Earlier this month, the storied Fitzwilliam (Milton) Hunt, whose hound pedigree records date back to 1760, opened its kennel gates to the general public in what has become a popular annual outreach event. Located near the city of Peterborough, the open kennel day coincides with a local horse show that already brings most of the community out to spectate. The hunt, which has been under the stewardship of the same family for its entire history, began to offer wagon rides from the showgrounds to kennels a few years ago to educate the townspeople about hound care.
Kennel visitors learned about hound care. Maurice James Barclay photo.
This year's tour included explanations of the daily care hounds receive, as well as the opportunity to view the tidy and superbly-maintained yards and whelping area. A highlight was a new mother tending her tiny pups.
Maurice James Barclay photo.
Maurice James Barclay, who served as Master of the Fitzwilliam for 12 years, said, "To ensure hunting has a great future in front of it, much more work has to be done. We ignore opportunities like this, to connect with the general public, at our peril!" Barclay noted that by allowing visitors to see for themselves the highest standards of animal welfare in kennels, the hunt helped offset negative accusations about hound care and also made the local citizenry feel welcome in a setting they may not previously have visited.
Hounds rest in the historic and spacious yard at their kennels near Peterborough. Maurice James Barclay photo.
Following the requirements of the 2004 Hunting Act, the Fitzwilliam offers a variety of activities to its subscribers: sometimes just exercising hounds and horses together, or hunting a trail where a scent is laid by a trail layer across the country for hounds to follow, or using hounds to “flush” or move a fox into the open where it can be taken by a bird of prey such as their Golden Eagle. All of these activities are legal and permitted under the Hunting Act.