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Group: Hounds
Breed Family: Hound

No other breed is more closely associated with eighteenth century England than the Foxhound, with the popular perception of the country life of the landed gentry, rising early in the morning to go at dawn to their sporting pursuits.

Much has been written about the political and social significance of fox hunting during this period, and it did indeed play an important social function. The source of eighteenth century political power in England was with the landed gentry. As new money developed because of trade and increased industrialization, the newly rich sought to emulate the established order. One entree into this world was through association with the sport of fox hunting, a tradition which was a direct descendant of the royal privilege of stag hunting.

Foxhounds are mentioned during the reign of King John (1119-1216) and Edward I (1272-1307). A "fox-dog keeper to the king," is recorded hunting in the forest for foxes and in the reign of Edward II (1307-1327), foxhunting was to start early in September and end in the late February or March. As early as 1591, packs of Foxhounds were being kept for the exclusive use of foxhunting.

During the eighteenth century, many country squires had kept small packs of dogs which were used to hunt informally for hare or foxes. The aristocracy, who had inherited the royal privilege of hunting the stag, continued to do so, but as the century developed, so did demands on the land, and eventually stag hunting decreased in importance, with fox hunting taking over. The Duke of Rutland and the Marquis of Rockingham, for instance, changed to foxhunting in the 1750's. The growth in popularity of foxhunting was therefore due to two powerful influences in the mid-eighteenth century: from the landed gentry whose sport was becoming more structured, and from the aristocracy whose land was being depleted. Each group turned to foxhunting to replace their traditional hunts for larger game.


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