Y'ain't Nuthin' but a hound dog

The hound dog may not be a fancy breed, but they've been lovable and faithful friends of Mankind for centuries. This week, Dame Aoife takes a look at the humble but helpful hounds.

Greetings, my faithful readers!

This week's Links list is in tribute to my oldest dog, Samwise. If Sam, or Ham-bone as we sometimes call him, were a person he'd be in his 70's. He can't hear and he can barely see, but his nose will take him wherever he wants to go and back again. Usually that involves tracking a family member who had the temerity to go outside without him. Sam is part beagle and part something else that's a long-legged hound. As we call him, a very rare mixed breed :) It so happens that he's a dead ringer for some of the dogs in Gaston Phoebus. And while many SCA folk have their esoteric and fancy medieval-breed dogs, the fact of the matter is that Hounds are one of the oldest types of dog around, though they may not be sufficiently romantic for some.

So why'd I choose Hounds? Well, consider what everyone who watches cartoons knows about them: They Bay when required, and otherwise mind their own business. They point at quarry (or sometimes just the person they want to come and scratch behind their ears). They have a keen sense of smell. They run (and run and run). They like to be up high just like Snoopy on the dog house. They love to chase things (squirrels, deer, fox, their tails, and the occasional pedestrian). That all sounds like the perfect recipe for a hunting dog. And yet hounds like to stay close to their designated person, like the out doors, are careful of children and have a strong sense of order. They are intelligent and if the right person comes along, they can communicate in their own language--and you'll know what I mean if you've ever been trained by a hound. But they learn fast, too, and apply that knowledge to other areas--but they flat-out refuse to do any sissy stuff. Hounds have a strong pack sense, even if most of their pack is two-legged. They recognize a strong sense of order within that pack. In short, as Elvis told us, Hounds totally rock. Read on to find out more.



Greyhound History in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
(Site Excerpt) Greyhounds nearly became extinct during times of famine in the Middle Ages. They were saved by clergymen who protected them and bred them for the nobility. From this point on, they came to be considered the dogs of the aristocracy. In the tenth century, King Howel of Wales made killing a greyhound punishable by death. King Canute of England established the Forest Laws in 1014, reserving large areas of the country for hunting by the nobility. Only such persons could own greyhounds; any "meane person" (commoner) caught owning a greyhound would be severely punished and the dog's toes "lawed" (mutilated) to prevent it from hunting.

British Library: Images of King John with Hounds

On Period Hunting Dogs
By Duchess Elina Einarsdottir
More on Coursing With Sighthounds
By Duchess Elina Einarsdottir
Sight Hound Breeds, Continued
By Duchess Elina Einarsdottir

Bloodhounds: Noble Medieval Trackers
(Site Excerpt) The era of wild boar and stag in British history marked the height of the Bloodhounds' popularity. Long before Bloodhounds were used to track men, they were noblemen's hunting partners. Their job was to find the boar or deer wherever they hid. Scent hounds, like the bloodhound, have long flews (loose hanging parts of the upper lip) and long flapping ears specifically designed to funnel and push air and scents toward the dogs' olfactory system.

Stefan's Florilegium: Dogs
Go also to: http://www.florilegium.org/ and click "animals", then see: "dogs", "coursing-SCA" and "dog-links"

History of the Irish Wolfhound
(Site Excerpt) The name Irish wolfhound is quite a recent one but the hound itself goes back far into the mists of time. It is mentioned, as cú (variously translated as hound, Irish hound, war dog, wolf dog, etc.) in Irish laws, which predate Christianity, and in Irish literature which dates from the 5th century or, in the case of the Sagas, from the old Irish period - AD600-900. Only kings and the nobility were allowed to own the great Irish hound, the numbers permitted depending on position.

(Site Excerpt) The Pharaoh Hound is the oldest domesticated dog in recorded history. Two hounds aredepicted hunting Gazelle on a circular disc which is thought to have been part of a game. The date, around 4000 B.C.

Scottish Deerhounds
(Site Excerpt) There are prehistorical drawings showing its ancestors while chasing a deer. Although the Scottish Deerhound has an undeniable beauty, good-looks were not the main issue for breeders to to produce a breed looking exactly the same as the modern Deerhound.

Gaston Phoebus, Book of the Hunt, 15th Century
Click on thumbnails to see images of great Medieval hounds at work.

Image of the Tomb of St. Denis, hound dog (with dead rabbit) at his feet.

"You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'"
—Dave Barry

If you wish to correspond with Aoife directly, please send mail to: mtnlion at ptd dot net.