W3C Notorious HOUNDS

by Fellside Scribe

Whatever your charge, be it terrier, lurcher or hound, they will all do what is asked of them, no questions asked of their willingness or ability, it’s pure instinct. The word 'ability' in this instance being the ability that is within each and every one of us and the same of which applies to our animals. We and they all have it to some degree; it’s the bottle that, coupled with ability, makes others stand out from the rest, so please, no nit picking about a word!

We all, most of us anyway, take it for granted that the end result, the final conclusion for our quarry, will be gained through the simple task of entering our beasts to ground, or out on the fell or on the moor and standing back to admire the efficient way in which they have adapted to overcome adversity in the face of sometimes immense danger to their lives. Of course, they’re unaware of the dangers that we can anticipate and it’s up to us to ensure we do all we can to provide adequate protection and aid in their hour or indeed, hours, of need.

Eric Bowden’s excellent but all too short article on peat runners and their associated dangers struck a chord with me, as I know the ground he writes about very well. Hounds and terriers have floundered in the peat while the risks involved in running a lurcher on such ground is fraught with danger due to the undulating terrain. However, those dangers don’t stop us hunting the same places time and again and certain places become well known for being 'notorious' bad spots, places we wouldn’t or shouldn’t put our terriers into, but we do!

A notorious place in the fells…Broadhowe. The fells are littered with such places.

The same can be said about the ground you run your lurcher on and the 'country' hounds hunt or drag over. There are some real 'notorious' spots that make the heart skip a beat at the mere sight of and have you wishing you were somewhere else. Poor weather only exacerbates the situation and an hour or two at one of those 'notorious' places brings back memories of successes and failures from years gone by.

During the summer, I walked many miles on the fells, covering all of the major peaks and much of the low ground too, and hardly recognised the terrain due to the abundance of local fauna, ie bracken and the lush dale grasses and sedges and not forgetting the fine weather. Late winter shadows that make the smallest crag face seem foreboding were not there, bitter cold winds that blow humans, hounds and terriers clean of their feet were absent and icy becks and gills, overflowing with spurts of white water were well down and friendly to the eye, but come the winter…

Another place that requires hard work from the terrier below ground and those followers above ground to extricate the quarry and retrieve the Terrier safely.

On almost every fellside there will be a borran or a pile of large rocks littering the ground and climbing into the sky and it’s these, sometimes old mine workings, that prove to be the hardest to work for terrier and hound, and doesn’t the fox just know it! In days gone by, on a hunting day some local would make for these bad places and move the fox on his way should he show his mask and want to get in. From the pen of Anthony Chapman, a late fell huntsman, dating back to the 1950s, for he can tell it far better than me,

“We holed one below Broadhowe. I entered two Terriers, Tess and Spider and thought the fox was boss of them in trying to bolt him, so I let Crab in. While we waited, we heard a rushing of stones and all went quiet. A digging operation was started at once but it took us ‘til Monday (from Saturday) to get to them and it was a sorrowful sight when we did, as Tess and Spider were dead and Crab was fast and could not defend himself. The fox was alive and he had given the Terrier a bad time. Crab was carried home and my wife Annie looked after him…but to no avail and he too passed on, what a great blow to me”.

Hard times and sad times.

But it’s not just the rock piles that can prove deadly to the beasts of the hunt. Crag faces, the kind that bulge out from well pastured fell tops, send out warning signals to the fell hunter and are made for when hard pressed, by foxes (and hares in certain country). Many foxes will run through or over them, paying them a visit but not seeking sanctuary for there’s hardly ever a place to 'get into' high up on the crag face. Some foxes will 'benk', that is to sit on a shelf or ledge, somewhere where a hound can’t get at them. The hounds would be able to see the fox or scent him but would be unable to climb down due to the fox having superior climbing abilities with almost cat-like movements amongst its defence. This danger however hasn’t stopped hounds from trying to pursue Charlie to his ledge, such is the determination to drive him 'out of there'. The process normally proving fatal to both fox and hound as both meet their inevitable death far below. Having witnessed this kind of scenario several times in the past prior to the ban, the sight and sound stays with you for a long time, the hunter and the hunted perishing together, how sad.

Greenhow End has proved fatal over the years for both hound and fox. A hell of a place.

Nearer to home and the places local to me are a terrierman's nightmare. Sand banks, deep as Fagin's pockets and some with just the one hole … always suspect for them emerging in China and truly fitting of the word, notorious! Even the local industrial estate is called the “Sand Pits”. I don’t think there’s one place that isn’t without the dreaded sand and there’s been a few instances when help has been called for when situations have got tricky.

It pays to avoid such places if you value your terriers (and your marriage) as one place in particular has proved to live up to it’s notorious reputation for me personally and ended with the worst kind of news to go home with. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Watch out for those bad places.

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