Over 60 representatives from veterinary practices and hunts throughout England and Wales congregated at The Old Hall, Badminton on Tuesday 26th June to share information regarding improvements in the veterinary and kennel management of hounds.
Organised by the Hunting Office, the meeting was opened by Benjamin Mancroft, chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA). He welcomed the attendees which included a number of non-hunting vets who already had some experience of treating hounds but were interested to know more about hound husbandry and hunting practices in order to gain a better understanding of the working life of a hunting hound. Other representatives in attendance included hunting vets, former and current members of professional hunt staff, joint-masters and committee members of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB) and the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA).
Tim Easby, director of the MFHA explained the role of the Hunting Office and expressed the view of hunting’s governing body: “We are constantly striving to achieve the very best in hound health in terms of veterinary treatment and advice, and nothing less than ‘excellent’ is acceptable when it comes to management. Providing a platform to share this information is vital and we plan to continue holding similar seminars in the future as part of our ongoing-training programme.”
Amongst the veterinary topics for discussion was the management of respiratory diseases in hunt kennels. Liz Gorse, joint-master of the Cheshire Forest Hunt shared her knowledge as an experienced hunting vet and covered one of the more difficult dilemmas facing huntsmen when their hounds show signs for concern: “Is it ‘the cough’ or just ‘the sniffles’?”
Brian Hildick-Smith, a veterinary surgeon who treats the Beaufort hounds when required, talked about bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) after expressing his gratitude to the MFHA for organising this inaugural veterinary symposium. “Thank you for organising this event and starting the process of further education regarding the importance of improving hound health,” he said.
Marisol Collins from the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool gave a fascinating presentation regarding ongoing research into the Echinococcus tapeworm in hunting hounds while Lewis Thomas from the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management explained the need for – and the role of – hunting in wildlife management.
Former professional huntsmen William Deakin (Warwickshire) and Patrick Martin (Bicester with Whaddon Chase) were invited to speak about the importance of kennel routine and feeding hounds. The discussions were followed by a tour of the Beaufort kennels with kennel-huntsman Nick Hopkins and joint-masters Capt Ian Farquhar and Matt Ramsden who also gave a display of some of their hounds whose bloodlines can be traced back 59 generations.
Varying views were expressed throughout the day on some of the more contentious matters including vaccination against kennel cough and concerns regarding some more traditional approaches to treatment which led to some interesting and, at times, lively debates.
Polly Portwin, Head of Hunting at the Countryside Alliance attended the event: “We are delighted that this symposium proved to be so popular and hopefully it will be the first of many that brings together experts from the veterinary world as well as those who work with hounds on a practical and daily basis. Ensuring hounds remain in the best possible health is vital to protecting important bloodlines as well as providing a long-term future for hunting.”