« السابقةمتابعة »
HUNTING FOR THE MILLION. 157
ing, but I allow myself to be no admirer of racinghunting or hunting-racing : the endeavouring to amalgamate them spoils both. Now I call it racing-hunting where hounds come at once on a fox, go off at his brush, and run into him without a check in twenty minutes. This I am quite willing to allow is very good fun—call it fun if you like—and I am satisfied; but no man shall tell me it is foal-hunting. A gentleman in Warwickshire lately bought some fox-hounds: he did not attempt to say he meant foxhunting; in fact he never tried for a fox : he avowedly hunted drags. The idea was at first a good deal ridiculed, but it seemed he knew his field and friends better than they knew themselves, for it took wonderfully; and when they found it killed their horses, and they rarely could see the end of the run, they all declared it was inimitable. Now if he meant this as a keen bit of satire on his friends' knowledge of hunting, he must have enjoyed the thing amazingly over his fireside, which I dare say he did, for he knows what hunting is, and can ride. Why not then have some packs of drag-hounds kept, and make three distinct amusements, all good in their way ! We might then have racing in its legitimate way, when we wish for such a treat; drag hunting, when we want a galloping and leaping 'bout ; and hunting, for fox-hunters, instead of two mongrel amusements. What I mean by hunting-racing is, that most perfectly ridiculous custom of introducing hurdles on a race-course, and this when it is not attempted to call it a hunter's stake. This is also fun perhaps, but certainly not racing: and if it took place at a revel among jumping in sacks and grinning through horse-collars, would be a very interesting wind-up.
158 A SIIC) RT TRIAL.
I am sorry to say that I fear we have not quite as much head as our ancesters in our system. I hate slow hunting, never liked hare-hunting; like hounds to go, and keep going; but I really do think threequarters' speed fast enough for a hunter; that is, provided he is fast: if he is not, however good he might be in every other qualification, I would never ride him twice. I might be asked, why, if I think hounds may be bred too fast, do I make speed so much a sine qua mon in a hunter? I will answer this by an observation on a different subject. Whenever I want a buggy-horse, I always try him, and my trial gives far less trouble than most people's, but it is one I never found fail. I first put my horse in a moderate trot— say eight miles an hour at the bottom of a moderate hill; if he willingly keeps the same pace up to the top, I have seldom found him a bad mettled one: if, on the contrary, he begins lagging, hitching in his pace, or shuffling, I have had trial enough: depend on it he is a rogue or a very weak horse. So much for gameness: for this, though no great trial, it may be said, is a pretty fair criterion to judge by. Now for pace, I always try a horse one mile : if he cannot do that with the most perfect ease a few seconds under four minutes, I never buy him as a regular buggy-horse for the road; a horse merely to drive in London streets, is another thing. Here showy action only is wanted. Now I do not want to drive twenty miles faster than other people, but I will have fast ones, for two reasons; I do like now and then, if I find some one on the road driving at me because he thinks he has a goer, to take the conceit out of him. Half a mile does this, and gets rid of him : he then leaves you to enjoy your own dust, if there is any, without “KEEP THEIR HEADS STRAIGHT, THEY'LL ALL JUMP.” 159
the pleasing addition of his. But a far more sensible reason for liking a fast one is this: if he can trot at the rate of seventeen miles an hour, going at the rate of ten is play to him. So it is with a hunter: if he is fast enough to catch hounds, he can go with them without distress as to pace: if he is not fast, and very fast, he cannot, and indeed not always even when he is. Speed I must maintain to be the first thing to look at in purchasing a hunter, or a horse to make one of; and if my friends will be kind enough to find me in speed, I will find myself in neck and jumping. Comparatively speaking, they can all jump if we choose to make them: but they cannot all go. There is not one horse in fifty, with the size, shape, make, and breed of a hunter, that cannot if he pleases take any ordinary fence we meet with in crossing a country. I may be told that perhaps he may not please to do this: this is by no means improbable: we see this sometimes with the best of them, even with steeple-chase horses. In such a particular case, and at that particular fence, we may possibly be beat; but if he in a general way should not please to jump, he must then put his patience and determination to the test with mine. I will answer for it, in nineteen cases out of twenty I teach him he must jump when and where I please: but I cannot make him go if there is no go in him, and it would be folly and cruelty to attempt it. Head, hands and heels may make him a fencer, but they can't make him a goer. We are told that hounds must now-a-days be very fast to kill their foxes; that “meets” being often at eleven o'clock, unless hounds get on the best possible terms with their fox, they cannot hunt him: granted. I am afraid that something like Abernethy’s
160 THE BEST THING OF THE SEASON. 1845.
reply will apply here. My Lord says, “There is so little scent, that if my hounds do not race down their fox, they cannot hunt him down, because we meet so late.” Some rude fellow (like myself), who loves for-hunting, might say, “Then why the d–l don't you meet earlier?” Half the field would say, “We can't; we were all at Lady So-and-so's till four this morning.” I know this as well as they do. I know they can't ; at least I know they won't; for people now-a days must enjoy late parties, and fox-hunting too, but not fox-hunting in perfection, unless they consider hounds racing across country perfection. If they do, it is all very well; but I really think the Warwickshire drag just as good ; indeed better, for they would kill more horses, and that seems the thing by which we are to judge of the goodness of the day's sport | If a young man should be asked in the evening what sport he had had in the morning, he would reply, if it had been what he considered good, “Capital! one of the best things this season: the horses were lying about in all directions; five died in the field; I expect to hear by to-morrow's post that mine is dead also.”—This would be unblushingly told to a lady, I suppose to show what a fine fellow the rider must be Now I should really think this to a woman of a reflecting mind would be about as much recommendation as if he had slaughtered an ox, and about as much proof of the soundness of his head as of the goodness of his heart. If a horse breaks a limb, his back, or his neck, hunting, it does not much matter; it is a fair accident: and there's an end of him : the rider may share the same fate, and sometimes the loss to society is about equal. A horse may occasionally be killed by over
GOING THE PACE. 161
exertion without his rider having felt him particularly distressed; but, when we find men literally boasting of the number of horses killed by themselves and their friends, I am inclined to think the heels have been more at work than the head. When I state that I consider hounds may be bred too fast, I do not mean it solely in allusion to its requiring greater speed and exertion on the part of the horses, but that I consider it spoils hunting. We may naturally infer, that, when a man keeps or undertakes the management of a pack of foxhounds, he is a judge of fox-hunting; and, as I have before said, I doubt not but some of these gentlemen, if left to their own inclinations, would like a little more real hunting than fashion allows: but those who keep hounds wish to please their friends; they have also a very pardonable, nay proper, pride in hearing the pack considered a crack one, and this they would not be, though they might kill their fox or a brace a-day, unless they actually coursed him: hunting up to him would not do. So the Master goes with the tide; he is master of the hounds; but fashion is the master of him. One who only manages a pack must of course please his members, or where is the cash? That, in keeping foxhounds, goes pretty fast too: so the hounds must go the devil's pace to catch that. I venture a hope, that though I do think it is quite possible hounds may be too fast, my brother Sportsmen will not think that I am too slow, for I like fast ones, in men, horses, or dogs; but my countryman, John Bull, never seems to know any medium; and for this I can in no way account: his temperament is by no means enthusiastic in any way; yet, where fashion leads him, he VOL. I. M