A highly spirited conversation, peppered with videos, photos, stories, jokes and jabs, occurred during the second half of the afternoon session at the MFHA Staff Seminar as five huntsmen, all fiercely dedicated to their packs, presented tremendous amounts of information regarding the history and characteristics of the breeds they hunt.
Opening with a photo presentation and in-depth history lesson on the development of the Old English Foxhound, Loudoun West Huntsman Martyn Blackmore heartily declared the thicker and heavier set Old English Foxhound is “built to last”.
Larry Pitts of Potomac Hunt affirmed the lighter framed American Foxhound, with its speed, drive and excellent nose, is a hound that “will hunt with you or without you, but will let you help them. Plus, they don’t sulk.” Describing the American Foxhound as “bold, brainy and confident”, Pitts acknowledged that stereotypes exist that American hounds tend to riot and get on deer, but in his experience, that is more a result of poor training than the breed itself.
He addressed the American Hound’s swiftness across ground, saying “Some people don’t like their speed across rough country,” said Pitts. “It’s a shorter distance to get them where I want them.”
Pitts continued, “They are sensitive. They are the boldest hounds. Like all hounds, they are not shy as long as they understand what you want them to do.”
Blue Ridge Hunt’s Dennis Downing hunts the Modern English Foxhound, which evolved from the Old English when “people went Beaver mad and hounds were too big and slow.”
While discussing the opinion that English hounds have little voice, Downing articulated “Voice varies. If you can get through the woods during cubhunting, you can increase their voice. The challenge is that cubhunting is not long enough in America. You’re often going out for just a few hours in the morning for only a few weeks, and that isn’t long enough to develop voice.”
“Voice is perception, like music,” offered Blackmore. “Some people like rap. Some people like country. Some like rock. It depends on what music you like!”
Geoff Hyde of Elkridge-Harford, the birthplace of the Crossbred, imparted “There are good and bad examples of all breeds. The Crossbred, while conformationally often not hound show material, will go season after season.”
“There is a stereotype that Crossbreds are hard to keep uniform,” said Hyde. “Establishing tail female lines is especially important, and be careful when outcrossing, but they are getting more level.”
Fred Getty, Huntsman for Middlebrook, passionately spoke of his beloved Pennmarydels, the American breed first developed in Southeast Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware in 1929.
“Their voices will run you out of this room,” he exclaimed with a grin.
Comparing Pennmarydels to Warmblood horses, Getty said “The breed has earned its place in the studbook and the show ring. I have hunted with forty different packs in my lifetime, I have hunted all breeds, and I choose Pennmarydels.”
Getty was quick to defend his breed of choice and the stereotype of dwelling. “I’ve never seen a Pennmarydel dwell,” he said. “They may stick around and check things out, but go on. My advice is to have two horses when hunting Pennmarydels.”
“No matter what hounds you hunt, if you’re breeding,” he continued, “breed for hunting first, then breed for the show ring if you have the time and money.”
Moderator Albert Poe offered a final question to the panel: If offered the position, what would the panelists take to Piedmont or Orange County?
The unanimous answer was to keep the breed already there.
“English!” bellowed Blackmore with a smirk. “But seriously, take the pack that’s there. Different hounds are suited to different country. It can be detrimental if you change too much too fast.”
Dennis Downing echoed the thoughts of his fellow Englishman, “Stick with what you’ve got. An incoming MFH or Huntsman shouldn’t change hounds. You mustn’t lose the tail female line.”
“Pennmarydels,” announced Getty, garnering a few guffaws from his fellow panelists as well as the audience. “Go with American. You need speed in that country and a Thoroughbred horse.”
Pitts agreed. “I wouldn’t change. Stick with what’s there.”