▲ IN THE PINK IN PETER­BOR­OUGH,

With its Royal Fox­hound Show, in­ter-hunt re­lay, show­ing classes and trade­stands, the Fes­ti­val of Hunt­ing is ven­ery’s per­fect sum­mer cel­e­bra­tion

The Field - - CONTENTS - WRIT­TEN BY sarah fitzpatrick

Those who pine for hounds in the sum­mer months, or are pre­oc­cu­pied with the busi­ness of breed­ing them, may be found tak­ing tea at puppy shows but the re­ally se­ri­ous busi­ness hap­pens at Peter­bor­ough. The first time I at­tended Peter­bor­ough Royal Fox­hound Show I found the sunny sight and sounds of hounds elec­trif­ing, a plea­sure pre­vi­ously re­stricted to joy­ful win­ter days spent hunt­ing. Em­i­nent Masters were grouped to­gether in se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion or throw­ing back bowler-hat­ted heads to laugh with friends; ladies in gar­den-party garb with straw hats and pearl chok­ers chat­ted dis­cretely while cast­ing dis­cern­ing eyes over the whole scene; the hounds lounged or paced in their ken­nels and, like their hunts­men, looked a lit­tle warm.

The Peter­bor­ough Royal Fox­hound Show So­ci­ety was founded in 1878 un­der the chair­man­ship of the Mar­quis of Huntly and with the Pa­tron­age of HRH The Prince of Wales; the first pres­i­dent was the then Earl Fitzwilliam. Hound breed­ing was a se­ri­ous busi­ness then, as now, and if a gentle­man owned a pack of hounds he would be in­ter­ested in im­prov­ing it through ju­di­cious breed­ing. Hound shows of­fer an op­por­tu­nity for prospec­tive stal­lion hounds to be viewed and as­sessed as well as for in­ter­ro­ga­tion of their Masters and hunts­men on the an­i­mal’s sport­ing cre­den­tials, the most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion in most cases.

The evo­lu­tion, growth and con­tin­ued suc­cess of Peter­bor­ough are a tes­ta­ment to how much it is cher­ished. This, how­ever, does not stand in the way of mod­erni­sa­tion and de­vel­op­ment. The suc­cess­ful mar­riage of these po­ten­tially con­flict­ing im­per­a­tives re­flects well on the com­mit­tee, East of Eng­land Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeremy Sta­ples, Katie Tot­ten­ham and Ge­orgie Fowle of show or­gan­iser Addo Events, and the hunt­ing world in gen­eral.

“Peter­bor­ough’s al­ways spe­cial and ev­ery year it seems to have grown,” Lord An­naly,

the so­ci­ety’s joint vice-chair­man, tells me. He has been in­volved since the mid-1970s, a steward since 1992 and has seen sig­nif­i­cant changes. Ini­tially part of the East of Eng­land Show, Peter­bor­ough was held over three days, each fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent hounds. “I en­joyed that very much,” Lord An­naly ad­mits, “but there prob­a­bly aren’t very many of us who had the time and the in­cli­na­tion.”

When the East of Eng­land Show chose to move its dates, Peter­bor­ough chose not to go with it (the sum­mer sea­son for hounds be­ing sur­pris­ingly busy). In­stead, it con­tracted the judg­ing of hounds to a sin­gle full day, which has got busier and busier.

When the Fes­ti­val of Hunt­ing was cre­ated in 2005 fol­low­ing the Hunt­ing Act, shar­ing the same day and venue as Peter­bor­ough at the East of Eng­land Show­ground, it in­tro­duced a com­mer­cial en­tity to the day and so be­gan a fine bal­anc­ing act. David Ral­ley-davies was in charge dur­ing the tran­si­tion and stresses that “it is key that the Fes­ti­val doesn’t en­gulf the Hound Show”. How­ever, he be­lieves Peter­bor­ough’s “roots run so deep that that could never hap­pen” and sees its suc­cess in the hound show’s “his­toric val­ues [be­ing] pre­served through a mod­ern ap­proach, tra­di­tions such as the vice-pres­i­dent’s seat­ing pat­tern”, where key po­si­tions around the main ring were passed down the gen­er­a­tions, re­mained as the Fes­ti­val de­vel­oped, so through con­ti­nu­ity noth­ing scared the horses. “It is re­ally nice

‘Peter­bor­ough’s al­ways spe­cial and ev­ery year it seems to have grown’

that in 50 years’ time [the hound show] will be run along the same lines… hounds will be in the same ken­nels.” De­tails that might oth­er­wise be sub­sumed by com­mer­cial con­sid­er­a­tions are pre­served and the “com­radery and re­spect within the group makes it all work”.

It is a fact uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged that “the ’oss loves the ’ound”, so only fit­ting for those of us, like Jor­rocks, who “loves both” that the Fes­ti­val of Hunt­ing has em­braced the equestrian side of the chase. In 2005, the knock-out in­ter-hunt re­lay race was in­tro­duced, run over two mir­rored cour­ses of rus­tic poles in a side arena, each team mem­ber pass­ing a hunt­ing whip to the next; it is nail-bit­ing stuff.

In the early days, some of the hunters seemed con­fused to have been called back from their sum­mer hol­i­day, pol­ished up and in­vited to ca­reer around a ring; oth­ers found be­ing able to hear hounds while con­fined to an area roped-off with silly poles rather both­er­some. It was am­a­teur but great fun. Since then, the “friendly ri­valry” be­tween hunts has raised the com­pe­ti­tion’s game

enor­mously but it is still an event for hunters. All the horses must hunt reg­u­larly and the race is run in hunt­ing kit (rat­catcher if it’s re­ally hot). Like the hunt­ing field in mi­cro­cosm, each team con­sists of a range of ages and weights. There is also a prize for the best-turned-out team, the Fitzwilliam seem­ing to have that sewn up, hav­ing won or been placed for the past few years. In ad­di­tion, Horse of the Year Show qual­i­fiers will be held this year, in­clud­ing work­ing hunters, rid­den hunters and work­ing hunter ponies, all classes hotly con­tested. The itin­er­ary for 2017 cer­tainly demonstrates that the event has truly be­come a Fes­ti­val of Hunt­ing.

In ad­di­tion to the hounds, horses and ter­ri­ers, there are trade­stands of­fer­ing all the kit es­sen­tials, from boots and stocks to Quorn hunts­man Peter Collins’ new safety hats, all gath­ered around the hound rings so it is easy to shop with­out miss­ing the ac­tion. As Rally-davies con­firms, “Some­one new to hunt­ing would be amazed to see how much is in­volved in hunt­ing and Peter­bor­ough is the one place you can go to do that, a on­estop shop to get kit­ted out for hunt­ing.”

Trade­stands are care­fully cho­sen, even as the show grows, to en­sure they are a good fit. Be­tween classes you can be fit­ted for new Ho­race Bat­ten or Davies boots and tra­di­tional breeches ready for next sea­son. This ap­proach seems to work for ev­ery­one, as con­firmed by long-term ex­hibitor Daniel Crane. He be­lieves the Fes­ti­val “re­mains fo­cused on the time­less joy of hounds and hunt­ing, up­hold­ing the stan­dards of sport that we should all aim to achieve. It’s a plea­sure to be part of.”

The show has found a sym­pa­thetic spon­sor in fi­nan­cial ser­vices provider Lycetts, which acts for the MFHA and has an ex­ten­sive rural client base. “Be­ing at Peter­bor­ough is im­por­tant for us as it en­ables our staff to meet and engage with as many clients, prospec­tive clients, friends and con­tacts from the world of hunt­ing as pos­si­ble – it is the sum­mer show­piece for hounds and for hunt­ing peo­ple to gather,” be­lieves CEO An­gus Keate. “We be­lieve it im­por­tant to sup­port that sec­tion of the rural com­mu­nity, with which we have a such a great affin­ity.”

The Fes­ti­val ‘re­mains fo­cused on the time­less joy of hounds and hunt­ing’

‘The rosettes do get spread around a bit now,’ says Sir Philip Nay­lor-ley­land

De­spite all the ad­di­tional at­trac­tions, this, the most im­por­tant hound show in the world, is not just a beauty pageant. Ev­ery en­tered hound has hunted and proved its worth as part of a work­ing pack be­fore get­ting a good wash and brush-up for the show. By the time a hound reaches Peter­bor­ough, the pin­na­cle of hound show ap­pear­ances, it is un­likely to be a novice in the ring. “You sel­dom see a shy hound there,” Henry Berke­ley – Master of the Berke­ley who has judged at the fes­ti­val – tells me, so it re­ally is the best op­por­tu­nity to en­joy “the nicest hounds to look at” in all their glory.

The judges are ex­pe­ri­enced, too, as chair­man Sir Philip Nay­lor-ley­land con­firms. “We choose even more ex­pe­ri­enced judges for the bitches… [they are] harder to judge be­cause they tend to be more uni­form and bet­ter qual­ity.” Lord An­naly agrees that “the whole stan­dard is very high, it takes quite a lot of judg­ing”. Berke­ley jokes that the bas­setts are the hardest to judge, “that’s when you know you’re out of your depth, their legs are shorter”. His in­ter­est is se­ri­ous, how­ever, and he agrees that the “stan­dard of hound is go­ing up” while cau­tion­ing against “the same stal­lion hounds [be­ing used]” and “shrink­ing the gene pool”.

Be­ing alert to po­ten­tial prob­lems be­fore they arise is among the ben­e­fits of hounds work­ing for a liv­ing – hand­some is as hand­some does here. But hand­some has been do­ing well and “the rosettes do get spread around a bit now”, re­ports Nay­lor-ley­land. “There are plenty of breed­ers out there who are suc­ceed­ing in breed­ing great hounds.” But cer­tain packs do tend to get con­sis­tent re­sults. “The big­ger packs have more hounds in ken­nel, more to breed from and more to choose from,” which chimes with Lord An­naly’s ad­vice that “the cham­pion hound of­ten comes from the two-cou­ple class, a class that many packs would have dif­fi­culty find­ing a level, well-matched two cou­ple of hounds to en­ter”.

Prior to be­ing tempted by all there is to en­joy once in­side the gate, there is no need

to worry about what to wear on the way in. “Peo­ple aren’t barred from com­ing in in ca­sual clothes,” Lord An­naly re­as­sures. “It has be­come more ca­sual, re­flect­ing what has hap­pened in the hunt­ing field.”

“Even some of the judges aren’t wear­ing stiff col­lars any more,” says Berke­ley. So it’s fine to dress com­fort­ably, al­though you will still see the hounds and their con­nec­tions well turned out, with suits and bowlers or tea dresses and straw hats on those in the know around the cov­ered mod­ern fox­hound ring.

Peter­bor­ough has been “sexed up re­ally well”, Berke­ley adds. “It ap­peals to ev­ery­one now, it’s a jolly place to be.” It’s cer­tainly a chance to meet far-flung hunt­ing friends in the sum­mer, catch up on the gos­sip and you never know who you might meet. Hav­ing spot­ted Ghost­busters ac­tor Dan Aykroyd in the crowd one year, it was al­most im­pos­si­ble to con­cen­trate on the hounds.

Above: judge Adam Waugh MFH, steward Tom Nay­lor-ley­land and judge Charles Framp­ton MFH, 2016. Above left: an Old English class

Left: the Fitzwilliam leav­ing the arena Cen­tre from top: the fiercely com­pet­i­tive in­ter-hunt re­lay; the Royal Ar­tillery wait to go in; young Jack Higgs with a Trin­ity Foot Bea­gle

Above: the VWH win­ning the cou­ples class

Above left: Matthew Higgs judg­ing the Bea­gles class Be­low left: the Grove & Ruf­ford win­ning the Dog Hound Cham­pi­onship (Jane Straw­son MFH, judge Martin Scott and hunts­man Paul Larby)

Above: pat­terdales com­pete in the Fell Ter­ri­ers class

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