The Kent and Surrey Bloodhounds were formed in 1990 and their country ranges over parts of Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. Bill Kear, Senior Master and Huntsman, kennels the hounds at his home in Partridge Lane, Newdigate. There are two other joint masters – Les Watson & Susan Greive and Whippers in – Susan Grieve and Kate Haslett. The pack was originally formed from four and a half couple drafted from the Coakham Bloodhounds, which was founded by the late Neil Wates. There are now twelve couple of hounds in kennels.
Bloodhounds hunt men, this is known as hunting the “clean boot”, and means that no artificial scent is used; they hunt the natural scent of man only, who are referred to as ‘The Quarry’. The Quarry usually consisting of between one and three runners are given 20 minutes grace before the hounds are laid on the scent. This is usually on the edge of a field or just inside a gateway. The Quarry are responsible for running a previously agreed route, this is usually planned the day before when the huntsman and quarry will walk the country sometimes as much as ten to fifteen miles to decide the route.
Our aim is to provide the mounted followers with the traditional thrill of riding across natural country behind a driving pack of hounds, to give our foot followers corresponding excitement and at all times to treat our farming hosts with the consideration and courtesy their generosity deserves The hunting season runs from September until the end of March and we meet at 12:30pm every Sunday either at the pub, or a lawn meet by kind invitation of a landowner.
Depending on the country there are three or four hunts of approximately 3 to 5 miles each, crossing country comprising of timber and natural hedges. When the hounds find the Quarry they are rewarded with biscuits, there is a 20 minute check at the end of each hunt for the Quarry to run the next hunt and for hounds and horses to recover. At the end of the day, The hounds and horses are boxed and made comfortable and hungry riders consume tea in a barn or in someone’s kitchen. The Quarry are always given priority and consume gallons of tea!
The hounds themselves are Bloodhound cross Dumfriesshire Foxhounds, which gives them their speed and soundness while retaining the marvellous scenting ability of the Bloodhound. Some also have Otter Hound blood, which gives them their broken coat and splendid voice.
One litter of puppies is bred every year to ensure continuity and to replace any hounds that may be retiring. On average a hound will hunt for six to seven seasons, and in most cases homes can be found for the retiring hounds. These hounds are very even natured and friendly. Once old enough the puppies are sent out in couples to be “puppy walked” for a few months before returning to the kennels. During the summer months the young unentered hounds are introduced to the pack and quietly exercised.
The young entry will usually be hunting by eighteen months of age and their enthusiasm for hunting adds life to the pack. There is natural hierarchy within the pack and any wayward youngsters are kept in line by the older more established hounds. A diet of dried complete dog food is fed.
The pack can be seen regularly in the village on exercise, a minimum of one hours work daily is required to ensure fitness of the hounds. The hunt appreciates the consideration shown by the other road users and in turn endeavours to avoid causing any unnecessary inconvenience.
Monday is a rest day for the hounds after the previous day’s hunting, they are allowed to stretch and loll around in the field. Every Sunday during September is hound exercise day and the pack is taken out for extended hacks to prepare for the opening meet, mounted followers are always very welcome