Hound Trailing- Kirkstone

Wednesday the 13th July – Location: Kirkstone Pass, Hound Trailing

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Hound Trailing is Cumbria’s oldest and popular pastime, it certainly has a community feel about it. Hound Trailing season is from April – October. Hound trails can take place up to 12 times a week throughout Cumbria. Trails can also be seen at most agricultural shows and sports meetings in the area such as Ambleside Sports. The HTA (Hound Trailing Association) was formed under the direction of Robert Jefferson in 1906. All Hounds are registered with the Hound Trailing Association with each given a Registration Number, no hound can enter a race without being registered.

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Its a spectacular scene going to the Kirkstone Hound Trail as its one of the higher trails with beautiful surrounding views and in particular it was a glorious night for it. Driving along up to the spot you see an array of 4×4’s, cars, jeeps all lined up in a field close to the starting/ending points. As well as sign posts warning that hounds may be crossing the road, a sign that your not too far away!

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The races can be on moorland and fields with the hounds following a trail of a mixture of paraffin and aniseed. The ‘Trailers’ (the two people who lay out the trail for the hounds) carry a rag each with the mixture and go to a halfway point and then one walks to the finish and one walks to the start to create the trail. The Senior trailers walk for about 1 an a half hours each, so a total of 3 hours. The Puppy trailers walk for about 1 hour each. Margaret (the Secretary) and the others reckon an hour’s walking for a man is equal to 10 minutes’ running for a hound! Incredible right!?

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The hounds themselves are descendants of fox hounds, especially bred for their speed and stamina along with their ability to navigate through Lakeland fells and terrain. On the day there are various classes the hounds can be entered in based on there levels of ability such as Pups.

The order of the classes for this particular night went as followed:

  • Hounds (Seniors)
  • Pups
  • Open Non-Winners
  • All-In

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What this means:

  • Hounds means open to all hounds
  • Pups means open to all pups born in 2015, mostly who are 1 year old or thereabouts 
  • Open Non-Winners  means any age hound which has never won a trail. Once they win this particular race they are out of this class after. 
  • All-In means open to any hound or pup of any ability – this is a training race designed for hounds which have been off injured and need a practice.

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On the evening their was 150 people attended, which I thought was a great turnout. With 83 Hounds taking part in the races. The Hounds are usually fed a light meal the day before a trail, and run on empty making it extra rewarding for them to get their bucket of food at the finish line.

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 The Hounds can travel at speeds of 15 and 20 miles an hour, depending on the weather and the type of ground -fell trails are slower, fields are faster. No wonder it makes it hard to capture in camera at times! 

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At the age of 8/9 months pups undergo training. Some trainers like their pups to of show an interest in hunting before this such as a rabbit. Early lessons involve one handler holding the pup, with somebody else showing food, walking away dragging the aniseed rag, and then calling the pup. Very soon, the pup learns that aniseed leads to food, and the hunting instinct takes over. The pup no longer needs to see somebody walking away – its ready to go as soon as it gets wind of the scent.

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Luckily most Hounds will be quite single minded and simply follow the scent which is a good thing as their are increasing distractions that can sometimes interfere such as fox scents, walkers maybe even mountain bikers. However unfortunately at this particular event three Hounds decided to go off hunting for a fox in a dip near some woodland which caused concern and is quite the effort in getting them back!

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At the near end of a race, the owners of the hounds in the race will be standing in a line with binoculars in hand watching closely where there hound is placed in the race, as they get nearer they start shouting and cheering, calling out the hounds names and blowing whistles. All to attract the hound to them and once they cross its a fast paced move to get the right hound and a lead quickly paced on them, and a nice reward of some food for the hound.

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The Results:

Hounds: 1, Galemire Grace; 2, Endure; 3, Overwater Arnie; 4, Huntsman’s Jewel; 5, Marli; 6, Lady Bethan. 27 ran, time 29.30

Pups: 1, Jenny’s Aura; 2, Canny Mover; 3, Overwater Roger; 4, Sweet Harmony; 5, Kenmore; 6, Manna. 11 ran, time 20.37

Open Non-Winners: 1, Summer Rose; 2, Buble; 3, Spring Rose; 4, Accolade; 5, Tempress; 6, Adventure. 15 ran, time 22.42

All-In: 1, Jazz Band; 2, Explore; 3, Highness; 4, Flawless; 5, Bedazzled; 6, Cartier. 30 ran, time 20.09

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To be named a “Champion” the hound must of collected the most 1st place tickets. Which is quite a task in the highly competitive sport based on the dogs agility and athletic ability. I learned that a champions pup can sell for £300 but those who are not a champions pup wouldn’t get anywhere near as much as a hound isn’t a pedigree breed. And there is no way of telling exactly if a pup will be a champion too!  

Joint top seniors at the moment are Overwater Arnie and Thorn Dancer with 8 wins each. Top Puppy is Jenny’s Aura with 14 wins!

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I really learned a lot about the sport, watching & talking to the people who live and breathe the sport. Its great to see such passion and such a community sport that is still thriving today here in Cumbria. I recommend if you haven’t been to a hound trail…you should! 

Learn More here – http://www.houndtrailing.org.uk

With Thanks to Margaret, Barry, Steve, in particular for your help and knowledge of the sport – on the night.
Louise Thompson – www.louisethompsonphotography.com                                                                                            Pet Photography, Weddings, Family Portraits and more…

 

 

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