12 December 1997

How to follow hounds at every stage of hunt

FOR many people, perhaps the majority, who follow the hunt, satisfaction chiefly comes from watching the hounds work. It can safely be assumed that hounds are instinctive hunters but, when some of us have problems with just one or two dogs off the lead, how does the huntsman control a whole pack?

The answer to this is delightfully explained on an audio cassette* narrated by Bertie Denham (Lord Denham) which follows the hounds of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt hunting over the Surrey/West Sussex borders.

At each stage of the hunt the narration includes examples of horn blowing and vocal orders called by master of foxhounds, Jeremy Whaley. The quality of the horn and voice are crystal clear as they were recorded in a commercial recording studio, though this is not at all evident as the tape runs uninterrupted as if in the field.

The importance of understanding the horn is essential as frequently riders may fall behind the field or be requested to pull back from a covert. For foot followers, who are rarely up with the action, understanding hunting language helps them know what is happening.

There are many patterns of horn blowing between "moving off" and "go home". To my untrained ear, the difference between some of them is, indeed, subtle.

The narrative is descriptive and evocative and, for many, will conjure up vivid memories of bygone days in the field. JT

*Follow the Hounds, Field and Country Direct, 47a North Street, Midhurst, West Sussex (01428-685752), (£8.95).