Hunt still going strong
Events to mark anniversary
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.”
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.
THEmodern day Waikato Hunt
HUNT founder Harry BullockWebster