While standing in front of the magnificent Badminton House last week listening to Capt Farquhar’s farewells as master of the famous Beaufort hounds after a lifetime in hunting, it got me thinking — why do we go hunting? It’s pure and simple — we just love it.
What is it that we love so much about it? For a huntsman, there is nothing that he loves more than his hounds.
Huntsmen are often asked, “Which hound is your favourite?” The reply should be all of them. They are all special in their own different way. Of course, some will always stand out, but they are a team, adored by the people who look after them, and they in turn give their all.
For some, it is the sheer pleasure of riding across England’s green and pleasant land. The thrill of jumping hedge after hedge, rail after rail or standing high on a hill watching the hounds working away beneath them. There really is no other sport that gives access to our beloved countryside like hunting. The farmers who have cherished it for generations continue to open it up for us to enjoy.
No day is ever the same in the hunting field: nothing is guaranteed and no one knows what is going to happen. That’s why we love it.
When talking to a gang of former masters at Badminton, it was obvious that although they no longer hunt on a horse, their love of hunting and all it entails is as strong as ever. They recall the hunts they have had as if they happened yesterday, the hounds they have bred, the countries they have hunted, the friends they have made and, best of all, the parties they have had.
Hunting has given them all a life filled with both highs and lows. However, none of them would have swapped it for the world.
It is true that many a love affair has started on the hunting field. The sight of a dashing young huntsman dressed in scarlet has toppled even the finest of ladies.
When hunting the Bedale, I received the heads-up that a pretty young lady was coming up from Lincolnshire for the day.
Luckily for me, we met on one of our finest farms. Our host insisted that I stood on his lawn as he said it was a lawn meet and there was to be no argument. I stood gazing at my hounds and the assembled field, hoping for a glimpse of the lady from Lincolnshire. As luck would have it, we had a fantastic day. The hounds flew from start to finish; just what a huntsman needs to impress a good hunting girl. As they say, the rest is history.
The love of hunting is ingrained in so many of us and it will never leave. Things have not been easy for the hunting community over the past few years and no doubt will get tougher. But there is one thing for sure — there is a new generation that feels the love in the same way as their parents, and this will not change.
They will meet their husbands and wives on the hunting field, they will make their best friends there and they will have the fun that generations have had before them. They too will answer the question, “Why do you go hunting?” with, “Because I just love it”.
Ref Horse & Hound; 14 February 2019