Archibald Hamilton.

The red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 online

. (page 16 of 22)
Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 16 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the great Southern hound. I have been quite unable
to find any contemporary description of the Southern
hound which throws any real light on his pecu-
liarities. Yet he is generally supposed to have
been the stock from which the English staghounds
were bred, and also to have shared with the Northern
hound the honour of helping to found the modern
race of foxhounds.

The Southern hound is said to have been bred
to hunt on foot with, and to have been very slow.
We know that hunting at force was not in favour
with Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, who preferred
hunting in inclosed parks, and probably very slow,
tunable hounds came into fashion.

Shakespeare's works are full of references to
hunting, but the only one which at all bears on
the point is the oft-quoted passage from Act IV. of
A Midsuniiner Niglifs Dream : —

Theseus {log.) :
\ My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,
So flawed, so sanded, and their heads are hung
With ears that sweep away the morning dew ;
Crook-kneed, and dew-lapped like Thessalian bulls;
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouth like bells.
Each under each.

This does not help us much, as the description
might apply to anything, from a dachsund upwards,



250 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

and the only thing worth mentioning is that he lays
stress on three of the points noticed by Gaston de
Foix : " so flewed," which is, so the glossaries tell
us, with long pendant lips ; " so sanded," which
refers to the tan or vellow-coloured markings, and
the description of the ears, which speaks for itself.
It is clear from the context that Theseus had no
intention of following the hounds himself, for, after
sending for the forester, he says : —

We will, fair queen, up to the mountain's top,
And mark the musical confusion
Of hounds and echo in conjunction.

This is not altogether unknown at the present day.

However useful they may have been in parks, it
is quite clear they would have been unable to cope
with the red deer of Exmoor.

Whatever may have been the case In other
parts of England, hounds were kept, according to
universally accepted tradition, at Simonsbath during
the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1598) by one Hugh
Pollard, who was deputy-forester of Exmoor. These
hounds presumably were descended from one or
other of the French breeds named, with perhaps an
admixture of English blood, but they must, to have
been any use on Exmoor, have had a certain amount
of pace.

James I. took much trouble to reinstate the good
old customs of staghunting at force, and sent for
huntsmen from France to instruct their English
brethren. Probably at the same time hounds were



THE PACK. 251

imported, and as the demand for speed arose, no
doubt even the Southern hounds were bred for pace
to meet the demand, just as foxhounds were when
the custom of riding better-bred and faster horses
necessitated increased pace in the hounds.

That the Southern hound was a recognised breed,
separate from the foxhound, as late as 1749, is
proved in Beckford's "Thoughts on Hunting,"
published in that year, the only book of the period
which deals authoritatively with the science of fox-
hunting. He speaks of a pack which was all
shapes and sizes, yet killed a goodly proportion of
foxes, and adds that they ran in a string, and that
when in difficulties the fault was always made good
by an old Southern hound. He mentions this as if
the Southern hound was then a perfectly well-known
and recognised breed.

Such being the hounds existing in England at
this period, we cannot help wondering from what
source was derived the grand old pack which for
something, we believe, like two centuries or more
showed such wonderful sport in Somerset and Devon.
We have no description of the pack at that time, the
earliest being contained in Dr. Collyns's " Chase of
the Wild Red Deer," which describes them as they
were before being sold in 1825. Dr. CoUyns says he
is unable to trace their exact origin, but they had
been in the countv for years, and had been bred
with the utmost care for the purpose of staghunting.
He says : —



252 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

" The bloodhound and the old Southern hound
were, beyond doubt, amongst the ancestors of the
pack which, when sold, consisted of about thirty
couple. In height the hounds were about 26 to
28 inches ; colour generally hare-pied, with long
ears, deep muzzles, large throats, and deep chests.
In tongue they were perfect, and when hunting in
the water, or on a half scent, or when baying a deer
they might be heard at an immense distance. Even
when running at speed they always gave plenty of
tongue, and their great size enabled them to cross
the long heather and rough, sedgy pasturage of the
forest without effort or difficulty."

Such is the only detailed, written description of
them which, so far as the writer knows, is extant.

The great difficulty at first sight is the size : 26
to 28 inches is a standard which hardly seems
credible, though it would be rash to say what could
not be done by two hundred years' careful breeding.
The very few people who actually remembered the
old pack, with whom the writer has talked, had no
very clear recollection on the subject, but from their
accounts the hounds seem to have been undoubtedly
bigger and longer-bodied than the modern pack ;
this is fully borne out by the picture of two hounds
of the old pack in the possession of Dr. John
Collyns, of Dulverton.

The phrase Southern hound is used in such an
indefinite way by many writers that too much
reliance should not be placed on Dr. Collyns's



THE PACK. 253

assertion that it was one of the ancestors of the
staghound pack, though probably ahnost any pack
of staghounds in England would contain some of
that blood.

The Comte le Couteulx de Canteleu says : —
" Mais je crois que la derniere vieille meute de
staghounds proprement dits (qui avaient beaucoup
de sang Normand) etait I'ancienne meute de Devon
et Somerset, vendue pour I'Autriche en 1827." M.
de Canteleu's learned work was published in 1890,
and one cannot help wondering how he got his
information save from Dr. Collyns's book. But in
the same book he publishes a picture of the Vendeen
hounds, now nearly extinct, which, as we have seen,
are the descendants of the " grands chiens blancs
du roi " and of their celebrated ancestor Souillard.
No one, I think, putting this picture alongside that
of the hounds of the old pack in Dr. Collyns's book,
can doubt for a moment that they represent
substantially the same breed. This is further borne
out when we come to read the description of them :
" Tres grands, blancs, a poil tres ras et fin, quelques
laches tres pales, jaunatres, la tete nerveuse,
I'oreille longue et attachee bas, souple et mince,
la queue longue, fine et effilee, le rein bien fait,
assez de cuisse, ils ont la poitrine peu profonde
et ne descendant pas assez bas."

Here we get the size and colouring, the only
difference being as to the depth of chest. The
description goes on to say that they are good hunters,



254 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

and very keen, questing and trying with gaiety and
diligence, with good noses and clever at a fault,
not afraid of too much heat, but very susceptible
to cold.

The latter is a striking peculiarity, since we know
that the old staghounds stopped hunting during the
winter months on account of the cold water.

The great fault of the modern Vendeen hound is
his want of staying power: " Tres vites pendant la
premiere heure, ils s'etouffent assez facilement."
This may be modern degeneracy ; it certainly was
not characteristic of the old staghounds.

Though we may well believe that the descendants
of Souillard were the main stem from which the
staghounds were derived, there cannot be the least
doubt that they had been frequently crossed with
other breeds — in fact, we know such to have been
the case.

In 1800 the necessitv for fresh blood was realised,
and a draft of large foxhounds from various kennels
was added to the pack.

According to Lord Graves, who had the pack for
one year in 1812, the method of breeding the then
existing pack was both curious and painstaking.
As the method took some years to produce a working
hound, the recipe he handed on to his successor
(Lord Fortescue) was presumably based on the
tradition handed down to him by his predecessors.

It is set out in Lord Ebrington's able article in the
" Fur and Feather " series : —



THE PACK. 255

" First cross. — Put a thoroughbred heavy stag-
hound dog to some thoroughbred foxhound bitch.
This is not yet the breed required.

" Second cross. — Put the bitches, the product of the
first cross, when fifteen months old to a thoroughbred
staghound dog, and to some thoroughbred staghound
bitches put those dogs the product of the first cross
which are most promising. The product of the last
cross is the sort required. After a few years, should
a cross be required from another kennel, which is
very necessary, cross with a sharp staghound, but
by no means with a foxhound."

The use of the term " thoroughbred " here is
somewhat misleading, as none of a kennel bred on
these lines could really be considered "thoroughbred."
The last advice is also curious, and must have been
traditionary, for at the time he wrote there were not»
it is believed, any other staghounds, bred as such, in
England. The Royal hounds were at this time mostly
of foxhound origin, and so were probably the Earl of
Derby's hounds, which, to judge from the well-known
print, cannot have exceeded 24 or 24^ inches.

There was, however, in Ireland a pack of
staghounds (the Cahirelly) belonging to Mr. Michael
Fiirvvell, which were hunting in Limerick as late as
1833, and a run with them of upwards of twenty
miles is described by a correspondent of the New
Sporting Magazine of March in that year. They
are described as follows : —

" Those hounds are generally white and of immense



256 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

size, standing about 25 inches and often weighing
individually from six to eight stone ; very deep-toned
and heavy hung ; the only kennel of the kind in
Ireland, and so tender is the breed as to make it
almost impossible to be kept up, and could only be
done in that very fertile part of the country which is
designated the Golden Vein.'' A picture of these
hounds running a stag hangs in the dining-room at
Carass, the home in Limerick of Sir David Roche,
Bart.

The task of keeping up on Exmoor thirty couple
of the right sort, which was the strength of the pack
in those days, must have been immense, for it is
impossible to believe that more than, at the outside,
60 per cent, would attain the minimum standard of
26 inches laid down by Dr. Collyns, and fewer still
the mean of 27 inches, while only a few giants can ever
have grown to 28 inches. The average height of the
present pack is about 25 inches. It is a strain on one's
belief to imagine a pack averaging 27 inches, and if
such a pack, with the same quality, dash, and drive
as the present pack, were put in the field, they would
show no sport ; for no deer could stand up before
them and no horse could live with them.

It is true that the late Lord Wolverton for some
years hunted a pack of bloodhounds in Dorsetshire
which are said to have averaged 27 inches, but
opinions differ as to their pace. The writer never
saw them, but as a boy he met many who had been
out with them. Sometimes they seem to have run



THE PACK. 257

away from everyone, but at others they seemed to
have Httle pace and dash, and if horses pressed on
them at all they seemed to become too nervous to
try to hunt.

The writer has tried to trace, however imperfectly,
the different breeds from which the old pack may
have been originally derived, and has tried to point
out which seem most likely, but he is fain to admit
that it is pure speculation, though, he ventures to
think, an interesting subject for speculation.

The Southern hound was abandoned as a probable
source with reluctance, on account of the positive
assertion of Dr. Collyns, but the information about
that breed is too vague, and such as there is, is so
utterly at variance with the type of the old pack that
it seems impossible for it to have been the main
stock. Youatt describes it as a big, heavy hound,
but his picture is utterly unlike the old staghounds,
while M. de Canteleu, who classes it as among
existing English breeds, makes it something between
a small harrier and a large beagle.



CHAPTER XV.
THE PACK {continued).

Here's to the hound

With his nose upon the ground.

Whyte Melville.

Yelled on the view the opening pack.

Scott {Lady of the Lake).

The question as to how the old pack which under
the Aclands, Bassets, Fortescues, Chichesters, and
others showed such excellent sport in ihe latter half
of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth
centuries, compared with the hounds of the present
day, is an interesting if somewhat difhcult one, but
an inquirer has the advantage of a certain number
of records which throw some light on the matter.

The unavoidable conclusion which must be drawn
from the evidence, in spite of all assertion to the
contrary, must be that the modern pack is a good
deal faster than the old pack, but how much faster
it is impossible to estimate.

In the appendix to Dr. Collyns's book are the
accounts of a series of great runs taken mostly from
the diary of Parson Boyse, of Withypool. They
contain frequent references to the pace, to horses



THE PACK. 259

being exhausted, and to very few being in at the
finish, just as we find in accounts of runs to-day,
but pace is comparative, and one must bear in mind
the state of the country and also the class of horse
ridden at that period before one can accept the
statement that a run was fast. All hounds that run
away from horses are fast. There is unfortunately
no case in which it is possible to check the pace by
the clock over any defined distance. The time of
several runs is given, but the ground traversed is
not sufficiently accurately described to enable us to
make any trustworthy calculation. It must also be
remembered that many of these accounts refer to a
period when a great change was taking place in
English hunting, and Mr. Childe, of Kinlet Hall,
Shropshire, was setting a fashion in the matter of
pace, which is said to have often roused the ire of
Mr. Hugo Meynell, whose pack he followed. The
example of riding better bred horses and galloping
at the fences was speedily followed in the shires and
spread all over England, and hounds were every-
where bred for pace to enable them to hold their
own, but how early the effect of this innovation was
felt on Exmoor we cannot tell. Accounts of big
runs, both ancient and modern, must be taken cum
grano sails. An experience of over twenty years in
endeavouring faithfully to recount the runs of the
Devon and Somerset Staghounds in the Field has
convinced the writer of the extreme temptation there
is to exaggerate the merits of a real good run, which

S 2



26o THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

one has enjoyed, if one sits down to write about it
while the glamour is still on one, and the large
percentage by which an original estimate is reduced
by the stern logic of compasses, map, and measuring
wheel.

Anyone who reads through a series of the runs
recorded in the Old Sporting Magazine and
publications of that date will realise that this
tendency rather ran wild, and will be driven, if he
accepts all the statements, to the conclusion that
the hounds of those days — the early part of the
nineteenth century — were at least 30 per cent, faster
than anything Leicestershire can produce to-day.

The reverend chronicler of the doings of the
staghounds cannot be absolutely acquitted of
possessing the same tendency, for a careful
examination of the runs recorded by him will show
that some of his estimates of distance were
exceedingly wild. On September 13th, 1804,
hounds found a stag in Chargot Wood near
Luxborough, and ran it via Raleigh's Cross and
Chipstable to Highleigh Weir on the Exe below
Wonham. A fine run, said to have lasted five
hours and forty minutes, but the most liberal allowance
for doubling about cannot stretch the distance to
fifty-five miles. If the distance had been fifty-five
miles they never would have covered it in five hours
and forty minutes. The general impression derived,
however, from reading these records with the map
beside one is that they are on the whole unusually



THE PACK. 261

accurate and trustworthy. The absence of maps —
for most of these accounts are older than the
pubHcatlon of the first Ordnance Survey, and that
was filled with amazing blunders — is quite sufficient
to account for a large amount of exaggeration as to
distance.

As far as one can judge the old pack must have
been pretty much what one would have expected
them to be from the description of them.

They seem to have lobbed along over the open —
especially where there was bad going for horses — at
a considerable pace, but to have lost a lot of time in
covert — hard oak scrub must have been well-nigh
impassable to hounds of that size.

They probably looked to be going very slowly as
they strung along in file through deap heather,
solemnly flinging their tongues, but one is accustomed
to hear the same criticism of the modern pack from
strangers accustomed to a 23-I or 24 inch standard.
It is clear, however, that they must have slipped
along at a respectable pace, because they killed
their deer on quite a fair proportion of the days they
went out ; because also these records show that on
a really good day they ran away from the great
majority of the riders, and because the records of
some of the runs, to which no taint of exaggeration
appears to attach, would be a credit to any pack of
hounds. For example : —

August 22nd, 1790. Found in Haddon and laid
on above Storridge. " He went up the bottom to



262 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

Foxhanger and through Pickets Hill for Stoverd
Hill" — this would be mostly open but rather rough
going in places — " and then through the enclosure
to Stone in Exton, and then over Witheridge Farm
to the Quarme water under Upcott, and broke over
the Poorsland for the Exe, which he took just above
the Vicarage house " — Winsford Vicarage — " and
went up the river to Larcombe Foot ; now broke to
the right as if making for the Horner coverts " — a
good many miles off — " but before reaching Staddon
Hill turned to the left and again crossed the Exe
above Nethercott for Kirkcleeve, and then beat up
to Exford and lay fast in a small covert above the
village. He was here fresh found, and hounds ran
him in view to Cloven Rocks on Exmoor. He now
backed it to the left for Cow Castle, and beat down
the Bade to Landacre Bridge, and then to Withypool;
broke from the river at Bradlev Ham, and crossed it
for Winsford Hill. The hounds viewed him at least
three miles over the hill to Redcleeve, and at this
late part of the run many a horse was pulled up.
He now descended to the Exe once more, never again
to leave it ; beat down to Chilly Bridge, at which
place he was killed after a chase of over four hours."
Now every twist and turn in this run can be worked
out, because nearly the whole way the deer followed
the line of a water-course, little or big, until he made
his last desperate dash from Bade to Exe. The
distance, as nearly as the writer can measure it up,
must have been about thirty miles — perhaps thirty-two.



THE PACK, 263

This was said to have been accomplished in " over
four hours," which probably means anything under
five hours. This is just the sort of line where
hounds might do a distance of this sort in good time,
because it was over land at that time almost entirely
unenclosed ; it was rough, grassy land, not heather,
and it hardly touched a covert all the way, certainly
nothing to cause a check or to stop the pace.
There was hardly a chance of rousing fresh deer, and
it is extremely probable that they ran the whole way
without more of a check than would be due to
hunting the water. It is the time lost in checks that
throws out all estimates based on the pace at which
one seemed to be galloping, and hounds which have
the luck to run on without checking may easily
cover more distance when going at quite a moderate
pace than is accomplished by a series of bursts at
top speed. Whatever may have been their luck on
this occasion, to have covered the ground specified
in anything between four and five hours, they must
have been going quite a good pace for a great part
of the distance. This run exactly illustrates what
was probably the difference between the old pack
and the new ; the old pack ran a good pace, quite as
fast, perhaps, as the present pack would have done,
till the deer broke away over Winsford Hill. The
old pack, evidently unable to increase their pace, ran
him in view to Red Cleeve, a matter of three miles.
No stag, as nearly run up as this one must have
been, could possibly have stood up with the modern



264 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

pack racing him in view for three miles; he would be
rolled over before he had gone a mile.

Many of the other records tell the same tale, but
on the other hand there are various facts which tell
the other way, and show a deficiency of that speed
and drive, possessed by the present pack, which are
necessary to give the hounds a decisive advantage
over a deer. They were obviously unable to
cope with a hind during the winter months, at all
events they did not do so. The records show a few
days' hind hunting took place in October, and then
hunting was stopped till April and continued until
well on into May, and sometimes even later, much
later than has been done of late years, even when
the necessity to reduce the numbers of the herd was
most imperative.

To kill a hind in December, January, and February
needs a pack which can drive her along persistentlv at
a pace sufficient to try her wind and bring her blown to
the water. A hind is not over burdened with fat, and if
she is not pressed, but can get a chance to stop now
and again and catch her wind, is capable of running
almost from daylight till dark. Even more than with
a stag it is the drive which kills.

The coldness of the rivers in the winter was, it is
true, alleged as the reason for discontinuing hunting,
and if the pack was bred from the delicate Vendeen
hounds, as seems probable, this may have had a
good deal to do with it ; but experience with the
modern pack for many years has shown the mischief



THE PACK. 265

to be greatly exaggerated, though it is quite possible
that if the pack was more dead beat than the hind
by the time she came to water a prolonged immer-
sion might have some ill-effect. But all these
theories as to pace are confirmed by the old saying
that if you hunted a young stag you only knocked
up men, hounds, and horses, and did not kill your
deer. The hounds of to-day can run up a deer of
any age, within a reasonable time, without putting
an undue strain upon themselves, though occa-
sionally they reduce all the horses to a standstill.

To the account of the great Satterleigh Marsh
run, indubitably the best run with a stag that has
ever been recorded, there are appended the words :
" This was only a four-year-old deer, which accounts
for his running such a distance." This run was on
October 3rd, 181 5. The stag was found in the
head of Hollow Combe, above Sweet Tree, and the
pack laid on by Langcombe Head. The line lay by
Larkbarrow, Pinford, Honeymead, Cow Castle, over
the South Forest, Filedon Ridge, Darlick Enclosures,
Longwood, North Molton Church, to Vennwood
Bottom where the first check occurred. Then to
^astle Hill Park and to water, where a long check
occurred. The stag was reported to be three-
quarters of an hour ahead, which shows the check
and the delay in hunting the water must have taken
up much time. Mr. Boyse, who seems to have cast
himself forward down the stream got a view of the
stag coming back, and hounds being laid on they



266 THE RED DEER OF EXMOOR.

ran him down the valley to Satterleigh Marsh and
killed. Only seven out of over two hundred were
at the finish, and small wonder, for the first gallop
from Langcombe Head to North Molton would be
calculated to settle most horses.

Even admitting, as I think must be done, that the
old pack was not as fast as the modern one, there is
no doubt that they were fast enough to kill deer, and
there is no doubt they did for many years show most
excellent sport and kept stag-hunting alive at a time


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 16 of 22)