What is the Meaning of the Term Thorough-bred Fox-hound

Reprint from the Sportsman Cabinet and Town & Country Magazine, Vol.1, Number 1, November 1832.

MR. Editor,

Will you allow me to inquire, through the medium of your pages, the correct meaning of the term thorough-bred fox-hound? I am very well aware, that the expression is in common use among sportsmen, but inconsiderately perhaps applied. In the old Sporting Magazine for last July, the writer, who signs VENATOR, speaking of the harriers of “H. Ross, Esq. of Rossie Castle,” observes, “they consist of about twenty-four couples of beautiful thorough-bred dwarf fox-hounds.” I am anxious to know if there be any absolute distinctive marks or appearances by which to ascertain at first sight, the “thorough-bred fox hound.”

Johnson, in his Hunting Directory, thus expresses himself on the subject of hounds. “All the ramifications of the hound (says he) which we at present possess sprung from one and the same source, namely, the Talbot or old English blood hound. Admitting, therefore, that the Talbot was the source whence have sprung all our present varieties of the hound tribe, we may regard, as the first remove, that large dog used a century ago in pursuit of the stag, and which it is well known would perseveringly continue the chase of the hunted deer in defiance of every obstacle, and and even through a herd of the same animals. It will be more difficult to account for the immediate origin of the southern hound, unless indeed we suppose that accident produced a few Tabots of a smaller kind, and hence they were propagated. The same sort of reasoning may be applied to the beagle, while the fox-hound of the present day is evidently a mixture of the whole; and as the crosses for the production of this animal have been directed by the different opinions of a number of individuals, so we may perceive the reason of that great variety in these animals which cannot have escaped the notice even of the most indifferent observer.”

Now, if we admit the correctness of this position, that the Talbot was the origin whence sprung all our varieties of the hound tribe, it would appear that the term “thorough-bred dwarf for hounds” cannot be otherwise than very indefinite, or altogether incorrect; and since hounds can be bred of any size, form, and colour, they should take their name, I think, from the purpose for which they are employed, since no other appellation can be distinctly appropriate. Generally speaking, fox-hounds are bred larger and fleeter than harriers, and for the best possible reason, namely, because the game they pursue requires more strength and more speed: yet, hounds bred precisely in the same manner as the modern fox-hound may be just as easily (indeed much more so) trained to hare as entered to fox; and, if hounds thus bred, be entered and used for no thing but hare, I cannot conceive how the term “thorough-bred for-hounds” could be correctly applicable.

Beckford coincides with this doctrine, and indeed I have never met with a fox hunter who does not subscribe to it, without the least qualification. It is completely erroneous, nevertheless; or, at least, it is utterly at variance with the principles of speed, and as such ought to be cautiously avoided in a hound. The toes of a hound, instead of forming a sort of semi-circle, like those of a cat, should be elongated, hard, narrow, and elastic—like those of the grey hound, for instance. Has a fleet grey-hound ever been seen with a “round cat foot ” I think not; and surely if the elongated form of the foot above described be advisable for the grey-hound, it must be equally so for the whole of the hound tribe. The hare has a very long foot : that is, long, narrow, hard, and elastic toes, from which she no doubt receives very considerable assistance in her progressive motion.

On the same principle, harriers may be converted into fox-hounds, since they will pursue the fox more eagerly than the hare. And as there is ſound difference in the size and speed of fox-hounds (according to the opinion or will of the owner) so we find large and small harriers. Thus we have the light, fleet, sharp-nosed harrier, the deep-flewed harrier, and indeed every possible variety: therefore, instead of denominating the hounds of Mr. Ross “thorough-bred dwarf fox-hounds,” I should call them light fleet harriers.

A few lines more on the subject of hounds.—In enumerating the constituent parts of a hound, a “round cat foot has been uniformly recommended:

———————————-his rush grown tail
O’er his broad back bends in an ample arch;
On shoulders clean, upright and firm he stands;
His round cat foot, strait hams, and wide spread thighs,
And his low dropping chest, confess his speed.

The hare may be very justly considered as the swiftest quadruped in creation, which could not have been the case had she possessed the “round cat foot“— since all animals of the cat kind are by no means swift runners: they can take an enormous spring or bound, more in height, however, than in length : but the impulse, in this case, is received from the hind quarters, which are so formed that these creatures place their hind legs completely under their body, and spring, as it were, all the way from the hock to the foot.

The foot of a dog seems to be equivalent to the fetlock or pastern of a horse, as far as relates to speed; and the comparison might be variously multiplied were it necessary, since all animal motion is regulated upon mechanical principles.


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