Hound shows are great social occasions which bring together the hunting world and at their heart are those wonderful working hounds which are central to our love of hunting. We spend a lot of time talking about quarry species, wildlife management, trail-hunting, jobs and communities but at the core of every hunt, from the smallest foot pack to the grandest mounted hunt, is the hound and our fascination with them.
In the last couple of weeks the Alliance’s hunting team have been to Builth Wells for the Wales and Border Counties hound show, and to Harrogate for the Great Yorkshire. Both were very well attended and at Harrogate a record 22 packs of foxhounds fought out the classes. It was wonderful to see so many hounds being shown watched by both hound aficionados and passing members of the huge Great Yorkshire crowds. Next week we will be at Peterborough for the Lycetts Festival of Hunting, the highlight of the hound showing season. The Festival has now become much more than just a hound show, with an inter-hunt relay and a variety of equestrian showing classes also taking place, but at its centre are harriers, beagles, basset hounds and the 131st Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show.
Of course no-one can judge the hunting ability of a hound from its performance on the flags, but the judicious breeding of hounds over centuries on the basis both of working ability and physical attributes which lend strength and speed have produced wonderful examples of the breeds. The comparison between the hounds shown at Peterborough and some of the pedigree canines shown at dog shows across the country is stark. Hounds are bred to work, not for strange physical attributes, and that has created healthy and robust breeds which are capable of doing their job.
The relationship between man and dog, between hound and hunt supporters, is the main reason hunting will never die. The ridiculous Hunting Act may randomly restrict what a hound can hunt, but the law cannot stop a dog hunting. We may, quite rightly, be frustrated at those ludicrous restrictions, but that does not mean we cannot continue to ensure that there is a future role for our wonderful hounds whatever quarry they have to pursue.
PS. there is a beautiful hunt country map up for grabs in our Lycetts Festival of Hunting competition. Find out more here.