The Wilton Hunt Hounds
The Wilton have a mixed pack of about 38 couple of hounds (hounds are always counted in couples).
The pack is bred from the modern English Fox hound which originated from outcrosses from the Welsh Fox Hound.
We are currently breeding hounds specifically for their hunting abilities. Mark Hankinson, our ex Master/Huntsman, and James Marshall and Anya Pardoe, through watching hounds working, decide which should be used for breeding. Amongst the attributes they look for are a solid and sound conformation that will lend itself to longevity of service and an ability to cope with the flinty country. They also need serious athleticism in order to jump the many wire fences we have in parts of our country. One could talk at length about breeding plans and female tail lines, but in short their primary aim would be to continue to breed a level pack of well made hounds which are likely to go the fastest and the furthest for the longest.
The hounds scenting abilities are obviously one of the most important things which they look for.
Some of our hounds also make the trips to the Hound Shows – Ardingly, Builth and Peterborough. Packs will come from a wide area to show their hounds at these shows, and they are well worth a visit. It gives you an idea of what a hound should look like, you will see a lot of interesting people and there will be lots of drink and gossip! It is always thrilling to see our hounds awarded rosettes and cups for their conformational merit, especially when competing against packs that breed many more litters than our smaller kennel.
We breed two to three litters a season and the earlier in the year they can be whelped, the better.
Sometimes we use stallion hounds of our own, however we also select stallion hounds from other packs. Over the last few years we have used Bicester Daystar ‘03, Duke of Beaufort Halifax ‘06, Duke of Beaufort Goshawk ’06 , Duke of Beaufort Gaddesby ’07 and VWH Salisbury ’08.
Puppies are sent “out to walk” at about eight weeks after they have been weaned and inoculated. This means they go to people who will love them, teach them their name and show them some of the sights and sounds of the outside world. When they return to the kennels they are integrated into the pack and start their education for their future years as hunting hounds.
Routine and feeding
In the months after hunting the hounds relax with light exercise and much time is spent in the high fenced grass yard.
As the summer ticks on the length and duration of early morning exercise will gradually increase so that by the end of July the pack, with staff on bicycles, will be leaving Kennels by 6am and returning two hours later. It is essential to get them as fit as is necessary to cope with the start of the Season in late August/early September. It is also most important in our country to harden their pads which is where the roadwork comes in invaluable. However the danger of speeding motorists means that they have to leave Kennels earlier and earlier in order to be ahead of the morning traffic.
Feeding a pack of hounds so that all carry the same amount of condition is a complex and skilful task during the summer, and to maintain this during the period of intensive hunting requires much thought and attention to detail.
Our kennels feed raw flesh exclusively, but if that is short, they are also fed fish. This hunt runs the traditional system of collecting fallen stock from farms, skinning the carcass at the kennels and feeding the product to hounds. The great bulk of hunt staff's day is spent driving out to farms collecting dead sheep, cattle or horses. Very often the purpose of their visit is to humanely destroy sick/injured animals which is a service much appreciated by the farming/horse owning community.