The Hounds


History

When the pack was first established, it hunted with pure bred bloodhounds. But it soon found that, whilst their ability to follow the scent was without compare, they lacked the speed across open countryside and the enthusiasm to cope with natural obstacles. The current pack consists of bloodhounds crossbred to the Dumfriesshire Foxhound, a unique out-cross which has developed the ability of the pack to follow a natural human scent with voice, speed, agility and drive.

The earliest know ancestor of the bloodhound is most probably a Celtic beagle by the name of Seguier. In the ninth century in France and Belgium this breed of hound was called the Saint Hubert Hound. The name came from the monastery of Saint Hubert at Andain, where the robust Seguier had been bred for over 1000 years. According to legend, Bishop Hubert was a keen huntsman, and regularly hunted his hounds in the Ardennes. Buried on November 3rd, 825, in the monastery which later took his name, Saint Hubert became the patron saint of hunting. Each season the Coakham Bloodhounds endeavour to meet on this day, and the hounds are blessed before the day's hunting.

On the continent the pure line was gradually lost through cross breeding. In England, however, the bloodhound survived as a breed and thrived in the wild English/Scottish borderlands. That inhospitable and inaccessible terrain was inhabited by clans which were constantly engaged in bitter disputes and feuds, protecting their property from rival clans, poachers and cattle thieves. All the clans made good use of the robust, strong and indefatigable descendants of the Seguiers. The number and importance of these bloodhounds was such that a special tax was levied and used for the upkeep of the packs. Some of these hounds usually worked on a leash, 1.5 fathoms long and made from horse hide, and were known as Lyme or Lyamhounds.

Other hounds which required more space in which to track the human scent were called Sleuthhounds. These hounds gained a reputation for always getting their man, and when the pack was put on the scent of a wounded person leaving a trail of blood, it was only a matter of time before they were caught, which is how they eventually became known as bloodhounds.

200 year on, the enthusiasm with which the hounds jump fences and cross rivers in pursuit of the scent often makes new followers fear for the physical well being of the human quarry. But these days, when they are finally caught, the most they succumb to is chest high muddy paws and big slobbery licks.