Posts Tagged ‘staghounds’

the grosvenor hunt

This is probably George Stubbs’s most famous painting.

It is an old-fashioned English deer hunt with hounds, a sport that was largely replaced with mounted fox hunts.

This painting also goes a long way to describing what often happened at rural West Virginia foxhounds trials that my grandfather attended. It was not unusual for a large section of the dogs released to take off after a deer and kill it, while their sucker counterparts took off after a red fox that they’d never catch.

This painting done at the Grosvenor family estate called Eaton in Cheshire. The Grosvenors became one of the largest landowning families in England, and their current descendant, the 6th Duke of Westminster, is the richest British-born person.

Hunting in deer parks in the eighteenth century was a rich man’s game, but this was also the heyday of the poacher.  These wealthy landowners didn’t spend all their time on one estate, and they simply couldn’t police it all. The rural poor, whose families had often been driven off the land, poached deer for their own tables, and those with a more entrepreneurial bend would sell the venison to butchers. Indeed, at this time, there was as strong connection between butchers and poachers, who were essentially thriving in a black market economy.

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ontario deer dogs 1907

Photo courtesy of Nara U.   

Using dogs to hunt deer has always been very contentious in North America.

In the United States, the only states that currently allow the practice are in the old Confederacy.

And not all areas of those states allow it.

In North Carolina, for example, deer hounds are allowed in certain counties in the eastern part of the state, but it is both highly illegal and frowned upon in the western part of the state. The same goes for Virginia.

I believe the only Canadian province that still allows deer hunting with dogs is Ontario, though I stand to be corrected if I am wrong.

Using dogs to hunt deer was the most effective way to wipe them out, especially if the deer were running in heavy snow, which explains why it was frowned upon in the northern states and celebrated in the South.

The dogs that were used to hunt deer were sort of proto-coonhounds, beagles, and foxhounds.

These were the same sort of dogs that were used as “staghounds” and “buckhounds” in England.


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