by Barbara Ellin Fox
“The hard riding, the real nerve tonic that tones up the individual for the emergencies of war, must usually be obtained outside of drills and prescribed duties.” This excerpt is from “The Regimental Hunt Club” , an article from the 1912 Rasp, the Cavalry’s yearbook.
Ordinarily officers did drill work for 2 – 4 or more hours each day, working in the school on everything from riding without stirrups or reins, jumping, lateral work and suppling horses. No activity provided the opportunity nor the incentive to ride out for a run over rough country on a regular basis, until hunting became a regular part of officer training.
Another excerpt from “The Regimental Hunt Clubs” states “The hunting field does give the necessary practice; has the spice of real danger, enough to create and maintain a healthy interest in the sport; and finally and best of all, it may be participated in by all who are physically able. It is not confined to any age or condition, except that of nerves.”
Hounds varied. In 1909 the Eleventh Cavalry Hunt was established at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia. The Hunt started with a draft of six couples of American hounds. A draft of 4 couples of English Hounds and two couples of American Hounds from Millbrook Hunt in N.Y. were added before long.
At Fort Riley, hounds of various kinds were kept for hunting coyote and other game. An article in The Rasp 1912 includes photos of Russian Wolfhounds and Grey Hounds at Fort Riley. The first Foxhounds for the Cavalry School Hunt were drafts of English Hounds from Genesee Valley donated by Major W. Austin Wadsworth, M. F. H.
“The History of Hunting in the United States and Canada”, 1928, tells us about the Coblenz Hunt. “The Army of Occupation, which was later designated “The American Forces in Germany,” was under the command of a very enthusiastic horseman and sportsman, Major General Henry T. Allen, who had been a cavalryman throughout his service. It was natural, therefore, that General Allen should have sponsored the organization of a Hunt Club in the occupied territory, for the better entertainment and morale of the many mounted officers of his own command, as well as the Allied officers who were attached to his headquarters. Consequently, early in the winter of 1920, General Allen obtained a donation from America of five couples from the well-known pack of Mr. Joseph B. Thomas. A draft from England brought the pack up to thirteen couples, and with final drafts from the old French packs of M. DuSouzy and Comte de Broissia, the pack grew to more than twenty couples before the departure of the American forces from Germany.”
At Fort Sill, Oklahoma, packs of hounds were kept for running coyotes well before the beginning of the Artillery Hunt. Two packs were kept until the beginning of WW1 when the ability to hunt and keep a pack was diminished. But in 1926 the hunt was reorganized and 12 couple were added to the remaining hounds. Later 10 couple of cross bred American – English hounds were added.
The Infantry School Hunt at Fort Benning, Georgia, began with private hounds but eventually hounds of American, English and French lines were donated by the Cavalry School Hunt. Some of these hounds had been part of the pack of the Coblenz Hunt.
Hunting became an integral part of an officer’s life. It was available at a very reasonable fee and at some Forts, such as Fort Riley, it was a required part of the riding school curriculum. Hunting was valued as sport, entertainment, and for it’s contributions to morale.