Monique de Rothschild come mainly from “Salesman 1944”. Such as “Prestige 1979”, or “Boule-de-Neige” who won the National Hound Competition at Chambord twenty-two years ago.
The Stud Book is currently published by the Master of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) of Great Britain which was inaugurated at the Boodles Club at St James’s in 1856. The MFHA was run during the second part of the 20th Century by Captain Ronnie Wallace, still now nicknamed “God” by the British hunting fraternity. Another great institution is the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show – a true temple of the Foxhound – where since 1878, in June of each year, the very best Foxhounds come to be judged.
When showing, a bowler hat is considered de-rigueur and the hound is presented with great freedom and without leash, in order to observe his movement and engage his spirit. From 1887 to 1904, many champions have been observed from the kennels of the Warwickshire Hunt due to the bloodlines of “Rambler 1873” at the hand of its Master, Lord Willoughby de Broke. This is the ultimate reason why this hound can be considered the father of modern Foxhounds. Every hunt tries to outbreed with the Peterborough champions.
French hunting society often ignores the Foxhound. Often judged for being too speedy/quick, lacking nose and considered better adapted for hunting in open land after a strong scent such as the fox, but not very well adapted for hunting deer. When hunting as a road hound, the Foxhound can also be exceptional and even better than the best of the French hounds. The Foxhound can hunt in the forest after deer with a light scent. The hounds of Baronessa Rothschild who has a mixed pack of Foxhounds and French hounds, has been using the Foxhound pack with success in Compiegne (Northern France) to hunt red-deer for many decades. For example, more than twenty years ago, “Decembre”, put a stag at bay himself on the road of Crepy when all the French hounds had lost interest a long time before. In a mixed pack, it is not uncommon for the Foxhounds to be at the kill – they are most of the time! For example, Baronessa Rothschild recalled that “Navarre” had a habit of leading the pack the last quarter of an hour before a kill. Baron von Pfetten also uses these Foxhounds to hunt roe-deer, putting a few Foxhounds among a larger number of French black & white in the forest of Briffault. For instance, “Daylight” has been seen jumping on a deer at the end of a hunt, thus effectively increasing the number of kills over the last few years threefold, from five per annum to about fifteen.
The Foxhounds are very clever creatures, characterised by a particularly expressive look. Lord Henry Bentick’s “Regulus 1861” and his puppies are responsible for the majority of the road hounds, and trusted with a remarkable nose. It is true that the voice of the Foxhound is probably not as deep as that of the French hounds. Its cry is short and probably not as high; but these qualities of the voice have never been a criteria of selection in the last 200 years of Foxhound breeding. The best English breeders concentrated more on the spirit of the hound as well as the general aspect of harmony, symmetry, and sport, along with a deep breast with plenty of heart and lung room, and relatively masculine head. The quality of change is particularly remarkable in certain lines and can be found in Badminton and Brocklesby stock. The Welsh Cross is a lighter hound and very fast. It is interesting to note the admirable capacity of integration of behaviour and pace of the Foxhound when being introduced in a pack of French hounds and during the course of hunting stag, roedeer and buck.
The coexistence, however, in kennels of the two breeds can be rather problematic. Typically the English kennels separate males from females because they are generally hunted separately. In relation to feeding, English Foxhounds follow a diet based on red meat which is very different from the diet of the French hounds. Foxhounds eat very quickly and this is the reason why it is very important to control their feeding process, otherwise after six months, if gaining too much weight, feed must be regulated.
The Foxhound is relatively easily entered to a pack of its own kind and to participate and be trained as a pack hound. It interacts immediately with obedience to the Master who is serving it out hunting. When entered into a pack, it is at the same time free but under control of the eyes, the voice and the home of the Master. Individually the Foxhound enjoys being flattered and revels in the presence of human beings.
The Foxhounds has an exceptional capacity for acclimatization to its climatic environment, which is proven by the fact that they have been hunting in as far-flung places such as Hong Kong and India in the past, as well as hunts currently operating in Portugal, Italy, Australia and the USA.
These qualities are often misunderstood by the French hunting community and should be better discovered and known. This is the reason why it would be useful to create an International Association of the Foxhound with the mandate to promote the breed of Foxhound and publish a pedigree of young hounds outside the UK. We hope that this initiative will be able to better develop the standard of the breed and support our friends across the English Channel.