Hunt still go­ing strong

Events to mark an­niver­sary

Hamilton Metro News - - Front Page - Ged Cann

The Waikato Hunt will cel­e­brate its 125 year an­niver­sary in April and with a week of events to mark the oc­ca­sion, the hunt is as strong as ever.

The founder and first mas­ter of the hunt was Harry Bul­lock­Web­ster, who, in 1878, brought seven har­rier hounds down from Auck­land.

Mr Bul­lock-Web­ster records in his di­ary the dif­fi­culty of procur­ing a pack, with the Paku­ranga Hunt hav­ing none to spare he man­aged to buy seven hounds for 16 pounds and a hunt­ing horn.

Life mem­ber and past mas­ter Jim Keyte said it gave the lo­cals a taste of hunt­ing.

Jim has been in­volved with the hunt since 1965 and said many of the tra­di­tions in­volved in the hunt were brought over from Eng­land, with a num­ber of the found­ing mem­bers be­ing im­mi­grants.

On spe­cial oc­ca­sions the riders still en­joy a stir­rup cup, a hot port-based drink to warm up and they still use the tra­di­tional hunt­ing stocks for neck pro­tec­tion, heavy coats to ward off the win­ter cold and high rid­ing boots.

One dif­fer­ence, how­ever, is that with­out any foxes to hunt, they chased hares.

“The hare doesn’t have bur­rows like a rabbit. They are good sport be­cause they keep in a rea­son­ably con­fined area, they have their own patch and don’t go out­side it a lot. They know the land and they can beat the hounds quite a lot by their own wily­ness.”

Jim said in his ex­pe­ri­ence

more hares get away than are caught, with the un­lucky usu­ally be­ing old or sick.

“The mas­ter is in charge of the hunt and ev­ery­one obeys what the mas­ter says. If you do some­thing wrong and the mas­ter growls at you you don’t ar­gue you just say ‘yes mas­ter,’ and get out of the way. Very English,” he said.

The hounds come in cou­ples, and the hunt of­ten takes place with as many as 15 cou­ples, or 30 in­di­vid­ual, hounds.

“From the end of March to the be­gin­ning of July we hunt two or three times aweek. On a Satur­day we will have some­where be­tween 80 and 100 riders and in the mid-week we would have 50-80,” Jim said.

“Waikato is re­ally strong, and has al­ways been blessed with re­ally good land own­ers who let us ride on their prop­er­ties.”

The Brown fam­ily were a pro­lific fam­ily in the early days and for 92 years led and nur­tured the hunt.

Tom Brown was the first in the line and took the hounds on to his prop­erty as hunts­man, a po­si­tion he held for 11 years.

He was suc­ceeded by his son, Wynn Brown, who be­came amaster in 1910 be­fore hand­ing the man­tle to his son Ned Brown in 1956, who also held the po­si­tion of hunts­man, mean­ing they led the hunt as well as car­ing for the dogs.

Tom Brown was the last son to take on the job of hunts­man, but never be­came the mas­ter.

“When Ned Brown gave it up the hounds moved from the Brown prop­erty and the hunt brought its own prop­erty just out of Cam­bridge,” Jim said.

The job of hunts­man is now a full­time role, with the cur­rent hunts­man Lau­ryn Robert­son liv­ing on the prop­erty since 1999.

Char­ac­ters that stand out in Jim’s mem­ory in­clude ex-rider Ly­onel Keyte, a com­pet­i­tive rider for whom no jump was too high.

“Be­ing a jockey he wasn’t very big and his horse stopped one day and he went over its head, got his coat caught on some barbed wire and he just hung there un­til we could get him down,” Jim said with a laugh.

“Tom Coles was an­other, when we hunted on Tom’s prop­erty all the stock was in yards, there wouldn’t be any out on the farm at all. But if he hunted on any­one else's prop­erty the hounds came first and if stock was in the way — well, he just went through them.

“He wasn’t greatly pop­u­lar for that,” Jim said.

The horses need to be good jumpers, and back in the day Jim said they were of­ten thor­ough­bred race horses who would com­pete in point-to­point races and even steeple chas­ing dur­ing the hunt­ing off-sea­son.

“One of the things the fol­low­ers like be­yond any­thing is get­ting out and see­ing the coun­try. When you’re out on the roads and you look be­yond the hills and think Iwon­der what’s be­hind that— a lot of the hunts peo­ple have seen what’s be­yond,” he said.

“It’s a great way to see the coun­try.”

Jim said there were crit­ics who said it was a blood sport, but said it was not the pri­or­ity of the fol­low­ers.

“It’s the thrill of the chase and watch­ing the hounds work. You have no com­pe­ti­tion out there, it’s just you and the horse. You can go fast and be up there with the hounds or go slow and just so­cialise at the back.”

Ju­bilee

The Waikato Hunt will be hold­ing events from April 24-30 to cel­e­brate their 125th ju­bilee.

Be­gin­ning on April 24, an open­ing cer­e­mony at the his­tor­i­cal ken­nels near Cam­bridge on Fen­cort Rd from 2-5pm will see amay­oral visit and the launch of an an­niver­sary book.

Ajoint hunt with King Coun­try Hunt will take place on April 26 at Ta­panui Sta­tion.

The Na­tional Hound Show will be held at Mys­tery Creek Polo Cen­tre on the Wed­nes­day with hounds from around the coun­try on show. This will be fol­lowed by a bar and food and per­for­mances from Cam­bridge singers Ash­leigh Cooper, Cooper’s Run and Michael Tip­ping.

April 29 will see the 125th Year Ball in the Bledis­loe Room of Mys­tery Creek Events Cen­tre.

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THE­mod­ern day Waikato Hunt

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HUNT founder Harry Bul­lock­Web­ster

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