Sunday was a great day here in Virginia. It was a blustery day in the 100 acres woods of the Institute Farm run by the National Beagle Club. Today was the first time I had ever been out with a hunt club to watch the hounds run. I had always wanted to go fox hunting but since I never owned a horse it was kind of out of the question. Today I got the next best thing and that was chasing rabbits with a working pack of Basset hounds.
The Institute is out in Aldie, Virginia and is surrounded by the history of Virginia horse country. The Institute Farm was built around 1854 for the Loudoun County Agricultural Institute and Chemical Academy. It is on the Virginia Historic Register as a property worthy of preservation.
Bart Semcer has been politely asking me if I wanted to attend one of the club functions since his interview with us several months ago. Timing has always been bad and this weekend was the perfect weekend to make good on my promise to attend on of the hunts. Boy am I glad I did, what a delightful day on a piece of land that you can just feel the history of the land and the traditions of chase.
Hunting on the Institute Farm you are filled with a feeling like the land is holding really strong history. The Farm was once a part of Oak Hill, home of President James Monroe. In 1854 when the Farm was built it was to be used for the Loudoun County Agriculture Institute and Chemical Academy. This School was one of the first schools of scientific agronomy in the United States. The school failed to thrive in the tough times of the 1850’s and and the property was put up for sale in 1861. With the outbreak of the civil war, the property remained unsold. Intense cavalry battles were fought in the vicinity of the farm in Snickersville Pike. After the war the property was sold to Isabella Turner and sold again to the Institute Corporation in 1916. The men who acquired the club were all masters of show packs of beagles, many of which were from the Northeast. The National Beagle Club built a number of small rustic log cabins to house the members during the annual beagle trials. These cabins are still used today for both beagle and basset club events today over 90 years later.The Institute Corporation was formed by five men James W. Appleton, George P. Post, Ramsay Turnbull, Aurthur S. Burden and John S. Phipps. The Institute Corporation owned the land and leased it to the National Beagle Club for the price of $1.00 per year. These five men were all very devoted to the new sport of beagling.
Basseting is a foot sport, and the prey – rarely caught – is a cottontail rabbit. There are brace trials where hounds are pitted one on one and pack trials where three, four and eight couple packs(six to 16 hounds) work together as a unit pursuing the rabbit. A Huntsman decked in green with red piping starts them off with a brass horn and whippers-in keep the hounds together forming a box that moves with the pack. The Huntsman runs the pack and controls the movement of the pack by the use of the brass horn and various vocals. The staff of the pack all dressed in green with red piping on the jackets assist in keeping this pack of dogs together. If you are interested in learning more please check out this link at:http://www.hunting-directory.co.uk/basset_hunting.htm .
I cannot recommend enough a more enjoyable Sunday afternoon event. The first pack we took out was a 3 couple group up onto the hill and to be honest it was all hills. These six bassets ran several rabbits, though I did not see them, many did get to see the actual rabbit. To me the joy was in watching not only how the hounds ran but the use of their noses on the ground and tracking the trail of the rabbit. The sound of the wail was impressive when they struck the trail and it was interesting to watch the other hounds honor the trail that was struck by the basset. The hounds are amazingly well behaved and occasionally one of them will wander off on his own chasing a trail and looking for the rabbit but the horn of the Hunt Master all the hounds come back to the master
After a good hunt in which several rabbits where brought up to chase and lost we were back at the kennels and they brought out a 7 couple pack of bassets and as soon as we stepped into the woods the pack took off and fast. Down the hill and then back up again, west and then east and then down along the creek while we ran to watch them. I was stationed with one of the whippers-in and the pack began to bay and the chase was on. The chase ended with a sighting of the rabbit by one of the whippers-in as it stepped close to a stump and then gone. The hounds were all standing around and upon inspection of the stump we could see a hole where the rabbit had dropped down and the hunt was over.
Once the pack was secure in the kennels a pot luck of sorts took place and I got to share some of the 180 pictures I took while out with the Ashland Bassets and partake of the wonderful food and spiced Cider which was wonderful. Thank you all for making me feel so welcome and I hope to come back again in the future.
Staff of Ashland Bassets(Founded in 1960)
Mrs. Christopher (Mary) Reed ( Joint Master and Huntsman)
Ms. Aggie de La Garza (Joint Master and Honorary Whipper-In)
Ms. Kathleen King (Secretary and Honorary Whipper-In)
Ms. Anita Ramos
Mrs. Diana Dutton (Field Master)
Ms. Camilla Moon (Field Master)
Ms. Nancy Palmer (Honorary Whipper-In)
Ms. Mary Dobrovir (Honorary Whipper-In)
Mr. Frank Edrington (Honorary Whipper-In)
Mr. Joseph Milihram (Honorary Whipper-In)
Ms. Sherrod Johnson (Honorary Whipper-In)
Ms. Miriam Anver (Honorary Whipper-In)
Mr. Bart Semcer (Honorary Whipper-In)
If you are interested in learning more about the Ashland Basset hounds please contact:
Mrs. Christopher (Mary) Reed, Master of Basset Hounds.
email@example.com (Please put Ashland in the Subject line if you email her)
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