March 23, 2017
Chula Homa Hunt Opening Meet
The Chula Homa Hunt hosted its Thirty-fourth annual Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds at the home of Mr. and Mrs. David McGowan on November 12, 2016 in Brandon, Mississippi. More than 100 riders and 300 spectators from Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana attended.
The original extreme sport, fox hunting has existed in North America since Colonial days and was enjoyed extensively by night hunters, farmers, and landed gentry. The earliest record of imported hounds was on June 30, 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived in Maryland with his family and pack. By the early 1700s, fox hunting was increasing rapidly.
The earliest surviving record of American fox hunting in the modern manner is for the pack instituted by Thomas, Sixth Lord Fairfax in 1747 in northern Virginia. Much of what little is recorded about early hunting comes from letters written by Lord Fairfax and the diaries of George Washington. Washington was an ardent fox hunter who owned his own pack of hounds. Washington's diaries are laced with frequent references to fox hunts. On one occasion while Congress was in session, hounds ran near the Capitol. Many congressmen ran outside to watch hounds and some jumped on their horses and joined the chase.
North American fox hunting has evolved its own distinct flavor, which is noticeably different from the British. North American fox hunting emphasizes the chase rather than the kill. Also, hounds predominately hunt coyote rather than foxes. The larger coyotes usually provide longer and faster runs than foxes.
Even in today's casual dress world, formal attire still stands for fox hunters. Black leather boots, breeches, heavy or light hunting coat, a shirt with a tie or stock tie and a protective hat are essential. Every hunt has two seasons - cub hunting when young hounds are introduced into the pack and the formal season. Opening Meet signals the beginning of the formal season. When the formal season opens the staff wears its livery, often red coats with white breeches and black boots with tan leather tops. Members wear black coats, buff breeches, and black boots. Most hunts allow gentlemen to wear red coats. Lady Masters and members of the staff also often wear red coats. Some ladies add to the elegance and ride sidesaddle. Mississippi's Chula Homa Hunt has several members who ride aside.
Hunting gear has changed little since fox hunting began and is based on practicality. Heavy boots and breeches protect riders from branches and brambles. The melton coats are almost waterproof. A stock tie, fastened with a plain gold safety pin, can serve as a bandage for man, hound, or horse in case of an accident.
Foxhunting continues to grow thanks to national efforts to encourage students and young adults to participate. Currently there are 167 organized clubs in North America and Canada, three of them hunting regularly in Mississippi. Chula Homa is the only hunt with its kennels in Mississippi. The others are in Alabama and Tennessee.
Galloping over the countryside on a fine horse flying his fences well is a thrill for anyone. And for those not wanting to move along quite so rapidly, just the sights and sounds of a huge pack of hounds in full cry stops the heart. Today's hunters have a special reward, permission to ride over private and public land, which still constitutes magnificent open spaces. No group of individuals is more aware of this privilege, nor is there a group more outspoken in their desire to protect quarry and preserve their environment. People from all walks of life and any age enjoy fox hunting. It is wonderful fun for the whole family that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Janice Clemons and Ginna McGowan co-chaired the event. Hunt festivities began with a catered breakfast and silent auction. Masters and staff then gathered the hounds for the Blessing and Stirrup Cup. Once the hounds were cast, spectators could follow on specially designated tally-ho wagons to experience the hunt.
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