By Norman Fine, Foxhunting Life
March 4, 2015
The venerable Virginia Foxhound Club—the team that brings you the Virginia Foxhound Show each year—is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary. It seems timely to look back, evaluate the importance of hound shows in the overall scheme of foxhunting, and convince those with a passion for the sport that their membership in the Virginia Foxhound Club, no matter where in North America they hunt the fox or the coyote, is an investment that will benefit all fox hunters and their hunts.
The Virginia Foxhound Show, the largest hound show in the world, brings foxhounds of all types and all strains to the flags for viewing, comparing, and judging. Whether a Master or huntsman is seeking certain bloodlines, or an outcross to introduce hybrid vigor to the gene pool within his kennels, he sees such hounds at Virginia. And he has the opportunity to socialize and chat, in a magnificent setting, about the merits and traits of the canine objects of his desire. With your support, the best matings may continue to be made in Heaven, but they’ll be arranged in Virginia!
Winners at Virginia provide a standard against which all breeding efforts in North America can be compared, as does the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show in England. I’ll always remember the first words uttered by C. Martin Wood III, MFH, after he finished judging hounds at Peterborough. Wood, whose own hounds are predominantly English, was the first American ever invited to judge at that most prestigious of all hound shows in England. I walked into the ring to be the first to interview him; I wanted to record his immediate impressions.
“The first thing I’ll do when I get home,” said Wood, “is go to the kennel, pull all my hounds out, and look at each one in the light of the standards I’ve seen here.”
As at Peterborough, when a hunt wins a ribbon at Virginia, it becomes a landmark in that hunt’s history. The officers and directors of the Virginia Foxhound Club would like to tell you about the interesting history of their last sixty years, some of the larger-than-life characters that defined the Virginia Foxhound Show, and about the Club’s renewed desire to provide the finest venue and opportunity for every Master, huntsman, and foxhunter in North America to see the best foxhounds and share in the camaraderie of our sport.
In 1934, William duPont, Jr., president of the now-defunct American Foxhound Club (and great-grandson of the founder of the duPont Company), was asked by his sister, Marion duPont Scott (wife of actor Randolph Scott), to seek the sanctioning of a hound show in Virginia. Mrs. Scott offered her Montpelier estate (built by President James Madison) as a venue, and the show, which offered a bench show as well as field trial classes for mostly American hounds, ran for seven years under the auspices of the American Foxhound Club until the outbreak of World War II.
In 1954, some years after the war ended, George Cole Scott, MFH of the Deep Run Hunt near Richmond, Virginia, discussed a revival of the Virginia Foxhound Show with Marion duPont Scott and sporting artist Jean (Bowman) Mackay-Smith. The following January, at the Masters of Foxhounds Association Annual Meeting in New York, the new Virginia Foxhound Club was formed. Fletcher Harper, MFH, Orange County Hunt, was elected chairman and George Cole Scott, secretary-treasurer of the Club. The Constitution and By-Laws which had been drawn up by attorney James W. (Jim Bill) Fletcher, MFH of the Rappahannock Hunt were ratified, the Virginia Foxhound Club was launched, and the first Virginia Foxhound Show under the new auspices was held, once again at Montpelier, on the last weekend of August.
When the Bryn Mawr Hound Show decided, in 1961, to move their show date from late summer to spring, so as not to conflict with the Canadian hunts’ cubhunting seasons, the Virginia show followed suit. Since Mrs. DuPont’s stables were filled with broodmares and foals in the spring, the Virginia Foxhound Show moved to the Upperville Horse Show grounds through the kindness of Mrs. A.C. Randolph, MFH, Piedmont Fox Hounds. Mrs. Randolph provided luncheon for exhibitors and spectators, and the show attracted the largest crowds ever for its three years in Upperville. However, in the aftermath of an incident involving the Piedmont hounds in the Pack Class, Mrs. Randolph withdrew her invitation, and the Virginia Foxhound Show moved to Glenwood Park in Middleburg.
In 1965, William W. Brainard, Jr., MFH, Old Dominion Hounds, was elected chairman of the hound show committee, and for the next two years the show was held at his Glenara estate near Marshall. Up until that time, the Virginia show remained limited to American hounds, but Brainard played a major role in expanding the show to accommodate English and Crossbred hounds starting in the year of his election. By 1967, entries were sufficient to fill separate divisions for English and Crossbred hounds.
At the MFHA Annual Meeting in January, 1966, Brainard was elected chairman of the Virginia Foxhound Club as well, which position he held until 1985. In 1970, the Virginia Foxhound Show established a permanent home at Oatlands near Leesburg. C. Warren Harrover, MFH, Bull Run Hunt, took over as show chairman from Brainard and began planning the new kennel facilities and an expanded show.
The first Virginia Foxhound Show Seminar was held at Oatlands on May 29, 1971. The topic was “Hunting the Fox,” and the panel included Captain R.E. Wallace, MFH, Heythrop Foxhounds (UK) and president of the Masters of Foxhounds Association in England and Thady Ryan, MFH, Scarteen (IRE). The panel discussions were published in a pamphlet, the first of a series, by the Virginia Foxhound Club.
The Virginia Foxhound Show was moved to its present location at Morven Park in 1996. Presidents of the Virginia Foxhound Club succeeding Chairman Brainard are (1986–1999) Coleman Perrin, MFH, Deep Run Hunt; (1999–2007) James L. Young, MFH, Orange County Hunt; and (2007–present) Mrs. Richard K. Jones.
“While history is important, the future is more important,” says Virginia Foxhound Show Co-Chairman Robert N. Ferrer, Jr., MFH, Caroline Hunt. “The Virginia Foxhound Show is the venue to bring fox hunters together.”
Any hunt—registered or non-registered…whether in Virginia, Vermont, Ontario, or California…professionally staffed or amateur-staffed—need only to look at the pedigrees of hounds in their own kennels to recognize the contribution to their sport made by the principal breeding kennels across North America. These are the kennels that maintain the standards of breeding, that preserve through tail-male and tail-female bloodlines the genes of proven and prepotent foxhounds of the past, and whose bloodlines course through hounds in all hunts across North America. The success of all sanctioned hound shows is a vital ingredient to the level of sport for every hunt. The Virginia Foxhound Show—the largest of all the sanctioned shows—asks for your support, as a member, to improve the fulfillment of its mission.
The officers of the Virginia Foxhound Show are looking to the future of their show and to the future of foxhunting.
“I want Virginians to feel the need to be hosts, as we do in our homes, to exhibitors at our show,” says Bob Ferrer, “and I want our show to be the quality they expect from our sport. Hound shows are not solely about hounds but about people, and the chance for fox hunters to gather and share camaraderie and fellowship,” he adds.
If you would like to help support the Virginia Foxhound Club with your membership, please make your check in the amount of $35.00 ($350.00 for Life Membership) payable to the Virginia Foxhound Club and mail to: Virginia Foxhound Club, c/o Ms. Elizabeth Smith, 7237 Leeds Manor Road, Marshall, VA 20115.
Members are invited to the Virginia Foxhound Club Annual Meeting and luncheon with guest speakers in February each year. Members also receive invitations to the dinner at the hound show.