It would be no surprise to learn that there were all shapes and sizes of hounds at the Festival of Hunting at the South of England showground on Wednesday, 22 July.
However this was not all the day had to offer though, with something for every hunting enthusiast — also of all shapes and sizes — to enjoy.
Aside from the packs that went home as champions in their own rings, we recall some of the many memorable moments from this year’s show and see why the 2016 Festival of Hunting is not to be missed…
1. Fitting finale for retiring local huntsman
Showing hounds for the last time at this show before his retirement at the end of the 2015/16 season, George Adams — huntsman of the Fitzwilliam (Milton) — was rewarded for his dedication to hunting when walking away with the unentered doghound title with Bretton.
In recognition of this success, the Horse & Hound Challenge Cup was awarded to Fitzwilliam joint-master and chairman of the Royal Foxhound Show, Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland Bt, MFH.
2. Credit card meltdown
For those not wanting to spend the whole day watching hounds being shown, there were plenty of opportunities to spend hard-earned cash or to use a flexible friend in the large shopping village. From horseboxes to pairs of socks, there was something for every hunting enthusiast to buy in preparation for the season ahead.
We’ve all been there — one minute you’re enjoying the ride of your life and the next you experience that…
3. Shrieks from the inter-hunt relay ring
Things were getting very tense in the final stages with every pole knocked down counting for time added, so it wasn’t always easy to immediately identify the winners of the senior or junior relay competitions just by who was first to cross the line.
Following the announcements of the results of each round, shrieks of delight or disappointment could be heard all across the showground.
Those celebrating included the Bicester Hunt with Whaddon Chase who secured their fourth impressive relay victory of the season while the junior winners were the Barlow Hunt.
4. Refined layout hailed a success
Despite initial concerns upon arrival when being marshalled into a completely different parking area than has been traditionally used, the organisers had set the show up with a new, more compact layout. This was found to be much more user-friendly than in previous years and was welcomed by visitors old and new.
5. Happy ending to mistaken identity
Seen busily taking pictures of hounds and hunt staff was Mark Rendall — a keen equine and hunting photographer whose pictures have previously been published in H&H. Having almost the same name as a well-known intelligence officer from the League Against Cruel Sports — an organisation not known for its pro-hunting tendencies — might have justifiably given some of those from around the hound rings some cause for concern, however everyone’s blushes were happily saved by Mark’s H&H credentials.
6. Black eye for the President
Martin Letts MFH, this year’s president of the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show was sporting a rather distinguished-looking black eye following an altercation leading up to the show with his lawnmower. Among his messages inside the show catalogue, perhaps written in hope of avoiding a second black eye, he said: “Alas, old age curbs recognition, so if you feel blanked, please say your name and country. I have recall of the latter but not of the former.”
7. Watching and learning
While watching the judging of the foxhounds, it was interesting to see the various “masterclasses” that were going on ringside. Pearls of wisdom were being shared with those wishing to learn more about the intricacies of judging hounds.
None looked more entertaining than that being given by Robin Vestey, joint-master of the Thurlow who was more than qualified to impart his knowledge, after wins for his pack in both the doghound and bitch hound couples classes.
8. Hounds for everyone
Anyone interested in hounds had a field day. A large number of packs took part in the 127th Royal Foxhound Show while elsewhere there were Old English foxhounds, beagles, harriers, basset hounds, draghounds and bloodhounds all competing for prestigious championship titles.
In addition, there were fell hounds and working terriers too. Legendary huntsman Barry Todhunter and the famous Blencathra Foxhounds came down from the Lake District to represent the fell packs.
For all the lowdown including the full report, results and many other highlights from this year’s Festival of Hunting, please see Horse & Hound magazine on 31 July and 6 August 2015