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    Auction Finds

    A seeming lifetime of fox hunting & horse shows

    The tables were an amalgan of fox hunting and horse-show paraphernalia, signs of a life lived among horses and stables and hounds.

    In one room, trophies told of equestrian shows, riders and winners, along with a diary that someone kept of shows attended during the early 20th century. One trophy dated to the 1930s West Virginia and another from 1960.

    Another room held a mix of fox-hunting and horse-show memorabilia: red fox sculptures and stuffed mounted heads, a jockey lamp, riding boots and stretchers, prints of dogs and foxes, a brass and copper horn.

    Mounted heads of red fox, apparently from a hunt.

    Mounted heads of foxes, apparently from a hunt.

    Was this one person’s collection or a combination? Whatever it was, there was a lot of the stuff. It was a life beyond mine, but I was curious about it.

    When I see these accumulations of people’s lives, I wonder if they ever thought their stuff would end up here. Did they ever believe that their treasures would be lying about on plain tables, pawned and picked over by dealers hoping to pay as little as they could for them?

    Several of the fox-hunting memorabilia items had multiple bids and would likely to bring in some sweet sums. I suspected that those items were more popular because of the controversial nature of the sport itself.

    Horse show trophies.

    Horse-show trophies.

    When I think of fox-hunting, the images of antique prints of men in red jackets a-stride steeds galloping after hounds comes to mind. In front of them is usually a poor small red fox running wildly for its life. I never thought of this as an American sport, but an old-fashioned British pastime for the upper crust. A popular sport at one time, but not now.

    Fox hunting got started in England in the 16th century as a formal institution and remained until that country and Wales banned it in 2004. It is still practiced to some degree in Northern Ireland, as well as outside Great Britain, including in the United States, Canada and Australia.

    The use of real foxes for the hunts has been banned, but not the activity. Hunters with their hounds can follow the urine trail of a fox during the hunts.

    A red fox sculpture.

    A red fox sculpture.

    The issue has reared again in this year’s parliamentary election in the United Kingdom where Prime Minister Theresa May is an advocate of the sport and would like to reopen the issue. Supporters of fox hunting see this as their chance to overturn the ban, while animal-rights advocates are working to keep it locked down. A poll in December found that 84 percent of the public opposes the practice.

    Fox hunting in the United States dates to the early 1700s, some years after the first hounds were brought over from England. George Washington was said to have kept a pack of hounds for hunts.

    There are still hunt clubs and hunts in many states, but the sport is executed differently from the British.

    A TV lap with bronze dog figures.

    A TV lap with bronze dog figures.

    In some cases in this country, coyotes are hunted, sometimes to keep them from raiding rural farms. The chase – not the kill – is the purpose of the sport, according to the Masters of Foxhounds Association and Foundation.

    If a red fox is chased, the hounds follow it until it has “gone to ground,” or found a hole to dive in for cover. The dogs bark at the hole and are rewarded. The fox lives for another day and another hunt. In England, the hounds pull the fox out of the hole and kills it.

    Philadelphia has a long history of fox hunting, too; in fact, the Quakers outlawed it in 1682 as a “rude” sport. Even so, hunters privately hunted for fox in other parts of the state and New Jersey. It began as a purely male sport but women later joined them. The invention of proper clothing, including the safety skirt in 1875, made riding more palatable for them.

    Riding gear.

    Riding gear.

    Just outside Philadelphia on 100 acres is the Radnor Hunt, which began in 1883 and bills itself as the oldest continuously active fox hunt in the country. The hunt is held three days a week each year from September to March, and the organization holds horse and car races, horse shows and other events. The hunt has always drawn some of the leading families in the area, starting with the earliest railroad barons, according to the group’s website.

    Here are some of the items from the auction:

    Cast iron and brass fox heads.

    Three cast iron and brass fox heads.

     

    A mounted bird, probably from another type of hunt.

    A mounted bird, probably from another type of hunt.

     

    Copper and brass fox-hunt horn.

    Copper and brass fox-hunt horn.

     

    Jockey lamp.

    Jockey lamp.

     

    Riding shoes and a variety of stretchers and shoe forms.

    Riding boots, and a variety of stretchers and shoe forms.

     

    Prints of red foxes and hounds.

    A whimsical print of a red fox looking at itself in a mirror while dressed as a hunter, along with a print of hounds.

     

     

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