More than 120 people, including many children, attended the inaugural opening meet of the newly formed Woolaston Bassets last week (Saturday 25 October) at the Old Rectory in Woolaston, Glos.

The pack’s 3½ couple of drafted basset hounds were hunted by joint-master Norman Matthews following the official opening by hunt president Diana Bown, a former master of foxhounds (MFH).

Hannah Matthews, Norman’s wife and joint-master, told H&H: “It has taken over 12 months to get here. We had to become registered with the MBHA [Masters of Basset Hounds Association] and draft hounds from various packs, however today has made it all worthwhile.”

Hannah continued: “Having been in hunt service, Norman now wants to share his knowledge and encourage the younger followers by teaching them how to whip-in and hunt hounds.”

The Woolaston Bassets are one of only two newly formed packs of hounds this season, the other being the Moorlands foxhounds in Derbyshire, which was formed following the disbandment of the Staffordshire Moorland at the end of the 2013-14 season.

Including the newly-formed Wollaston Bassets, there are now eight UK packs registered to the MBHA plus a further two member packs in the USA.

Basset hounds, which are scent hounds, are known for being slow and methodical movers. This enables the hunt staff and their followers — who are on foot rather than on horseback — to keep in contact with the hounds and watch them work.

Traditionally, basset hounds were bred to hunt rabbits and hare and their sense of smell for tracking is second only to that of the bloodhound. They are usually bi-coloured or tri-coloured, and easily identifiable by their short legs.

Following the implementation of the Hunting Act 2004, basset hound packs operate within the confines of the law by following the trail of an artificial scent or by one of the other means of exempt hunting.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (30 October 2014).

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