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Fox Hunting

Page history last edited by Sara Sanz Hurst 6 years, 2 months ago

FOX-HUNTING

 

 

Fox-hunting, n. [ U ] - 

  1. The sport of hunting a fox across country with a pack of hounds by a group of people on foot and horseback, a traditional sport of the English landed gentry. 
  2. The activity of hunting foxes for entertainment in which people on horses follow dogs which chase a fox and kill it when they catch it. 

 

Figure 1: Fox Hunt, Francois Desportes, 1721


 An Introduction:

 

It goes without question to say that fox-hunting as a more organised activity was virtually unheard of until around the end of the seventeenth-century. Before then, foxes were considered solely as vermin and any chasing out of a fox was merely a form of pest control performed by farmers and gamekeepers alike. In fact, "an Elizabethan law asked churchwardens of each parish to pay a bounty for the heads of dead foxes." (Itzkowitz 6) However, sometime around the beginning of the eighteenth-century, many sportsmen, often members of the landed gentry who dedicated their weekends to hunting and shooting, began to discover that the hitherto despised fox nevertheless provided good sport and it is from about this time that fox-hunting dates. Emphasis changed from simply killing the fox to chasing it. Having said this, the early eighteenth-century form of fox-hunting was still very much deemed to be a 'work in progress' and differed a great extent to its finished form as it stood towards the end of the century and into the beginning of the nineteenth-century. Eighteenth-century Masters and huntsman were still far more interested in the hunting than the riding and were driven by where to find foxes and where the best scent was to be had. Nonetheless, fox-hunting gradually became an sport practised primarily by the nobility and by the century's end, sat at pole position of the hunting scene while hare-hunting and stag-hunting became residual. As Figure 2 points out, taken from John Aikin's introduction of his essay on William Somerville's 1735 poem The Chase, although "the stag is a much nobler object of pursuit", fox-hunting for various reasons "is, indeed, the capital scene of action to the English sportsman."

 

Fox-hunts were regularly held throughout the season, the season being from around November to March, with a traditional hunt always scheduled for Boxing Day. On the day of a hunt, riders would assemble on the lawns of the estate for refreshments before heading out. These refreshments would usually include fruit cake and 'stirrup cup', often port or sherry, so named because the riders would drink it on horseback with their feet in the stirrups before the Master of Hounds blew his horn to indicate the hunt was moving off.

 

Figure 2:  An extract taken from p. 16 of The Chase, A Poem By William Somerville To Which is Prefixed a Critical Essay by J. Aikin, John Aikin, 1800.

 

Below, see Figure 3, was a bulletin published in The Times in 1788 announcing the number of foxes killed during the year from the country's most glorified fox-hunting packs. The fact that this was printed in a national newspaper demonstrates just how significant fox-hunting had become towards the end of the eighteenth-century; it had transgressed from its once marginal position to now being considered a quintessential aspect of British country life, and one that many took great interest in reading about.

 

Figure 3: a bulletin taken from The Times. 1788.


Fox-hunting and the Landscape:

 

As has been briefly touched upon, the transition in hunting which saw many gentlemen neglect the pursuit of the hare and stag and instead turn to chasing the fox, has its origins in the eighteenth-century and the cause of this lies greatly in the changes to the landscape that happened throughout this period. Between 1760 and 1797 more than 1500 Enclosure Acts swept across the nation, taking common land out of small holdings and instead converting it to parks and grazing land that was much more suitable for foxes and fox-hunting. E. H. Bovill even goes as far as to say that "but for enclosure, foxhunting would never have become as popular a sport."(200) In fact, between 1760 and 1820 approximately 2.5 millions acres of land were enclosed, around 20% of the total surface area of England at the time. Legislation requiring landowners to separate private property from common land meant that a farmer's land was now all in one area and he had the option to enclose his fields with fences, hedges, walls, banks, and obstacles. Plus, hounds, sprightly in step and now much more spread out hunting as a pack thanks to the enclosed acres of land, could now cross the large swaths of land without causing significant damage. In contrast to the Open Field System which characterised much of the landscape prior to the eighteenth-century, the Enclosure Movement paved an opportunity for a more exhilarating ride and as documented in Figure 3 taken from The Weekly Entertainer; Or, Agreeable and Instructive Repository in 1791, only served to stimulate the "frantic ardour of the pursuit." (356) This is validated by W. G. Hoskins who notes that "in Leicestershire organised fox-hunting developed during the 1770s, in time to enjoy the exhilaration of galloping over miles of unfenced country. Enclosure made things more difficult, or perhaps we should say necessitated new and exciting skill, but at least there were no close ranks of trees to make the fences impossible." (196) 

 


                                                                                   Figure 4: An extract taken from p. 356 of The Weekly Entertainer: Or, Agreeable and Instructive Repository, 1791.                                                                                   


Fox-hunting and Social Stratification:

 

Fox-hunting as a lesser organised activity that was not initially accompanied by strict rules and regulations was very much a concept that was invented by the landed gentry in the eighteenth-century. As has already been touched upon, in centuries before that that is being studied, royalty and the aristocracy hunted stags, deer, or hare, which required large areas of open land and an the ownership of horses, hounds, stables and kennels. Considering the chasing and killing of foxes to be beneath their status, and the fact that the fox cannot be eaten, the aristocracy continued to chase these animals until they became scarce. However, the transition to hunting fox, initially deemed to be a much more ignoble pursuit, did not see much difference in the types of people who showed face in the hunting field. While fox-hunting was deemed to be a sport for everyone, the reality was that, just like any other form of hunting, it cost money to keep a pack of hounds and horses. A pack of hounds could cost anything between the range of £800 to £3000, and horses in the eighteenth-century cost approximately 100 guineas per horse. As a result, when initially all costs of a hunt had to be covered by the Master alone, before the invention of subscription packs in around the middle of the century, fox-hunting was traditionally limited only to the wealthy upper classes. Figure 5 validates this idea by asserting that fox-hunting is an activity "much used by kings, princes, noblemen, and gentlemen; and it is certainly a brave noble chace for such who keep good horses and hounds." As William Blane says then in his 1788 Cynegetica, Or, Essays on Hunting, fox-hunting "cannot be heartily enjoyed except by persons of ample fortune and circumstance, like your Lordship." (108) Henninger-Voss supports this idea in her observation that "nowhere are the power and values of the landed gentry more evident in the emergence of foxhunting or 'riding to the hounds' as the preferred form of sport among the upper classes." (148)

 

Despite this, one could argue to a certain degree that there is evidence to show that fox-hunting of the eighteenth-century was indeed, in ideology at least, open to both the well-to-do and 'peasant'. Although hunting packs were more than likely to be privately owned by a local aristocrat who viewed his country estate as a retreat in which he could indulge in his love of the countryside, and who could personally afford the expenses of a hunting pack, hunting by invitation to local people of all classes was a concept that did exist. In this manner, it can be said that fox-hunting did have a purpose to bring together all classes of people into one space. However, this only served to work to a certain extent as in reality, the aristocracy continued to be the face of the field. As David Itzkowitz rightly points out, fox-hunting "meetings were, in fact, one of the major sources of contact among the various classes, but the relative differences in social station were never forgotten." (26) Only the upper classes were actually allowed to partake in the fox-hunt and those who belonged in the lower stratums of rural society were conditioned to simply bear witness. Like Brown says then, although invited to play some kind of role in a hunt, "the poorer sections of the community [actually only] followed the spectacle on foot." (251) This is reinforced by an advertisement printed in the London Evening Post in 1752; only "noblemen and gentlemen" are the subject of the bulletin. It is herein where the conflict between the image of fox-hunting as a sport of gentleman and as a sport that was open to all lies. Hunting was indeed open to all, and all members of all classes participated, or were very much welcome to, but the truth of the matter is that the cost of participating in a hunt and the social expectations characteristic of hunting meant that the upper classes predominated in all but a few packs.

 

Figure 5: an extract from p. 156 of The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Arthur Stringer. 1780.

 

Figure 6: an extract from "Classified ads." London Evening Post. 1752.


 Fox-hunting and Economics:

 

As fox-hunting grew in popularity, which resulted in an increase in the number of packs throughout the country and the average cost of keeping a hunting pack in the style that was expected, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to find a sufficient amount of huntsmen who were both willing and able to continue paying for their pack privately. This therefore led to the introduction of subscription packs, which started to show face from around the middle of the eighteenth-century, and meant that the costs of maintaining a pack were shared amongst a number of subscribers. Hugo Meynell started to welcome subscriptions to his pack from around 1761 though he never attracted more than a few subscribers who simply helped him with the more 'out of public view' jobs. Itzkowitz notes that the earliest recorded attempt to form a pack of hounds that was paid for entirely by subscription was made in 1788 with the foundation of Quarley Hounds near Andover, Hampshire. By the end of the eighteenth-century, at least 12 major subscription packs existed. The appearance of subscription packs meant that in principle, anyone who was interested in participating in a fox-hunt could contribute to the maintenance of a hunt of their choice, usually that that is local to them, by paying a yearly subscription. Subscriptions varied according to the area and the hunt as in 1771, for example, a Cottesmore subscriber was expected to pay 1,4000 guineas per year (£1470). The Hampshire Hunt Club on the other hand, formed in 1795, charged its twenty-five members 25 guineas per year (£26.25). The combined costs of subscription to a 'fashionable' pack, appropriate attire and the maintenance of a horse averaged somewhere around £100 a year. Essentially, hunting packs were open to anyone who could afford to pay. It could be argued then that this made fox-hunting somewhat more inclusive of all members of society. However, as with anything that involves commerce, it is no surprise that access to the hunting circle was always limited by an individual's income. The expectation to turn up to a hunt with horses, hounds, and dressed in expensive clothing raised the cost of joining the hunting fraternity. Plus, though few few Masters actually believed that subscriptions to their respective hunts would cover its expenses, they, unsurprisingly, tried to get as much out of their subscribers as they could.  


 Fox-hunting and Politics:

 

The prior conservative party, otherwise known as the Tories, was the primary political party throughout the seventeenth-century. At the turn of the eighteenth-century however, the Whigs, a much more liberal faction, had begun to rise in influence. So much so in fact that the Whigs took control of government in 1715 and remained entirely dominant until King George III, who started his reign in 1760, returned the power back to the Tories. It is within this fluctuating and politically intense context that conversation regarding fox-hunting and fox-hunters alike somewhat began to be inscribed into the British political circle. As a rule, those gentlemen who were the most excited by the fox-hunt were more often than not part of the more conservative crowd and the Whig party was very quick to pick up on this, painting fox-hunters as Tories who used such trivial activities as a means of entertainment because they were rich men with nothing more constructive to do. The idea that fox-hunters were indeed Tories perhaps has its roots in the bygone association between the Tory party and the land - urban society was associated with the Whigs while the rural country interest was associated with the Tories. As a result, much of the hunting circle were subject of caricature to Whig enthusiasts throughout the eighteenth-century because he was likely to be a 'backwoods Tory'; possessing all of the behaviour and etiquette that was not that of a country gentleman. As historian Jane Ridley puts it, "the Whig caricature stuck. Country gentleman equals Tory equals fox hunting equals stupid is an association of ideas which still persists." Evidence of this can be seen through Sir Roger de Coverley, a fictional character devised by Joseph Addison and portrayed as being the author of the various papers and letters that were published in Addison and Richard Steele's influential 1711 periodical The Spectator. As imagined by Addison, who very much allied himself with the Whig party, Sir Roger was meant to represent and display the values and mannerisms of a typical landed country gentleman despite the reader being told that he is "too old for fox-hunting." (137) In creating a character to serve as a satirical squire stereotype, this allowed for his Tory politics to be portrayed as silly and backward by the Whig authors. Addison even dedicated an entire chapter of one of his essays, published in 1715 in his periodical called The Freeholder, to the Tory fox-hunter (see Figure 7) and his position on said individual remained very much the same. He says that:

     

"For the honour of his Majesty, and the safety of the government, we cannot but observe, that those who have appeared the greatest enemies to both, are of that rank of men,, who are commonly distinguished by the title of Fox-hunters. A several of these have had no part in their education in cities, camps, or courts, it is doubtful whether they are of greater ornament or use to the nation in which they live. It would be an everlasting reproach to politics, should such men be able to overturn an establishment which has been formed by the wisest laws, and is supported by the wisest heads." (123)

 

Figure 7: an extract from p.12 of Contents of the Following Essays, Joseph Addison, 1715.

 

The satirical print which is Figure 8 is a further example of the satire that Whigs began to include within their political trajectory. Charles James Fox, who became the leader of the Whig party in the late eighteenth-century and was the rival of the now-leader of the Tory party, William Pitt the Younger, is painted as a fox with a human head and is being chased by dogs who likewise have human heads, by two huntsmen on foot, and by Lord Temple riding on the King, an ass, who has the face of George III. However, despite the fact that not many Whigs were actually believed to be found in the hunting field, towards the end of the eighteenth-century the Tories began to respond to the Whigs' attempt to ridicule their opposition by referring to a hunting quarry as a 'Charles James' and alluding to a fox simply as a 'Charlie'. 

 

Figure 8: The Fox Hunt, William Dent, 1784.


Fox-hunting and Gender - was it a male-dominated pastime?

 

The restricted social access to hunting and the increasing elaboration of its rules and etiquette had a tendency to transform hunting of any kind into a predominantly male pursuit. What is more, hunting was traditionally conducive to manliness, a concept which in the eighteenth-century was taken to mean much more than simply possessing physical courage. To be 'manly' also meant the acquiration of virtues such as resilience, coolness, and the ability to think logically. In this manner, 'manliness' was considered as much a mental as a physical trait and hunting was held to nourish this in that it was believed to strengthen both the mind and the body. It is for this reason that women tended to occupy a marginal position on the hunting field, particularly within the opening decades of the century. Several critics began to declare that there was something quite unnatural about the presence of a woman hunting alongside a man, and as Emma Griffin points out, "a combination of harder and faster chases and changing notions of femininity caused ever more commentators to declare that female participation was inappropriate." (134) Evidence of this can be seen when looking at an extract from James Thomson's 1730 poem, The Seasons (Autumn). He writes: 

 

      “But if the rougher sex by this fierce sport

       Is hurried wild, let not such horrid joy

       E’er stain the bosom of the British fair.

       Far be the spirit of the chase from them!

       Uncomely courage, unbeseeming skill,

       To spring the fence, the rein the prancing steed,

       The cap, the whip, the masculine attire.

        In which they roughen to the sense and all

       The winning softness of their sex is lost." (360)

 

Here, Thompson seems to be suggesting that the hunting field should be exclusively a masculine domain, that which would help to strengthen their 'manly' identity, and therefore a space that is entirely separate from women. This idea is validated by John Cook, who, in his 1826 treatise on hunting, wrote that women "appear more in their element in the drawing-room or in Kensington Gardens, than in the kennel or the field. Still I must say it looks well, and shows a disposition to promote their brother's or their husband's amusement." (173) This is to say that women and girls were encouraged to ride out to the hunt meets that always came before the chase but to refrain from partaking in the hunt itself. In fact, David Itzkowitz claims that only five of the 67 Masters listed in 1800 were not local men. However, at the same time as declaring that fox-hunting was a sport that was not suitable for women, it was the case that they still occasionally joined in on the days activity despite social discouragement and the inconveniences that came with the traditional feminine way of dressing. 

 

Such presence is no better seen than through Emily Mary Cecil, or the Marchioness of Salisbury, who is generally recognised as being the first female Master of Hounds (see Figure 9). From her home county in Hertfordshire, she took over the office of Master of the Hatfield Hunt from her husband in 1775 and held the position until 1819, when she was nearly 70 years old and had virtually lost all vision. The Sporting Magazine enjoyed documenting her exploits in the hunt: "Out of a field of fourscore her ladyship soon gave honest Daniel the go-by, pressed Mr Hale neck and neck, soon passed the whippers-in, and continued indeed throughout the whole of the chase to be nearest the brush." She kept her own pack of miniature foxhounds, known for their obedience and delicate noses, as well as several greyhounds and a pack of Harriers. As she privately owned her packs, much like many of the other Masters of her time, hunting alongside her was limited to invitation. However, she regularly hosted hunts of nearly 100 riders, consisting of the best horsemen and women of the day, including Hugo Meynell, founder of the Quorn Hunt, and the Duke of Wellington, as well as many local farmers and landowners, who were welcome to ride along. Her hunts were both successful and popular, not only due to her social reputation and personal charisma, but also for her experienced and no-nonsense hunting expertise. In fact, in January 1796 she led the hunt on a run of over three and a half hours for just two foxes over 40 miles of country. Bearing all of this in mind then, it is no surprise that her death in 1835 was much lamented within the hunting fraternity. 

 

Figure 9: Emily Mary Countess of Salisbury. Sir Joshua Reynolds. 1781.


Fox-hunting and Fashion: 

 

The dress code of the hunt field was, and continued into the nineteenth-century to be, an element of the sport that carried a great deal of significance. A hunt was an extremely formal occasion where dress was important and presentation of person was essentially as and strict as that of a ball. As Maura Henry points out, "foxhunting enabled gentlemen to flaunt both their leisure and their manliness while shedding their effete and idle images. Hunters, dressed in tight-fitting outfits that resembled military uniforms and engaged in a violent pursuit, looked like warrior men." (342) Fox-hunting gentlemen traditionally wore red hunt coats and despite having much of a scarlet appearance, these were more often than not actually referred to as 'Pinks'. As a matter of fact, to be dressed in one of these was known as being 'in the pink'. This was perhaps a nod to the rural association between hunting and Toryism, as has been formerly established; red, in the eighteenth-century, being the colour of the Tory party and blue being that of the Whigs. Evidence of this can be seen in the extract taken from the poem The Caldron, or Follies of Cambridge, A Satire, written and published in 1799 (see Figure 10). If we take the fox-hunter to be a member or follower of the Conservative Party, his "swear[ing] allegiance to the livery'd suit / That dubs him an indisputable brute" could very well be what this is referring to. 

 

          Figure 10: an extract from p.8-9 of The Caldron, or Follies of Cambridge, A Satire. 1799.

 

However, another theory, but one which still stands to be proven, alludes to the London-based Thomas Pink who was supposedly the aristocracy's preferred tailor of the red hunting jacket. The red coat was always tailored to slope away at the waist with a high velvet collar and embellished with brass buttons. The Master of Foxhounds would wear a scarlet, single-breasted coat with square corners and four brass buttons, whipper-ins and huntsman, otherwise known as the hunt staff, wore scarlet coats with round corners and five brass buttons, and a normal hunt subscriber would wear a scarlet coat adorned with only three brass buttons. A variety of hats could be worn out for a days hunting,  either with or without a chinstrap, but many of the men who partook in a fox-hunt took to wearing either tri-corner hats or a bowler cap over the top of their wigs. Later on in the century, and moving into the nineteenth-century, the fashion changed to wide-brimmed hats before top hats became the categorical choice of head wear for all who were members of the hunting fraternity. Everyone in the field would wear white neck-stocks with a horizontal pin, tan or white breeches, and black knee high patent leather boots.  It is with this in mind then that a traditional fox-hunters' uniform had evolved in to what was, in effect, the livery of a fox itself: a red coat, a white bib, and small black extremities.


 Fox-hunting and The Arts:

 

The growth in the popularity of fox-hunting from the middle of the eighteenth-century was closely accompanied by a corresponding growth in sporting journalism and art, which first worked only to reflect such popularity but was soon influential in stimulating it a great deal further. In fact, nothing better reflects the new standing of fox-hunting within society than the increasing attention paid to it by painters and writers alike. Up until the closing decades of the eighteenth-century, fox-hunters and followers of the fox-hunt had no place to read, see or experience the exploits of their fellows unless they of course attended a hunt themselves. As we have established however, this was an option limited to only a few. Nevertheless, the increasing documentation of the fox-hunt through various mediums from around the 1750s meant access and subsequent exposure to the sport was becoming much more prevalent. One standout medium in particular was sporting painting and artwork, which although flowered drastically in general throughout the eighteenth-century, saw sports such as fox-hunting, along with horse racing, creating a demand that many artists quickly wanted to fill. Such artists include; James Seymour, Thomas Burford and George Stubbs.

 

            

Figure 11: Fox Hunting in Full Cry. James Seymour. Circa 1740.                         Figure 12: Fox hunting. Thomas Burford. 1761.                             Figure 13: Thomas Smith Senior and Thomas Smith Junior of the Brocklesby                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Hunt, with the hound 'Wonder'. George Stubbs. Circa 1766.

 

Following on from this, it is within literature and journalism specifically where the real development of the Romantic view of fox-hunting originates. Dating from around the 1780s, a time which bore fruit to the leading hunting writers and journalists, they were the first to present hunting as more than simply a means of entertainment. In these ideas we see the beginnings of two of the major concepts that were to be included in the developing discourse of fox-hunting. That is, fox-hunting is not only good for one's health in spending hours on end in the fresh country air, but also that the fox-hunt at the same time serves a social purpose: that of "keeping gentleman resident in the country where they could carry out their duties to their tenantry and to the country at large." (Itzkowitz 19) The first book dedicated entirely to the fox-hunt was Peter Beckford's Thoughts on Hunting, published in 1781. Both innovative in its field and covering all possible bases of the fox-hunt, Thoughts on Hunting gifted Beckford with the accolade of being the greatest writer on hunting the country had heretofore seen. Eagerly welcomed and appreciated by fox-hunters, and widely read by members of the general public in every part of the country, the purpose of his book was to not only record the goings-on of a regular days activity chasing a fox or provide instruction as to how fox-hounds should be bred, housed, fed, doctored when ill, managed in kennels, but to also document the duties of the Master of Hounds, huntsmen, whippers-in, feeders, and so forth. 

 

Figure 14: the cover page of Thoughts on Hunting. 1781.


 Fox-hunting and Horses/Hounds:

 

Absolutely integral to the success of the eighteenth-century fox-hunt, and that as it developed in centuries to come, were the hounds and the Horses that were used in the chase. However, up until around the middle of the eighteenth-century, the hounds and horses used in any type of hunting were slow in comparison. The first fox-hunters did not breed hounds especially for the sport of fox-hunting but took to pursuing the fox with whatever hounds they owned, generally Harriers, and hounds such as these were bred for nose, the capacity to follow a puzzling scent rather than for the speed needed to keep up with a straight-running fox across country. As Figure 15 notes, this more often than not impeded on the success of a fox-hunt because "slow Hounds (unless they meet a Fox in the Morning that hath lately prey'd on something so that he is very full) do very rarely if ever kill a Fox." (169)  In much the same way, there was no designated hunting horse used in the earlier decades of the developing fox-hunt but a rider would ideally want a horse that was athletic, strong, and obedient. Figure 16 points out this importance in saying that "he who resolves to hunt foxes must also keep very good horses, and in good plight: a horse to ride a fox-chase with fleet hounds ought to be in as good keeping and order as a horse for a race." (162)

 

Figure 15: an extract from p. 169 of The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Arthur Stringer. 1780.

 

Figure 16: an extract from p. 162 of The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Arthur Stringer. 1780.

 

It must be noted however that the breeding of these hunting animals was significantly improved as a result of the intellectual climate that showed face throughout the eighteenth century. Known as the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, it was a time that looked heavily towards science and was characterised by a belief in rationality, order, and progress. As a result of agricultural improvement and developments in the breeding of livestock, horses and dogs for the hunt were for the first time specifically bred to increase their stamina and speed. This breeding was all the more significant as the demands on hunting horses as well as their riders became more challenging with the open fields that were now enclosed with fences and other such obstacles. Horses now not only had to run fast across the countryside but also had to jump over barriers. Thus, as the sport of fox-hunting was coming into vogue around the middle of the eighteenth-century, such skills had to be developed and in 1753 it was 18 year old Hugo Meynell, often referred to as the father of modern fox-hunting, who began to breed hunting dogs for their speed and stamina as well as their intricate nose at Quorn Hall, his estate in North Leicestershire. He worked to combine the two basic strains of the English foxhound - the northern hound and the southern hound - in order to produce a new type of hound that had both a good scent and the stamina to keep up with a fox. The speed of his pack not only allowed for a more exciting and longer-lasting hunt, but it also meant that the hunt could begin later in the morning, around 11:00am, which was a much more popular concept with the young gentleman in his prestigious social circle. Not to mention the breeding of Thoroughbred horses became much more advanced and it was this, alongside a Thoroughbred-cross, that were the most popular choice of horse due to their stamina, speed, and their ability to jump vast heights. 

 

As more fox-hunters and breeders of both the horse and the hound began to hear about Meynell's methods - often referred to as the 'Meynellian Science' or the 'Meynellian System' - many began to follow in his footsteps. That is, the practice of breeding animals much more suited to a days activity running across large swaths of land began to spread. So much so that in the second half of the eighteenth-century, many hunts had transitioned to using fleet hounds and Thoroughbred horses, with only a handful of hunting packs continuing to follow the fox on foot. The increased social prestige that Meynell lended to the fox-hunt as a result of his breeding efforts meant that it could now no longer be viewed simply as the sport of backward Tory landowners but instead, was a recreational activity that had attracted the attention of the fashionable. In fact, Hugo Meynell's success encouraged many countrymen and women to visit The Quorn, and Leicestershire as a whole consequently became the capital of hunting and fashion. Evidence of this can be seen when looking at Figure 17 which informs the reader that "Mr. Meynell's famous fox-hunt" is accompanied by the "numerous, and they go out with as much ceremony as to court, their hair being all dressed." 

 

Figure 17: an extract from p. 98 of Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire. William Bray. 1783.

 


Shortage of foxes: 

 

As has been previously mentioned, one of the reasons for the development of modern fox-hunting in the eighteenth-century is put down to the decline in the population of the traditionally-hunted deer or stag. However, and somewhat ironically, at the same time that fox-hunting was becoming increasingly more popular, the supply of foxes was concernedly low and some explanation for this can be attributed to the significantly larger fields that now characterised most of the landscape. Although the hunting fraternity had to deal with the problems posed by a shortage of foxes more so in the nineteenth-century, several fox-hunting critics throughout the eighteenth-century already displayed a worry about a decline in the fox population and the implications this would have on its hunting. For example, in 1781 in his Thoughts on Hunting, Peter Beckford talks about actions to take when faced with a scarcity of the fox. He strongly advises against the 'bringing-in' of foxes as this would mean they would have to be stolen from the neighbouring hunt countries. Yet, a shortage of foxes of course presented a problem for any hunt and was a disaster for a subscription hunt in particular. Hunts during the eighteenth-century therefore took preliminary steps to preserve and boost the population of foxes that they had. In fact, the shortage of foxes had worried Hugo Meynell to such an extent that he actually took his hounds out of Leicestershire in 1794 to enable a stock of foxes to get up again.

 

Even a few decades prior to this some hunts had resorted to hunting 'bag-men' or a 'bag-fox', a fox that had been caught on a previous occasion but had not been killed and was instead captured and carried for many miles in a bag, usually by the Master of Hounds, and released into a different covert before being hunted again (see Figure 18). Even the Prince of Wales, who took to fox-hunting in 1793, was reported to have used a 'bag-fox' for his days activity at Newmarket (see Figure 19). Nonetheless, hunting bagged-foxes was seen increasingly as a disreputable practice and one that was unlikely to provide good sport. Beckford himself seemed to view the idea of 'bag-foxes' with disdain; "the scent of them is different from that of other foxes; it is too good. and makes hounds idle; besides, in the manner in which they are generally turned out, it makes hounds very wild." (219) A good run depended on the fox determinedly breaking cover and making a fast dash towards another unknown place of safety. Bagged-foxes however were unfamiliar with the area, they were "a species of fox peculiar to that country" (Beckford 220) so therefore did not know in which direction to run. As Beckford states in Letter XXII of his Thoughts on Hunting, the 'bag-fox' is "most probably weakened for want of his natural food and exercise; his spirit broken by despair, and his limbs stiffened by confinement: he is then turned out in open ground, without any point to go to." (219) He further validates this 'improper' form of fox-hunting by claiming that the 'bag-fox' "runs down the wind, it is true; but he is so much at a loss all the while, that he loses a deal of time, in not knowing what to do; while the hounds, who have no occasion to hunt; pursue as closely as if they were tied to him." (219) All of this is to say that Peter Beckford wanted a fox to be caught 'fair and square' in its native countryside and believed that "the hounds should find him themselves; and the sooner he is killed the better." (220) A fox-hunt, in his opinion, should be "short, sharp, and decisive" (188) with a dead fox at its conclusion. As might be expected however, such factors did not often come into play once the decline in the fox population meant many turned to 'recycling' the same one animal several times over.

 

Figure 18: an extract from p. 108 of Modern History: Or, the Present State of All Nations: describing their respective situations, persons, habits, buildings, manners, laws and customs, religion and policy, arts and sciences, trades, manufactures and husbandry, plants, animals and minerals. Thomas Salmon. 1731.

 

Figure 19: an extract from "Court Circular." Times. 1797


Animal rights and Opposition to Fox-hunting:

 

In much the same way that the eighteenth-century saw an increasing number of people celebrating the fox-hunt, absolutely devoted to the sport as it stood, this should not blind us to the fact that there were those who looked upon it in not such a favourable lightIn fact, from around the middle of the eighteenth-century, many blood sports came under scrutiny, especially amongst Evangelical Christians, Methodists, Puritans, who believed animals were part of the Divine creation, and any persons affected by the cultivation of Sensibility. Even Peter Beckford seemed to condemn the killing of too many foxes. In his Thoughts on Hunting for example, he asks "are not the foxes' heads, which are so pompously exposed to view, often prejudicial to sport in fox-hunting? How many foxes are wantonly destroyed, without the least service to hounds, or sport to the Master; that the huntsman may say he has killed so many brace! How many are dug out and killed when blood is not wanted?" (xi) However, through much of the eighteenth-century, when fox-hunting had not yet attracted the attention it was to receive in later years, the opposition to the sport tended to be relatively mild and was based more so upon the image of hunting as a pastime of the country-bumpkin squire. That is to say that there were those who disliked the sport not because wretched people took it up, but rather because they believed that hunting made men wretched. According to some of these critics, hunting naturally led to drunkenness, gambling, and idleness, to name but a few things. For example, William Shenstone's made a mid-eighteenth-century assessment that "the world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters." (170) To some extent, individuals such as Shenstone were not entirely wrong; drinking, gambling, and general profligacy were associated with hunting, not because hunting brought them about, but because they were the pastimes most naturally turned to by those that occupied the early hunting field. Figure 19 reinforces this, taken from The Country Magazine. 

Figure 20: an extract from p. 250 of The Country Magazine. William Cowper. 1786 - 1792.

 

Despite a certain degree of backlash, as hunting increasingly became the sport of the fashionable, and was increasingly practised throughout the country in general, much of this criticism died out. It became especially difficult to continue damning the sport as fit only for the contemptible when women began to have a much more significant presence in the hunting field towards the turn of the century. To the modern mind, of course, most of these arguments are insignificant when compared with the issue of cruelty to animals. The truth is however, for the great majority in the eighteenth-century, there was simply nothing cruel about the sport. The idea that cruelty to animals was somehow undesirable was not unknown but it focused more so on the cruelty to domestic animals; the horses and hounds were the major concern of the anti-cruelty forces in the early days of fox-hunting. Nonetheless, so far as cruelty to foxes themselves was concerned, there was almost complete silence.  

 

Bibliography: 

 

Primary material:

Aikin, John and William Somerville. The Chase, a Poem By William Somerville To Which Is Prefixed a Critical Essay by J. Aikin. Printed for T. Cadell, Jun. and W. Davies. (R. Noble, Printer), 1800, p. 16. (Even though an introductory predicate to the main poem itself, this provides a basic explanation to the rise in the in popularity of the fox-hunt at the beginning of the eighteenth-century).

 

Anon. The Sporting Magazine. March 1795. (Considering just how present Emily Mary Cecil was on the hunting field during the late eighteenth-century, I found it extremely difficult to find sources which spoke about her exploits at all. However, this could come down to the fact that she was a female and wad performing better than a lot of men. Nevertheless, I thought that this small extract taken from a source dedicated to sports perfectly demonstrated escapades).

 

Addison, Joseph. The Free-Holder. N.p.: Grierson, 1716. (The various extracts taken from Addison's The Spectator and The Freeholder were some of the contemporary sources that I enjoyed reading the most. I also found them particularly useful when taking into consideration Addison's political standing and relating this to the fox-hunt).

 

---. The Spectator [by J. Addison and Others]; with Notes, and a General Index. N.p.: Oxford UP, 1811. (See above).

 

Beckford, Peter. Thoughts on Hunting: With an Introduction by Charles Richardson. London: Chapman & Dodd, n.d. (This source proved to be absolutely indispensable to the creation of this page in providing a detailed insight in to the world of the fox-hunt).

 

Bray, William. Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire. London: Printed for B. White, 1783. (Newspapers of the period were heavily saturated with articles documenting one aspect or another of the fox-hunt but this was one of the only ones that I could find that addressed the idea of the sport being much more of a public affair towards the end of the century).

 

Blane, William. Cynegetica; Or, Essays on Sporting: Consisting of Observations on Hare Hunting: ... Together with an Account of the Vizier's Manner of Hunting in the Mogul Empire. London: Printed for John Stockdale ..., 1788. (This was one of many contemporary sources which addressed the fact that, although fox-hunting was open to all in principle, it was an activity primarily enjoyed by the landed gentry as they, along with royalty, were the only ones who could afford to do so).

 

Cook, John. Observations on Fox-hunting, and the Management of Hounds in the Kennel and the Field: Addressed to a Young Sportsman, about to Undertake a Hunting Establishment. By Colonel Cook. London: n.p., 1826. (Although written and published within the next century of that being studied, I thought it was interesting to see how the attitudes towards women and their participation in the hunt field had not really changed).

 

Cowper, William. The Country Magazine. Printed by B. C. Collins, Salisbury, England. 1786-1792. p. 238-267. (This was one amongst many contemporary sources which demonstrated that alcohol and late nights de rigeur followed a days hunting. It also proved indispensable in supporting the idea that it was such activity that was shown much more disdain than arguments which actually addressed cruelty to animals themselves).

 

Salmon, Thomas. Modern History : or, the Present State of All Nations : describing their respective situations, persons, habits, buildings, manners, laws and customs, religion and policy, arts and sciences, trades, manufactures and husbandry, plants, animals and minerals, vol. 14. Printed for Tho. Wotton; J. Shuckburgh; and T. Osborne, London. 1731. p. 98-127. 

Shenstone, William. The Works in Verse and Prose, of William Shenstone, Esq;: Essays on Men, Manners, and Things. A Description of The Leasowes, the Seat of the Late William Shenstone, Esq. Verses to Mr. Shenstone. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley, 1764. (Considering the shortage of foxes was a very real worry at various points throughout the century, with many hunts taking to using a 'bag-fox', there were not many contemporary sources which addressed the concern in question. I thought this source nicely summarised the resolution to the problem).

 

Stringer, Arthur. The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Printed for L. Flin, Dublin. 1780. p. 140-169. (I used various extracts from this source throughout the page as I thought Stringer provided an interesting overview of the many aspects conducive to the fox-hunt).

 

Thomson, James, and George F. Hermann. James Thomson's Jahrszeiten. N.p.: Severin, 1798. (I found it interesting to find the fox-hunt being addressed, and Thompson's position on hunting and gender, in a poem that is not about hunting at all).

 

The Caldron, or Follies of Cambridge, A Satire. Printed and sold at Winchester, by Robbins. Sold also by Messrs. Robinson, London; Mr Deighton, Cambridge; and Messrs. Flecher and Hanwell, Oxford. 1799. p. 2-26. (It was actually rather difficult to find contemporary sources that addressed the fox-hunting uniform but upon stumbling across this source, and subsequent to talking about the potential relationship between Toryism and fox-hunting, I thought of it perfect to support this point).

 

"Court Circular." Times, 20 Nov. 1797, p. 3. The Times Digital Archive. (Much like the other Salmon's source on the 'bag-fox', I thought this article would be important to use in demonstrating how both ends of the spectrum of society had to deal with the shortage of the fox in the same way).

 

"Classified ads." London Evening Post [London, England] Sep. 23, 1752 - Sep. 26, 1752; Issue 3886, n.p. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection. (Although not an overly exciting advertisement, I found it interesting to see that within this particular ad, the fox-hunt had been subjected solely to wealthy men. It helped to support the argument throughout that the fox-hunt was realistically an activity taken on by the upper strata of society).

 

"Fox-Hounds." Times [London, England] 8 Jan. 1788: 3. The Times Digital Archive. (I found it interesting to see that bulletins announcing information about fox-hunts were included in daily, public newspapers. It helped to make the case that fox-hunting was becoming much more inscribed into British society as the century, and the sport, developed). 

 

"To the PRINTER." The Weekly Entertainer: Or, Agreeable and Instructive Repository, Jan.6, 1783-Dec.27, 1819, vol. 17, no. 428, 1791, p. 354-357. (Despite several sources making the claim that the Enclosure Acts and changes to the landscape had made fox-hunting more difficult, this was the only contemporary source that I could find that summarised how important such changes had been to the fox-hunt).

 

Secondary material:

Bovill, E. W. English Country Life 1780-1830. N.p.: Oxford UP, 1962.

 

Brown, Richard. Society and Economy in Modern Britain: 1700-1850. S.l.: Routledge, 2017. 

 

Carr, Raymond. English Foxhunting: A History. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.

 

Griffin, Emma. Blood Sport: Hunting in Britain Since 1066. Yale University Press, 2007.

 

Henninger-Voss, Mary J. Animals in Human Histories: The Mirror of Nature and Culture. Boydell & Brewer, 2002.

 

Henry, Maura A. “The Making of Elite Culture.” A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Britain, by Harry Thomas Dickinson, John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

 

Hoskins, W. G. The Making of the English Landscape. Penguin Books, 1970.

 

Itzkowitz, David C. Peculiar Privelege: A Social History of English Foxhunting 1753 - 1885. The Harvester Press Limited, 1977.

 

Images:

Figure 1 - Desportes, Francois. Fox Hunt. 1721. Accessed via ArtStor: < http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822000745479 >

 

Figure 2 - an extract from: Aikin, John and William Somerville. The Chase, a Poem By William Somerville To Which Is Prefixed a Critical Essay by J. Aikin. Printed for T. Cadell, Jun. and W. Davies. (R. Noble, Printer), 1800, p. 16. Accessed via: <https://books.google.at/books/about/The_Chase.html?id=BfIXAAAAYAAJ&redir_esc=y >

 

Figure 3 - a news bulletin from: Anon. "Fox-Hounds." Times [London, England] 8 Jan. 1788: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Accessed via: < http://0-find.galegroup.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/ttda/newspaperRetrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DateAscend&tabID=T003&prodId=TTDA&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchId=R1&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=1&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28tx%2CNone%2C10%29fox-hounds%3AAnd%3ALQE%3D%28da%2CNone%2C10%2901%2F08%2F1788%24&retrieveFormat=MULTIPAGE_DOCUMENT&userGroupName=warwick&inPS=true&contentSet=LTO&&docId=&docLevel=FASCIMILE&workId=&relevancePageBatch=CS50464296&contentSet=UDVIN&callistoContentSet=UDVIN&docPage=article&hilite=y >

 

Figure 4 - an extract from: Anon. "To the PRINTER." The Weekly Entertainer: Or, Agreeable and Instructive Repository, Jan.6, 1783-Dec.27, 1819, vol. 17, no. 428, 1791, p. 354-357. Accessed via: http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/4252349?accountid=14888 >

 

Figure 5- an extract from: Stringer, Arthur. The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Printed for L. Flin, Dublin. 1780. p. 140-169. Accessed via: < https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0179800700&terms=fox-hunting&date=1700%20-%201800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=fox-hunting&pageId=ecco-0179800700-1540 >

 

Figure 6 - an extract from: Anon. "Classified ads." London Evening Post [London, England] Sep. 23, 1752 - Sep. 26, 1752; Issue 3886, n.p. 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection. Accessed via: < http://find.galegroup.com/bncn/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DateAscend&prodId=BBCN&tabID=T012&subjectParam=Locale%2528en%252C%252C%2529%253AFQE%253D%2528tx%252CNone%252C14%2529classified%2Bads%253AAnd%253ALQE%253D%2528da%252CNone%252C23%252909%252F21%252F1752%2B-%2B09%252F26%252F1752%2524&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchId=R1&displaySubject=&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=24&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28tx%2CNone%2C14%29classified+ads%3AAnd%3ALQE%3D%28da%2CNone%2C23%2909%2F21%2F1752+-+09%2F26%2F1752%24&retrieveFormat=MULTIPAGE_DOCUMENT&subjectAction=DISPLAY_SUBJECTS&inPS=true&userGroupName=warwick&sgCurrentPosition=0&contentSet=LTO&&docId=&docLevel=FASCIMILE&workId=&relevancePageBatch=Z2000655863&contentSet=UBER2&callistoContentSet=UBER2&docPage=article&hilite=y >

 

Figure 7 - an extract from: Addison, Joseph. "CONTENTS of the Following ESSAYS." The Free-Holder, vol. 1, no. 1, 1715, p. 12. Accessed via: http://0 search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5575565?accountid=14888 >

 

Figure 8 - Dent, William. The Fox Hunt. 1784. Accessed via: < http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1634099&partId=1&people=16517&peoA=16517-1-9&page=1 >

 

Figure 9 - Reynolds, Sir Joshua. Emily Mary Countess of Salisbury. London. 1781. Accessed via: < http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1505191&partId=1&people=122860&peoA=122860-2-60&page=1 >

 

Figure 10 - an extract from: Anon. The Caldron, or Follies of Cambridge, A Satire. Printed and sold at Winchester, by Robbins. Sold also by Messrs. Robinson, London; Mr Deighton, Cambridge; and Messrs. Flecher and Hanwell, Oxford. 1799. p. 2-26.  Accessed via: < https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0406002200&terms=fox-hunt%20scarlet%20coat&pageTerms=fox-hunt%20scarlet%20coat&pageId=ecco-0406002200-250 > 

 

Figure 11 - Seymour, James. Fox Hunting in Full Cry. Circa 1740. Accessed via: < https://www.art.com/products/p10083477-sa-i739606/james-seymour-fox-hunting-in-full-cry.htm >

 

Figure 12 - Burford, Thomas. Fox hunting. 1761. Accessed via: < http://www.artnet.com/artists/thomas-burford/fox-hunting-ZEvpa2GChIJoF_Kk_2qsnw2 >

 

Figure 13 - Stubbs, George. Thomas Smith Senior and Thomas Smith Junior of the Brocklesby Hunt, with the hound 'Wonder'. Circa 1766. Accessed via: < http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/exhibitions/stubbs/labels/brocklesbyhunt.aspx >

 

Figure 14 - cover page of: Beckford, Peter. Thoughts on Hunting. 1781.

 

Figure 15 - an extract from: Stringer, Arthur. The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Printed for L. Flin, Dublin. 1780. p. 140-169. Accessed via: <  

 

Figure 16 - an extract from: Stringer, Arthur. The Experienced Huntsman. Containing Observations on the Nature and Qualities of the Different Species of Game. With Instructions for Hunting the Buck, the Hare, the Fox, the Badger, the Martern, and the Otter. Being The Result of Many Years Actual Experience; and Containing Every Thing Necessary to Be Known for the Attainment of That Noble Art, and to Form the Complete Huntsman. Printed for L. Flin, Dublin. 1780. p. 140-169. Accessed via: < https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0179800700&terms=fox-hunting&date=1700%20-%201800&undated=exclude&pageTerms=fox-hunting&pageId=ecco-0179800700-1540 >

 

Figure 17: an extract from: Bray, William. Sketch of a Tour Into Derbyshire and Yorkshire. London: Printed for B. White, 1783. Accessed via: < https://books.google.at/books/about/Sketch_of_a_Tour_Into_Derbyshire_and_Yor.html?id=F29bAAAAQAAJ&redir_esc=y >

 

Figure 18 - an extract from: Salmon, Thomas. Modern History : or, the Present State of All Nations : describing their respective situations, persons, habits, buildings, manners, laws and customs, religion and policy, arts and sciences, trades, manufactures and husbandry, plants, animals and minerals, vol. 14. Printed for Tho. Wotton; J. Shuckburgh; and T. Osborne, London. 1731. p. 98-127. Accessed via: <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0272000314&terms=bag-fox&date=1700%20-%201800&undated=exclude&sort=date%2Basc&tab=date&pageTerms=bag-fox&pageId=ecco-0272000314-1120 >

 

Figure 19 - an extract from: Anon. "Court Circular." Times, 20 Nov. 1797, p. 3. The Times Digital Archive. Accessed via: http://tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/6Cafk0 >

 

Figure 20 - an extract from: Cowper, William. The Country Magazine. Printed by B. C. Collins, Salisbury, England. 1786-1792. p. 238-267. Accessed via: < https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-1268802800&pageId=ecco-1268802800-2520&terms=hunt%20boozing%20begins&pageTerms=hunt%20boozing%20begins >

o   the acceptance, not to say devotion, that fox-hunting received should not blind us to the fact that there were those who looked upon it in a less favourable light. Though the anti-cruel-sports movement, so much a part of any consideration of hunting today, did not seriously attack hunting until the very end of the period, there were always active opponents of the sport.

o   A strong impression, after looking at eighteenth-century pictures, that fox-hunting was still a staid business and that fields were small.

 

 

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