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CUB-HUNTING, AND ITS CONNECTIONS. BY CECIL.
This year of grace will long be remembered as a period when panics have prevailed most extensively in connection with two of our influential pastimes the turf and the chase. Touching the first it is not within my province on this occasion to dwell. I shall treat it briefly in the hope that past events will tend to cleanse away impurities, and render the constitution more healthy and vigorous. The numerous deaths and disasters that have occurred among masters of hounds and other eminent characters in the hunting-field, unparalleled, I think, during any term so brief, were duly chronicled as they happened during the commencement of the year. They were, however, circumstances over which human nature had no control, and a repetition is unnecessary. It is another affair with our social system, and how lamentable it is that so many acts of individuals should have transpired calculated seriously to injure our national sport of fox-hunting! It is not necessary to individualize; indeed it would be painful to all parties to do so. But what can be thought of a peer of the realm, an ex M.F. H., who has not a litter of cubs on his estate, and that in the country which stands Al on the list? However affluent, however independent a man may feel himself, he must be an unhappy mortal who loses the esteem of his neighhours and his fellow-men by acts of selfishness.
Much schism and annoyance has prevailed in some parts of Yorkshire, where the love of all our national diversions are characteristic incidents. Then, again, the foxes in the Hursley country are abandoned to the devices of insatiate game-preservers, and the hounds are given up: let us hope, however, to be restored. It has been suggested to establish staghounds in their stead, than which a greater insult to foxhunting could scarcely be perpetrated. Stag-hunting, no doubt, has its admirers, and let every man enjoy himself in accordance with his taste. As a companion to fox-hunting, hunting the stag is perfectly consistent; but it is a palpable indignity to the "noble science" to propose it as a substitute.
The North Staffordshire hounds are now established under entirely new auspices, with the Duke of Sutherland still a firm supporter, and the Earl of Shrewsbury a valuable and important friend, having Captain Nugent, a well-known performer over a country, as the acting master. Tom Clarke, so well known with the Duke of Beaufort's hounds, and previously to that with Mr. Morrell's, is appointed huntsman in place of Thomas Atkinson. The old pack, rendered very perfect by the late Mr. Davenport, is somewhat reduced, four couples of working hounds having been purchased at the sale in June by Mr. Boughey, and a similar number by Lord Eglinton. With the exception of Ringwood, who has distinguished himself as a sire, all the remainder were of the other sex, and a great acquisition they will be in the Albrighton kennels. In Lord Eglinton's lot was Benedict, another sire of good repute, and it seems rather surprising that some arrangements could not have been entered into for the purpose of keeping the pack on in
its entirety; but as Mr. Davenport had before his decease signified his intention of submitting them to the public through Messrs. Tattersall's influential agency, probably there was no alternative. No pack of equal pretensions has been sold for so little money as this produced for many a long year.
Cub-hunting has this season been procrastinated in many hunts in consequence of the dry weather; but Lord Fitzhardinge's hounds, true to their old-accustomed practice, made acquaintance with the cubs on the 16th of August, when they tasted a brace, and they have continued their attentions very unremittingly ever since. This establisment is remodelled, James Macbride succeeding Charles Hamlin as huntsman, the latter having gone to the Duke of Beaufort's. Wells, from Scotland, is first whip, and Charles Atkinson, son of the late Kit Atkinson, is being initiated as second whip. There are seven or eight fresh horses introduced into the stables, and all bids fair for a pros perous season. Macbride declares he never yet saw such a pack in their work-an opinion which I have long since expressed.
A boisterous change in the elements took place on the morning of Sunday, the 12th of September, and being accompanied with copious downfalls, the earth has become in a suitable condition for cub-hunting. The Rufford hounds were earlier in the field, and although confined to the forest side of their country, found a good supply of foxes, and soon brought to hand two brace and a-half. They have a most promising entry, numbering eleven couple and a-half, all bred at home. Prætor is represented by four couples and a-half, Richmond by four couples, Corsair by one couple, Lord Kesteven by a similar complement, and Lord Galway's Furrier and Duster have each a single hound. An analysis of their breeding exemplifies the good judgment that has been exercised. Prætor, a nice black, white and tan, is a home production, with an infusion of the Duke of Rutland's Rallywood, going back to many of Mr. Foljambes best strains. Richmond introduces the excellence of Lord Henry Bentinck's kennels, including his Contest.
The Albrighton hounds commenced on the 9th of September, at Stretton, and reports are good as to foxes on that the best portion of their country.
The charms of cub-hunting are not, perchance, appreciated by many -good sportsmen though they may be-to whom nothing less than the ultra excitement of twenty minutes and a roll over in the open is the summum bonum of their delight. Nevertheless, it is, without exception, the happiest and most appropriate time to enjoy the working of the pack, exerting to to the utmost their natural energies, unmolested by crowds of horsemen. The time of the morning is so refreshing cool and agreeable, without refrigerating the system too intensely, as is oftimes the case in the dreary month of December.
The preservation of foxes is a subject which the more it is investigated the more paradoxical does the neglect of it appear. In many countries where they abound game is profuse, while in other parts they are destroyed to maintain a brood of pheasants. I have observed, however, that in places where foxes do not exist rats abound in profusion. It is well known that foxes prefer rats to any other kind of food, and which will destroy the greater quantity of game in the breeding season? Rats, most undoubtedly. Nothing will protect young birds from their
rapacious jaws; and then, again, the depredations they commit on the property of farmers is incredible and incalculable. It is now a frequent custom to construct corn-ricks in the fields, there to be thrashed out by steam-power: the ricks afford delightful shelter for the rats, of which they do not hesitate to avail themselves. A crusade has been raised against rabbits-very justly so-and now let rats come under the same denunciations.
Who is he, yon dark rider ?
And whence comes his steed of grey ?
O'er field, and fence, and furrow,
In front he took his line,
His hand and seat were perfect,
And his horse was never blown,
The young ones made a set at him,
One charged that hog-backed style, and he
Another broke his collar-bone;
Another's horse got cast;
The running made by those young men
Was far too good to last.
He looked not back, the dark-grey man, pace was still the same.
He flinched not, and he faltered not,
The good grey horse was game.
Like a bird he swept along.
And he jumped the fence close by;
'Twas a day in dark December,
They steal on towards the sea.
Ere yon white one, as he shakes himself,
The dark-grey man, a pull he took,
As though 'twere in a race;
He glanced to where the hounds had crossed, And muttered, "That's the place;"
Then held him hard, and at it went
As fast as he could ride,
And the grey horse charged it gallantly,
There was grief and woe behind him,
THE DARK-GREY MAN.
Their horses beat and sobbing,,
I saw him reach the land.
And the grief that "raged" behind him
But now our fox was beaten,
As they pressed him more and more;
How they growled and maddened round him!
How they worried and they tore !
While the who-hoop of the dark-grey man
Rang out so shrill and clear,
The lengthening tail of stragglers
Could hear it far and near.