The Basset Hound Club Pack 1955-1972
In the early 1950’s members of the Basset Hound club (BHC) formed a working branch to, I quote “foster the hunting instinct inherent in every Basset Hound” and to promote the policy of the club “the maintenance of the working utility is just as important as the quality of the show points. The policy is not to differentiate between the two: the Basset Hound should be handsome and useful.”
This was encouraged in a unique way. All members of the BHC were allowed to enter their pet Bassets and see if they would work successfully with a nucleus of kennelled hounds. Full and Preliminary hunt certificates were awarded to hounds that achieved the following standard.
* The hound has shown the ability to identify and hold the line as a member of a pack.
* The hound has given tongue at, and only at appropriate moments.
* The hound has shown the ability to hunt over country for at least two hours.
Over 50 years 150 hounds have achieved this standard and worked successfully with the pack. Watching your own hound work in a pack, as its breeding intended is the most wonderful experience for any pet owner.
The Albany Bassets 1972 to 2006
In 1972 the working branch was reorganised and renamed as the Albany Bassets. The pack was admitted to the Masters of Bassets Association (MBHA) with registered hunting country around Stamford, Lincolnshire. The Albany was formed and financially supported by members of the Basset Hound Club (BHC) to ensure that Kennel club (KC) registered Bassets should be able to work in the field as well as pose on the show bench.
This framework was to last for 30 years until 2002 when the BHC withdrew all their support and the Albany became a subscription pack with the hounds belonging to the committee. The Albany found the modern KC Basset too heavy and cumbersome to work well over winter plough, to get out of ditches and streams and lacked the drive to work hard for up to 3 hours.
To improve the quality of the hounds and ensure the survival of a working pack of Bassets into the 21st century the Albany outcrossed their working KC hounds with hounds registered with the MBHA, specifically the Fourshires and Huckworthy Bassets. Although the use of hounds, registered with the MBHA for breeding was written into the Albany constitution, the BHC quoted this as the reason for no longer supporting the Albany. The original principles of the BHC had been “forgotten” and there are currently no field trials for KC Bassets to test their scenting ability, stamina, voice or pack temperament.
The Albany and West Lodge Bassets 2006 to the present day.
In 2006 the Albany merged with the West Lodge Bassets. This enabled the Albany to register additional country close to its main body of support in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. For the West Lodge it enabled them to continue enjoying hunting in an area, which they have been doing so successfully since 1950. The new pack is comprised entirely of Albany hounds.
The Albany and West Lodge Bassets today.
The pack consists of 10 couple of hounds all living together as a working pack. The great pleasure of hunting with Basset hounds is that in comparison with other hound breeds they are a slow and methodical mover. This enables the Hunt staff and supporters to keep in contact and see the hounds work as the Basset unravels the line of the scent. Secondly it is the tremendous voice of the Basset as it hunts. The clamour of a pack of Bassets in full cry has no equal in hunting! Thirdly it is the unique character and appearance of this lovely ancient breed working in the countryside.
Frequently Asked Questions
So what happens when you go out with a pack of Basset Hounds?
The pack comprises of the hounds, the huntsman, and whipper-ins to keep control of the hounds. The Albany is famous for their white jodhpurs and bright yellow fleeces, which are easy for followers to keep sight of.
The whipper-ins are there to help turn hounds back to the huntsman and position themselves at strategic danger points such as roads, but it is the huntsman who holds the key hand. Ideally the hounds will always work about 100m in front of him, yet be aware of his every move. By standing still, if no scent is found the hounds should swing back to him. The hunts man will then cast his hounds in a new area to explore.
Although following the hounds can be described as genteel, to hunt and control the hounds is hard work and requires a high level of fitness. During an afternoon the hounds will cover up to 25 miles, the huntsman will cover up to 15 miles and the whippers-in will do approximately 10 miles. This often surprises many people as most view the Basset as a comical short legged hound, but we challenge anyone to come out and try and keep up with them!
Following on foot some distance from the hounds and from a higher vantage point, supporters see the pack gradually string out, with the distinctive yellow of the whippers-in positioned ahead and to the side of the pack. Occasionally the pack pick up an interesting scent and despite the appearance of low slung, heavy body and short legs, the hounds can produced an amazing turn of speed and the fitness of the hunt personnel becomes apparent as they break into a steady run to keep in touch with the pack.
How can I get involved with the Albany & West Lodge Bassets?
It costs £100 pa to join the Albany & West Lodge Bassets.
The season takes place between October and March and the pack goes out every Saturday during the season. We would meet at a local pub for 12.00pm for a drink and lunch, before moving off with the hounds at approximately 1.00pm. The afternoon typically finishes at about 4.00pm followed by tea. Regular social events are organised during the summer months and a newsletter keeps all members up to date with what’s going on.