Saturday, December 08, 2007

East Cornwall meets the Beaufort...

Wednesday, we went north. A few months ago, Captain Farquhar was saying (at a hound show I think) that his hounds could hunt any country. The master of the East Cornwall took him up on it, and they traveled to Bodmin. Today the favor was returned, and the scrappy little rock crawling provincials trod the sacred soil of Badminton.

The meet was crowded. Some thirty ECH subscribers made the trip- TWO WHOLE HOURS!! There were another hundred and a few Beaufort people to add on. So it was about like one of their typical Saturdays. The ECH hounds were smaller and somewhat more varied than is typically found here, but they looked keen and were well scarred up. As all of my faithful reader know, I tend to like a hound with plenty of dings and nicks from getting in there and drawing. Dogs and bitches hunting together, too.

They found pretty quickly and hunted in a big loop around. Just as we do, they have a freeway right through the country. When it was built, the Duke of that day managed to insure that the wire along the verge was buried in the earth at the bottom. So it’s a physical barrier to quarry and hounds rather than an accident waiting to happen.

Hounds sounded wonderful, plenty of varied cry. It’s striking how after just one day under two hound rules in Somerset how much one misses the sound of a full pack.

So we hunted along some more, including a good long bit in a bog covert near the cross country course. Twice hounds came up to right where we were, but the quarry must have turned back. It was beautiful to listen to, though- the air was heavy and the cry really rang through the forest, that fragmenting and regrouping of sound waves colliding with the trees, the atmosphere, and each other. Just lovely.

When we stopped for second horses, I had the opportunity to meet Martin Scott, who is one of the great hound breeding experts of all time. He talked about the fact that the Beaufort had sent hounds to our pack in the 1930s. “But probably none of that line survive, because I believe there was a terrible distemper outbreak in your kennels a couple of years later.”

Encyclopedic knowledge does not begin to cover such a mind. Here he was in the middle of a field and upon being introduced to some American visitor, immediately upon finding out to which pack he belonged, was able to whip out information connecting the visitor’s pack with his own.

Nor does civility begin to cover his bothering to do that. Just to let a visitor feel noticed.

So at horse change, we stood around and waited among the hounds. They were a bit varied, smaller than the usual English hounds and more lightly built. I pointed out one bitch who was very like the black marked strain in our pack.

There was a girl there, a groom or hanger on, who was just lit up being with hounds. Very difficult to watch.

So off we went, and hounds drew hard into the first covert. Out came the quarry, and we watched it off across two fields into another wood.

Then there was another clear illustration of my pet variability of scent from hound to hound hobby. Hounds came out of covert on the line, and checked at the fence line. They milled and then cast themselves beautifully around the crossing spot. Only a couple of the 20c or so even noticed the line, which was at most 3 minutes old in cool, damp conditions across an empty grass field. (And the leading hound was the black one I had pointed out, thank you.)

And on we went, hounds hunting hard but most of them just couldn’t hold on to anything at all for long. A pity, their cry when rolling was beautiful.

And afterward, a feed in the village hall. The Beaufort was very welcoming and generous, once again defying the stereotype our enemies paint of us as exclusionary aristocrats.

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