When Denise and James Davies bought an old copper hunting horn for a few dollars at an auction near their home in Harare, Zimbabwe, little did they know they had come across an important piece of British foxhunting history.

The horn is engraved with the name of a great 19th-century huntsman, “Will Goodall, Belvoir Kennels”.

The couple had no idea who Mr Goodall was when they bought the horn two years ago and listed it on eBay this month, with a starting price of 99p.

When enquiries poured in and the price rose to £50, they cancelled the auction in order to research Mr Goodall.

“The horn got a hell of a lot of response, and the price started going up,” said Mr Davies.

“We got a couple of questions from people bidding asking us for more photographs of the inscription.”

Mr Goodall hunted Belvoir hounds between 1842 and 1859 and drafted in doghound Brocklesby Rallywood, who, with his son Belvoir Rallywood, became highly influential in Belvoir bloodlines.

The horn is thought to have contributed to Mr Goodall’s death in 1859 as he is said to have landed on it during a fall.

The Davieses’ horn has an double ferrule, which could indicate it has been repaired.

“One assumes if it’s got knocks and bumps it was used,” said Rupert Inglesant, master and huntsman at the Belvoir.

“Goodall’s time here was the start of a 70-year period when Belvoir bloodlines dominated hound breeding in England, which led to the development of the Old English hound as a type,” he said.

“He was probably the first publicly recognised great huntsman of the Belvoir.”

The Davieses are attempting to authenticate the horn and research how it might have got to Zimbabwe.

They haven’t decided yet whether to keep it, sell it, or loan it to the Belvoir.

Cheffins Auction House in East Anglia said there is a strong possibility this was Goodall’s horn, and likely the fatal one. It estimates its value at about £1,000.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (25 February, ’10)