A seminal event in the history of foxhunting in North America was the Grafton-Middlesex Foxhound Match, which took place in the Piedmont Valley of Virginia in 1905. The two protagonists in this match are among twenty-seven great North American huntsmen or Masters of Foxhounds who carried the horn recognized in the Museum’s Huntsmen’s Room.
These two gentlemen had an immeasurable impact on the sport of foxhunting. They contributed significantly to the science of our sport. Their impact is evident today as we note that some forty-five active hunts in North America were established within twenty-five years after the match. Both were consummate foxhunters and ardent hound men. Accomplished writers of the sport, they chronicled their thoughts and research in periodicals and books throughout their lives. They both played a significant role in the formulation of the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
In 1905, these two men, representing opposing views on hounds, met in Virginia to settle their debate on which was the better hound; the American or the English foxhound.
Harry Worcester Smith, MFH of the Grafton Hunt in Massachusetts, championed the American hound and A. Henry Higginson, MFH of the Middlesex Hunt in Massachusetts, picked up the gauntlet and met Smith in Virginia with his pack of English hounds for twelve days of hunting to settle the debate. But was the debate ever really settled in their minds?
In 1928, Higginson with Julian I. Chamberlain, published Hunting in the United States and Canada. With regard to the outcome of the match, Higginson wrote the following:
“To cut a long story short, the result was the somewhat famous Foxhound Match…in which Mr. Smith’s homebred pack represented the American hound, and the Middlesex foxhounds- a draft pack at the time- the English. Neither pack killed and, although the Grafton Hounds were awarded the victory, neither Master altered his opinion as to the comparative merit of the two types.”
In 1943, two years before his death, Smith wrote an article on the impact of the Foxhound Match for Rider and Driver, a leading publication of that time. His closing line of the article stated:
“All this goes to prove that the English Hound in America is a thing of the past and that past began 38 years ago.
While the debate may not have been settled, we can not underestimate the impact these two men had on hound breeding and our sport in North America.
Robert N. Ferrer, MFH
The Caroline Hunt