W3C The Dalesmens' Sport GARN YAM


The following chapter written in 1903 gives some idea of how hunting in the Lake District was carried out at that time; there is mention of terrier work and the legendary Joe Bowman, who hunted the Ullswater Foxhounds from 1879 until his first retirement in 1911, is also mentioned (he returned in 1914 and finally retired in 1924).

Mountain Fox-hunting

Despite the difficulties presented by the rough surfaces and the peculiar weather associated with such elevations, fox-hunting is carried on to a large extent among the fells. The natives are sportsmen from their wild environment and the opportunities it gives for the chase. Foxes are too plentiful, their depredations being bewailed by every farmer, shepherd, and poultry-raiser within the area mentioned. The farm hands have comparatively little to do in winter, for the sheep are brought from the distant uplands on the approach of hard weather, and their attention, therefore, only takes up a few hours of each day. As the shepherd seldom, even on the darkest mornings, turns out later than five a.m., it will be readily understood that there is plenty of daylight left for hunting.

Four packs of hounds hunt the Lake Country, and, circumscribed though the area is, there is no difficulty in arranging meets. Appointments seldom clash, for each mountain group has its own foxes and earths, and it is only when they cannot get to earth near home that they rush away over miles of crag and grass, in the usually vain hope of outstripping their pursuers. Many years ago a fox made a circuitous route about the moors at the foot of Kentmere, then ran over into Longsleddale, giving a good forty-five minutes round that valley before the kill. Two packs having joined in the chase, some discussion arose as to which should claim the fox. Two veteran dales-men were therefore appointed arbitrators, and arrived at a satisfactory decision by selecting the hounds which, in their opinion, had most distinguished themselves in the later stages of the chase.

The hounds most adapted to this class of hunting are big, strong animals; in no pack is uniformity a craze, either in colour or size. Most huntsmen keep a couple of small but exceedingly fast hounds, as they can help the terriers in some of the wider tunnels in the earths, where occasionally a fox will lie at bay on a rock-shelf out of reach of its smaller pursuers. These terriers are very small, hard animals, pugnacious in their excitement but wonderfully docile both before and after. They cannot, of course, pass the rough country at the speed of hounds - barely can they keep up with the humans; therefore the huntsman frequently gives them a lift in his capacious side-pockets. The memories of some of the terriers are phenomenal, only let the pack drive their fox into a particular hole, and its location and interior arrangements are indelibly fixed in the little dogs' minds.

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