Andrew Sallis: handle hounds with care [H&H VIP]

  • Our countryside is brimming with life. Grass is starting to grow and lambs are everywhere.  St Swithin has been kind to the shepherd thus far,  although our point-to-point course could do with a soaking to improve the ground.

    New life comes to kennels, too. Most puppies are born from early spring onwards. Hound breeders will have been watching their charges keenly over the season, and a list of suitable bitches should have been compiled and stallion hounds selected, preferably before Christmas.

    Quite rightly, hounds have no commercial value. After one of ours won several championships a few years ago, some of our subscribers thought he could be a panacea for any financial woes. Dante may have the grace and power of Frankel, but pride in his work and his offspring are our only gains.

    We do not have a reliable knacker truck, so bitches and stallion hounds have been criss-crossing the country in the master or huntsman’s family car. Considering they aren’t used to it, hounds travel remarkably well in the car, save for a few “accidents”, particularly as the journey is often several hours long, including comfort and food stops (for the driver).

    Never just turn up without warning to collect the bitch a few weeks later. The huntsmen might be understandably annoyed at the impertinence; moreover your future matron and pride and joy
    might have a full bladder, temporarily at least, until the first corner. The huntsman deserves a proper “thank you” for looking after your bitch and making sure the deed was done well. Otherwise your next bitch to visit might produce a curious-looking litter that bears an uncanny resemblance to the kennelman’s rampant terrier.

    Mid-journey comfort breaks for hounds should be undertaken with great care. Half a century ago, a college pack of beagles was travelling north for its annual hunting trip when, after several hours bumping up the old A1, the young master thought the hounds could do with a leg-stretch.

    Before the last one had jumped out of the van, the lead hounds had found a hare on the verge. Later, when apologies were being given, local farmers were impressed that their unannounced visitors had come from nearly 100 miles away and yet were still hunting strong.

    No doubt the wizened old kennel-huntsman had a few choice words for the crest-fallen master — “Another ****ing bright idea, sir.”

    There are few sights in spring more life-affirming than a brood bitch tending her pups with the freedom of kennels. Soon they will be out at walk, causing joy and mayhem in equal measure.

    Ref: H&H 7 May, 2015