It is a happy coincidence that the beginning of the puppy show season arrives just after bicycle hound exercise has started. For those lucky enough to attend a run of puppy shows, either as a judge or guest, the gastronomic excesses may soon start to show were it not for daily hound exercise. After all, every hunt wishes to entertain its guests royally.
For frequent judges it can be a double whammy. Even if the puppy show tea is served hard on the heels of a bountiful lunch, the sight of mountains of cakes and delicacies is often too hard to resist. There are some shows where the dash to the tea tent is preceded by an audible loosening of belts.
Every hunt has its loyal members who hover by the tea tent as if they haven’t eaten since last year’s show. It is, however, an important communal feasting for the whole hunt: subscribers, supporters and farmers.
Puppy show lunches vary from intimate affairs for masters and judges, to lavish banquets for the great and the good of not only the host hunt, but several others besides. One feature in common is often the local variety of coronation chicken.
Rather like a good sermon, a puppy show speech should be sharp and succinct. An early joke can settle the audience, provided it gets a laugh. It is vital to congratulate the puppy walkers and say something positive about the hounds. They are, after all, and quite rightly, swans in their eyes.
It may be prudent to thank the master for a sumptuous lunch — but try not to call his third wife by the name of his first. Both are likely to be present. Joke selection is crucial. I have an inability to remember a punch line so rely upon the odd humorous yarn. However, the level of “risqué” is inversely proportionate to the seniority of the deliverer. I recently heard a very senior master get away with a remarkable expletive, barely noticed by the dowager ladies of the hunt.
There is no greater honour than being invited to judge hounds, beloved of a hunt and the walkers. Such a privilege should not be taken lightly, but enjoyed and treated with respect and charm.
Huntsmen at work
The recent Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show — the focal point of the Festival of Hunting (reports, 28 July and 4 August) — attracted the highest quality of hounds seen for many years. Apollo looked kindly upon Peterborough, as those in hunt uniform gallantly performed in his sun’s rays.
This was not our year to win — far from it — but it was good to exhibit, nonetheless, and credibly fly the flag. The Festival is going from strength to strength and it is notable how many young people are enjoying its attractions.
It is always interesting to watch the class huntsmen at work with their hounds. A hound’s character
blossoms under their huntsman. Those hounds, for which the sudden gaze of several hundred eyes once they enter the ring is rather alarming, are calmed by the most natural huntsmen and often show well, calmed by trust.
Some hounds enter the ring as if they own it, while others are stilted and unsure. In the end, a good judge should be able to see through the evident showmanship, delightful as it is to watch, and observe
the essence of the hound: its conformation and movement.
Soon the shows will conclude and the hounds will return to their day job. The season is almost upon us.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 August 2016