The red, hardbacked volumes of Baily’s Hunting Directory, first produced in 1897 as an annual edition, have embodied for generations the very essence of hunting. The Hunting Man’s Red Backed Bible of the chase, as it came to be known, has given both experienced people and those new to hunting everything they need to know before following hounds wherever you are in the hunting world. Because it builds on over 100 years of experience and expertise, it contains far more fact-based information that can ever be obtained through any internet searches.
So you want to know who was Master of the Taupo (New Zealand) in 1962, we can tell you that, or why would you throw cold rain water over your hunt coat at the end of the day. Most hunting people (foot and mounted) just refer to the work as Baily’s, as there is a lot more to it than just a list of names, and Baily’s is considered to be the go-to resource for information for hunt histories, tracking the careers of hunt staff, and other related details. The main thing that sets Baily’s Directory apart from other hunt lists is that we have always recorded all registered packs, mounted or foot, hunting any quarry, and across national borders.
Baily’s was originally the idea of a certain Mr. Cuming, who felt that there was need for a guide for “sportsmen on tour” and “to assist them in selecting a country where they may take up their residence.” It was no accident that the publication of the first Directory coincided with the tremendous growth in foxhunting’s popularity. The agricultural depression had led to a huge increase in grass, the railways made previously remote packs accessible and the Industrial Revolution and increase in the Armed Forces created a pool of enthusiastic sportsmen with money and time. As hunting became a national rather than a local sport in the UK, so it needed a national, then international focal point.
Cuming’s idea was a great success. By 1900 full lists of hunt servants with their service records were included, and details of drag hunts were added. A new feature was an annual article on a ‘Great Hunt,’ the first being the Duke of Beaufort’s Greatwood Run of 1871. These continued up to the beginning of the Great War and can now be found by our subscribers.
Sales grew and so did the Directory’s size. By 1901 it contained the Minutes of the MFHA annual meeting, then held in the Subscription Rooms at Tattersalls (and, interestingly, still always in the first week of June). In 1903 a ‘Review of the Season’ was started, together with Obituaries and small maps of the main hunts showing how to get to meets. Puppy Show Results were also included. By 1908, it was necessary to add “a line indicating the wishes of Masters with respect to the use of motor cars.” "Foreign, Indian and Colonial" packs were added in 1907, but American packs were not added until 1915. In 1911, a diary was provided for noting hunting appointments.
Baily’s was published every year throughout the War except for 1918. Sadly the "Sport and War" section became even longer, running to four pages in the 1919 edition for those killed in 1918 alone.
By 1930, the editor could write with some justification that Baily’s “reflects fully the widespread interest and vitality of hunting both at home and abroad.” One edition covered 1939-49, the foreword to which commented that “most packs were semi-dormant during this period but have now been re-organised;” 238 packs of foxhounds were listed, and the Directory included an introduction to the British Field Sports Campaign to save country sports, a topic to which the various editors since then have returned to all too frequently!
Readers may know that there are more packs of hounds and people hunting now than before the “ban.” This created the need for an authoritative website and resource to coordinate across types; most of the organizations in the UK focus on a single type of pack. As a result, the previous owner decided to change from a book to a publishing form which was both able to better protect personal information in the only complete directory and could also offer both a forum for hunting reports, views, and other services such as hirelings and liveries.
By drawing all these services together, we are continuing the tradition of Baily’s founders, who wanted to provide a “service to sportsmen” and a national – and international – hunting focus. The website is updated daily, and today covers 838+ hunts in 22 countries with 7000+ images from some of the best professional and amateur photographers around, and hound show results going back to before 1900! With a daily growing (750+) range of articles from the instructional to the humorous, we can be almost certain that one of our world-class authors will have written about any topic. We can state from experience that having read about their day, yours won’t feel quite as bad!
However, there is much more to Baily’s than just the website. We have published a number of case bound and soft-backed volumes in recent years including a guide to packs 1870-1883; The Baily’s Hunting Quiz book- 1000 questions and answers to challenge what you thought you knew; and our latest, the Hunt Report book that will encourage you to write up your day; and a book that contains images especially commissioned from Irish hunting artist Liam Clancy which we hope will inspire you.
The present owners are Peter and Helen Brook, who manage a small organic farm in the east of England. Peter was brought up in the southeast and started hunting at five years old with the Tickham Hunt on board a 37 inch Shetland stallion led by his mother using a lungeing rein. He was chairman of the Wye College Beagles when the pack were stolen by the Animal Liberation Front. He is now a supporter of the Belvoir and hunts with the East Lincs Bassets. Helen has hunted with the Blean and Wye College Beagles, and the East Lincs Bassets. Anyone visiting them at home will be greeted by a number of hounds - both retirees and those pups that are ‘out at walk’ with them, learning their names, to come when called and understand that “LEAVE IT!” growled at volume means just that!
Both Peter and Helen believe that if people are willing to embrace change as our forebears did then this is a exciting time for all types of hunting with hounds. A few years ago, many people were saying that hunting had had its day, and that it was being slowly strangled by urbanization, the railway, barbed wire, the explosion of the “town” fox, modern farming and too much traffic. These issues were compounded in the United Kingdom by the 2004 Hunting Act, a measure dictated by prejudice rather than reason and introduced specifically to harm our sport. Yet, as so often happens in these Isles, a restrictive measure that is designed to curb peoples’ freedom, stirs something deep in the British soul. Although people have been careful to hunt within the “law,” they have carried on hunting nonetheless, determined not to be frustrated by the Act’s vacuous measures. With that determination has come an unexpected renaissance, with more people now both riding to hounds and as active supporters than ever before; the Act has, in fact, rejuvenated our sport.
For more information, please visit bailyshuntingdirectory.com.