Hunting counties of Britain: Dorset

  • Dorset’s Foxhounds

    • South Dorset (started in 1806 by the great Squire JJ Farquharson, who hunted the whole county for half a century; this is the bicentenary year)
    • Cattistock (has older roots but was taken on by the Squire in 1806)
    • Portman (started as a separate hunt in 1857 when the Squire quit)
    • Blackmore & Sparkford Vale — B&SV (formed when the two much older hunts joined forces in 1971)

    Other packs

    • Beagles: Park, Pimpernel (Royal Signals), Purbeck & Bovington
    • Minkhounds: Culmstock and Ytene

    What kind of country is it?

    Described by Michael Clayton as “one of the great foxhunting countries of the world — its vales, with their deep clay and big fly fences, as demanding to cross on a horse as any I have encountered”, Dorset has challenge, variety and beauty.

    The famous vales in the north and west of the county contrast sharply with a great expanse of chalk downland, forestry for April hunting and a coastline of spectacular interest and beauty.

    Anthony Mayo, who farms dairy cattle at Hermitage, has just joined the mastership of the B&SV. He has been field master in the southern section of the country for the past four seasons. He says: “You need a cross-bred horse with a bit of bone and a big heart to take on some of those places. It also needs a turn of speed if you’re to keep ahead of the field.”

    Where would you go for a red-letter day?

    Rory Innes, who hunts the South Dorset hounds, plumps for “the Glanvilles Wootton vale, especially the famous Brickyard hedges which are intertwined with metal railings that can catch out the unwary visitor. By contrast, the Purbeck Hills offer an amazing end to the season, especially around Poole harbour and along the shoreline.”

    Michael Tory, former master and field master of the Portman, who has twice ridden in the Grand National, says: “In our hill country, come to Hemsworth [his own farm], where we are miles away from anywhere, or Ranston, where we have a lot of fun. Down in our vale, on a Wednesday, Wooland, Droop or Okeford Fitzpaine must be favourites.”

    Lucy Pinney, who has just given up joint-mastership of the Cattistock and has hunted in that country since a child, says: “It would probably have to be Melbury or Ryme, as the whole area is extremely well fenced with hedges and timber, and James Townshend does a brilliant job as field master, keeping everyone entertained.

    “But my favourite place is Abbotsbury, simply because it’s so stunningly beautiful at all times. You can see and watch the hounds working almost all day and it’s a paradise to cross, with the most amazing amount of work put into the fence building and easy gates.

    “We’re so incredibly lucky in our country in that every part holds an appeal of some kind.”

    Summer Events

    • South Dorset puppy show, 7 July
    • B&SV puppy show, 18 July
    • Park Beagles puppy show, 6 August
    • Portman puppy show, August (tba)
    • Purbeck & Bovington Beagles puppy show, mid-September
      Pimpernel puppy show, September (tba)

    • Cattistock Open Day, 9 July
    • Portman Open Day, 16 July
    • B&SV/Portman cricket match, Yetminster, 6 August
    • South Dorset Terrier & Lurcher Show, 6 August
    • Cattistock Clay Pigeon Shoot, 26 August
    • Cattistock Agricultural Sports & Gymkhana, Toller Down, 28 August
    • Portman Pleasure Ride, Larmer Tree, 27 August
    • Portman Open Day at Locketts (Robert Alner’s), 17 September
    • B&SV fun, food, wine tasting and quiz, 23 September
    • South Dorset Bicentenary Ball at Dewlish, 7 October

    See hounds parade at:

    • Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show, 16 August
    • Melplash Agricultural Show, 24 August
    • Dorset County Show, 2-3 September

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