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Boxing Day Hunts
Those of us who have cats may think that Boxing Day, December 26, is named as such because of all the opened Christmas present boxes your cats get into, or perhaps because by the day after Christmas the children have become bored playing with the toys that Santa brought and start playing with the boxes these toys came in. Not so!
Boxing Day is a traditional British holiday that is celebrated on December 26th. It is a time when tradesmen such as butchers and bakers received gift boxes from the “Lord of the Manor.” That was in the days when the aristocrats never actually came in contact with those who provided their lifestyle. The world is much more egalitarian these days, but Boxing Day is still a great day to go hunting on horseback.
December 26th is also the Feast Day of Saint Stephen, the patron saint of horses, which is why Boxing Day has come to be associated with horse racing and fox hunting. Many hunts in the U.S. schedule Boxing Day Hunts on their regular fixture.
The end of December comes at the beginning of mating season for foxes and coyotes, and the runs can be terrific! The male foxes and coyotes leave their home territory seeking a mate. In the process they mark trees and shrubs, leaving a lot of scent in order to attract females. The hounds pick up the scent, “speak to the line,” and all of the hound and horseback rider activity gets the fox or coyote moving. This, in turn, leaves more scent, which excites the hounds even more and the crescendo builds to a great run! Quite often the visiting fox or coyote will circle a few times and then head to his home territory where he knows his way around. When this happens, especially with coyotes, the runs can be fast enough for the hounds to lose him. But if the scenting is particularly good, the hounds will stick with him, sometimes running out of the hunt’s territory. Although there is never a guarantee of a great hunt on any particular day, every foxhunter loves a day of riding and sport on Boxing Day. They also get to show off those new boots, flask, or bridle that they got for Christmas.
December 26, 2019 was particularly warm in the mid-south, which made for poor scenting conditions in some places. Nevertheless, several hunts had a great day of sport and one even got to play with a river otter. The following are accounts of Boxing Day 2019 hunts in the mid-south.
Cedar Knob Hounds
By Claire Pinney, Kennel Huntsman
Cedar Knob Hounds hunt several fixtures near Lynnville, Tennessee. Here is the account of their Boxing Day Hunt.
Boxing Day 2019 was one for the books! Hounds were cast from Byrd’s barn at 1 p.m. We hunted across Jim Teed’s field and down through Wilkerson’s before crossing the round on Andrew’s New Barn. We hunted up behind Connie Parish and across onto Dan Greer’s. Hounds worked across to coyote knob and continually drew well. Still, nada.
We drew back through the fields to Ironhorse Farm and hunted the valley flats back to Blue Creek Road before heading up the overlook and dropping into the valley between Overlook Trail and Coleman’s Ridge. Here Dallas began to open and hounds honored him. They ran towards the Happy Hour Lake and veered up towards Overlook Trail.
Here at the Happy Hour Highway, Mason viewed a brace of coyotes. Hounds were running the line and I ran to catch up with the pack. They crossed Happy Hour Highway and ran up to Karen Hall’s cow pasture. They quickly crossed the pasture and ran across Greene’s Ridge before dropping down towards Holt’s and blasting across to Coyote Knob, where our pilot made a complete lap around the knob before crossing Richland Creek and heading back to Ironhorse Farm. He ran through Ironhorse towards Harrell Ridge and then turned back into Coleman’s. Here hounds and horses were “cooked,” so it was decided to lift hounds and call it a day.
Hounds rode home in “Marty the Houndmobile” and horses were hacked slowly in. Rick had lost three of four shoes, but good ole Finn is tough and he made it back in one piece! Hounds were all in by 5:30 p.m., after trekking up to 20 miles in some cases, and a top speed reached of 28.4 mph by Neville the Wonder Horse during the run.
By Leilani Gray, First Whipper-In
Hillsboro Hounds hunt several adjacent fixtures in the Lynnville, Tennessee area. Here is a brief account of their Boxing
We met at Joint Master Michael Lindley’s Far Corner Farm at 8:30 am. Twenty-five mounted riders, including two young juniors, followed three staff as hounds were cast into the ditch line behind the Lindley’s barn and hunted north. After fifteen minutes the hounds struck and circled, while two bobcats were viewed. After putting the first to ground in a brush pile, hounds were taken to the second view. Although the line was cold, hounds found it and were in pursuit for over thirty minutes on a long running bobcat that managed to lose the hounds in a strip of briars on Joint Master Hill McAlister’s Time Out Farm. Hounds then found a coyote in the middle of Joint Master Orrin Ingram’s cattle farm, ran it to the most northwestern boundary of the country, and then were picked up. After hunting back to the east, hounds struck a third bobcat that was later viewed by a truck whip crossing Allen Murray Road. This bobcat fled to the west and went to ground in a brush pile. All 22½ couple of hounds were on and everyone hacked in for a lovely tailgate hunt breakfast.
Happy New Year to all!
Longreen Fox Hounds
By Susan Walker, MFH and Huntsman
Boxing Day hunt 2019 was held at Birdlands Plantation near Como, Mississippi, with 20 riders including several guests attending. Five couple (10) hounds were cast at 11:00 a.m. in a misty rain, and temperatures reached 68° F before the end of the hunt.
Huntsman Susan Walker hunted the pines along Park Place north to the Butterbowl Ditch. She received a report from Park Place that there were over 20 deer crossing heading west. The hounds quietly worked north, but still no action, so she pulled them east to the Hardwood Fingers, up into the Twin Lake covert, and back and forth. On the second swing the hounds burst into full cry in the hardwoods. Allison Crews identified the quarry and Tally-ho’d – an Otter! The otter made it to the edge of the ditch where two hounds, probably Leaf and Nelly, rolled it over. It escaped and hit the water under a birch tree root ball. After several more casts by tenacious hounds to prove it didn't move on, the hounds willingly came back to Susan to continue the hunt.
Field Master Allison Crews commented: “I wasn’t quick enough on the draw to film the great otter chase. But, oh, what a sight it was to see that tough fellow whip the pack and send them packing before he dived back into his home under a root ball in the creek. River otters are a lot tougher than they look and this big fellow lives for a possible chase another day. Excellent day!”
Susan said that the pack worked hard, but there was no coyote afoot that day, but lots of deer. New riders and some green horses had a great day for their education on the hunt field. They got to traverse several ditches, stood quietly, walked and trotted. Green riders and horses got to see and hear hounds in full cry without having to gallop.
After the hunt, riders enjoyed a good time visiting during the tailgate hunt breakfast by the lake. Everyone really appreciated land owners Jake and Harriet McFadden for the opportunity to ride at Birdlands.
Tennessee Valley Hunt
Tennessee Valley Hunt hosted its annual Boxing Day Hunt and Children’s Meet, Thursday December 26, 2019 at Riverplains Farm near Strawberry Plains, Tennessee.
Huntsman Ryan Johnsey commented about the day’s activity: “It was a fun day, although well over 65°F. We had nearly two hours of solid work from our very young pack. This was before our pilot rocketed down the Holston River. Thank you everyone for a great Boxing Day!”
Sarah McCoin commented: “Excellent Boxing Day! Hounds ran two plus coyotes!”
Sarah continued with notes about its history. “This history is very interesting. The December 26 foxhunt dates at least to the early 1600s, when it was mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ (1633-1703) Diary. Boxing Day Hunt is a tradition celebrated by foxhunts around the world. As part of that tradition, many members of the hunt give gifts to the huntsman and professional staff to show their appreciation for the hard work and good sport shown throughout the year.”
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