13th annual Blessing of the Hounds nears
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 12:00 PM
Foxhunting has been around since the early 1700s and has been dubbed by some as, "the original extreme sport."
For those who indulge in the hunt, the sport has not changed much since its humble beginnings as those who partake in the action in today's age still dress the part wearing tall black leather boots, breeches, a black or red heavy or light hunting coat, shirt with a tie or stock tie and a protective hat.
Dressed to the T, hunters mount their horses, alongside their faithful hunting hounds in preparation for the ultimate chase.
As they gear up for the opening of formal season on Saturday, the Chula Homa Hunt Club in Canton asks those who are interested in engaging or being a spectator to this classic sport to attend the 13th annual Blessing of the Hounds at Tilda Bogue, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Crews.
"The formal season starts Saturday, and we have Father Kevin Slattery coming to bless the hounds, we have a breakfast that starts at 9 a.m. as well as a silent auction," said Co-Chair Allison Crews.
"The purpose of it is to mainly be outside and to enjoy a beautiful day for sport. It's not a kill sport, but it's more of a chase sport which makes it so magical for most of us who really love it," she said. "It's a fundraiser for the hunt and it's an event to try to raise money to feed all these hounds we have."
As an avid foxhunter himself, William Faulkner, also participated in the "original extreme sport," which makes the location of this year's opening more unique than in previous years.
Tilda Bogue, was used in the recent filming of Faulkner's classic novel, "As I Lay Dying," which makes the scenery the perfect backdrop for the 100 riders and 300 spectators from Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana who are expected to attend.
While the event will help raise money to feed and care for the hounds at Chula Homa, which is the only hunt with its kennels in Mississippi, spectators will have the chance to see this age-old sport authentically played out by those who enjoy the thrill of the chase.
"The opening hunt is more of a parade, and we will run some drags which is used to get the hounds to go where we want them so we can give the spectators an idea of kind of what it's like," Crews said. "So we're going to try to get the hounds to pick up a scent so that everyone can have a chance to see what it's like, because we certainly can't put everyone on a tally wagon and expect them to be able to go where the hounds can go."
According to crews while fox are the more predominant chase in the Canton area, because it is a more populated area, other hunt clubs partake in hunting coyotes.
Having both animals in Madison County doubles the chance of engaging in a fun and unpredictable chase when hunting with the hounds.
"Ninty percent of the time the hounds here are chasing coyote, the other 10 percent they are chasing fox.
"At my house where we're actually going to be in Canton there are a lot more foxes than coyotes because it's closer to civilization and there's a lot more foxes in the more populated areas like Canton," she said.
Crews said that the hunt itself typically lasts about three hours, but for those who attend as spectators it only lasts an hour and those concerned about the gruesomeness of hunting need not worry, as Crews emphasizes the sport is about the chase not the kill.
"You don't ever know which way the coyote is going to go, where it's going to go or even if you'll see one and they always get away we don't ever catch them so it's not like we're out there ripping animals apart we don't do that," she said. "We chase them, and a lot of people ask. 'What's the point?' well we don't have a beef with the coyotes and if we kill them all then we won't have any more to chase."
She also emphasized that there are safety in numbers as the hounds hunt in packs of 20 to 30, because the whole idea is to have the whole pack running the same coyote, which ensures the safety of all the animals involved.
Crews indicated that those who wish to participate in the actual hunt, horses can be rented from $50 to $100, but she also said that horses are not required. Also wearing the right clothes to participate is essential to honoring the tradition of the sport, which the participant would have to acquire as well along with a $40 capping fee for adult guests who wish to hunt and $20 for students.
"If it's your first time then we try to assign them with a rider who knows what they're doing and they will take them and show them how to do it even though we ride in our groups but it's also nice to have a guide alongside you that day," she said.
For more information on Saturday's Blessing of the Hounds, visit http://www.chulahomahunt.com/index.html or to find out more information on hunt clubs in the area visit http://www.mfha.org/home.html.