The Cheshire Hunt

Photos by Jim Graham

Riding to Hounds originated in England in the late of the 17th century as a method of controlling the fox population which endangered poultry farmers. By the early 19th century the sport, consisting of finding a fox and hunting it on horseback using a pack of hounds trained to follow its scent, had evolved into a ritual for the British gentry with a season of its own running from the first Monday in November until the following April.

While the season is short, the hunt culture is a rich one full of ceremony and tradition and it has become for some, both in England and in parts of America, a way of life. In Europe, fox-hunting has met with increasing opposition from animal-rights activists and in Britain groups like the Hunt Saboteurs make it a practice to disrupt the goings on. Such is not yet the case in Pennsylvania where the hunt has a rhythm of its own, and the people who follow it have in some cases been bred to it just like the hounds and horses that make up the sights, sounds and texture of the sport.

The photos that follows are from a photo essay that focuses on the master of the Unionville, Pennsylvania hunt, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum's. The scenes are of her everyday life and the life of her pack of hounds.

Hannum's grandfather, father and stepfather all had a pack of hounds and according to anyone who knows her there was little doubt that she would have a pack of her own. It just so happens that her pack is possibly the only purebred British pack in America. If indeed it is, the hounds can be traced back 50 to 60 generations to 1738 when the first English foxhounds were brought to the colonies. The breed traces its roots back to the staghound, the beagle and the southern (old English) hound. They are not good housepets. The live for one hunt foxes. The photographer who took the pictures, assured us however, that the dogs do not kill the fox. . .not in America. We can't vouch for that, but we can see from the photos that they do indeed run after them and relish the hunt. Kill or not, it's their way of life, their purpose for living. And they are not alone in that. . .not in hunt country Pennsylvania.

The Cheshire Hunt
photos by Jim Graham

Some Fox Hunting Links Hunting: The Facts about fox hunting in Britain including the cruelty to animals issues and the like. Website by the British Field Sport Society
Hunting the Hunters: The Bloody Truth About Fox Hunting
Fox Hunting in Mississippi: A Tradition All Their Own
Fox hunting vacations in Ireland where the hunts are legendary.
Hunt Saboteurs Association Tactics Book - Foxhunting Everything you need to know about fox hunting from rules, to tactics to useful tips and hints for sabotaging the hunt. Another view of the sport.

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