Hunting with hounds goes back centuries, however fox hunting with hounds for sport was developed by Hugo Meynell, Master of the Quorn Hunt between 1750’s and 1800.
The English past time of hunting with hounds from horseback commenced in NSW in 1811. After racing, hunting is the oldest organized equestrian activity in Australia. The first hunt started from Rushcutters Bay and hunted toward the wilds of Bondi.
Geelong Advertiser, 5 December 1842 reported that in south Australia a pack has been established by subscription and although it is yet in its infancy “ there is every prospect of the hunt thriving”.
At present there are eleven and a half couple (23) of hunting hounds plus six couple and a half (13) of very promising puppies. … the method of hunting in south Australia differs slightly from that pursued in England… from the difference existing between the thickly populated country, and one in nearly the opposite extreme. The kangaroos and native dogs have no particular covers but inhabit the countryside – thus the need to hunt on a wide front. All mute hounds and babblers are worst than useless. For killing the hounds require good courage for the native dog unlike the fox has a very tough skin and dies hard. The kangaroo when easily ran into defends itself with its hind feet and is quite as ugly a customer as a deer with its antlers.
In Victoria a subscription pack of hound was established around Corio in May 1841. In addition a Mr Pyke had established a private hunt with foxhounds.
The Geelong Advertiser, 13 January 1845 reported that a meeting of settlers at Port Fairy on 28 December 1844 for the establishment of a subscription pack of hounds to be called the Mount Rouse Hounds, held at Port Fairy.
Present at the meeting included:
Mr John Cox (in the chair) – Weerangourt
Robert Clerk (e) – Mumumberitch
William Rutledge – Farnham
Andrew Baxter – Yambuk
John Ritchie – Urangaranga
James Irvine – Dunmore
Charles McKnight – Dunmore
William Campbell – Dunmore
Alex Sprott – Caramut
Henry Foster – St Marys Wangoon
Chris Applin – St Kitts
James Crawford – Eumeralla
Burchett Bros – The Gums
Claude Farie - Merang
Seven resolutions were passed at the meeting. The first resolution proposed by Mr. Clerk, seconded by Mr. Farie and carried unanimously was that a subscription pack of hounds be established to be called the Mount Rouse Hunt, the expense of which is estimated at £100 a year; that the subscription for the first year be fixed at £5.
The second resolution proposed by Mr Campbell, seconded by Mr McKnight, and carried unanimously was that Mr Clerk be requested to accept the appointment at Master of Hounds and he be authorized to erect at his station a stable and kennels with proper accommodations and to purchase a horse and engage a huntsman.
The meeting went on to thank Mr. Clerk for his spirited exertions in promoting the formation of the hunt. Robert Clerk owned Mumumberitch run, Portland Bay license No55 from 1844-48. The property was 5800 acres, capable of running 4000 sheep and situated 8 miles south east of Penshurst.
The Geelong Advertiser 10 May 1845 published the dates and places where the Mt Rouse hunts were to take place. The first was on Monday 12 May at Mr. Clerks (Mumumberich) followed by P H Forbes, Plough Inn on the Hopkins River; Capt. Webster, Mt Shadwell; Farie and Rodgers, Merrang; Chiene’s, Lawrenny; Messer’s Plummer and Dent, Minjah; Buchanan’s, The Lake, Koroit; Hunters, Tower Hill; Whiteheads, Spring Creek; Grange Inn, Burchett Bros, The Gums; Scot and Gray, Green Hills Creek (later Nareeb Nareeb and Brie Brie); Sprots, Caramut; Mr. A Brown Mt Napier. The last hunt was to be on Monday 28 July back to Robert Clerk’s Mumumberich.
The Sporting Review Edited by Craven, published a squatter’s letter titled (circa 1846) Hunting in Australia as follows:
Our native wood, where stillness once reigned unless disturbed by the wild shout of the savage in pursuit of the kangaroo and the emu, now echo to the Tally Ho of our eager sportsmen and the music of our lively pack as they pass on in the pursuit of the native dog. The native dog of Australia is a large and powerful animal resembling a sheep dog with a fine brush, sharp ears and pointed head. Possessing a share of the boldness and ferocity of the wolf, combined with the cunning and much of the speed of the fox.
Our pack which was only formed 2 years ago is kept up by subscription and out of the 20 couple (40 hounds) which we now have in the kennel about 12 (24) are usually hunted.
Hunting begins about April and continues until September when the heavy rains generally put period to our sport. The Mount Rouse Hounds have shown some excellent sport under their gallant Master R Clarke Esq. a real enthusiast in the chase who riding 15 stone upon his favorite horse The Don…The country around the River Hopkins will be remembered by many as having afforded some excellent runs. Of the fifteen meets which the hounds have had last year only one day proved blank…I understood the hounds are to be hunted by John Cox Esq (Weerangourt) for the ensuring season, who is also a warm advocate of the chase and I’m sure will show great sport. I have mentioned the Mount Rouse Hounds in particular. The district hunted over by these hounds being only a very small portion of the Port Philip country.
Due to heavy rain in the Port Fairy district in 1846 the hounds were moved to Dr Barker’s Kenilworth station on the Wannon. The first hunt was to start at Dr Barker’s slab hut halfway between the Grange and his residence.
Geelong Advertiser and Squatters Advocate 7 September 1847 reported on a further meeting of the subscribers to the Mount Rouse Hounds. It was resolved that a hunting establishment should be made on the Hopkins which as commanding an excellent hunting country in every direction should be considered the headquarter of the pack; and that a second establishment should be erected on the Wannon (Kenilworth) to meet the views of the subscribers, one of whom Dr Barker offered to promote the objects of the hunt in the most practical manner by erecting a kennel at his own expense…Mr. Clarke was thanked for his conduct as Master of the Hounds. It was reported that they had killed 16 dogs during the short but brilliant season.
Fox hunting with hounds and horses was a very English passion, with few Scottish squatters taking part, or making their runs available to be hunted. Soon enough the native dog (dingo) was hunted out in the Western district. The hunts then turned to the forester (grey kangaroo). A large buck kangaroo was generally caught before hand and released on the day near to where the hunt was to begin. The intended victim was called the bag-man from the English custom of sometimes releasing a fox from a bag at the beginning of a hunt.
In the following years more hunt clubs were to be formed including Portland and Casterton. The Melbourne Hunt Club was established in 1853 with imported Irish Hounds. The club still has (present day) 50 hounds (25 couple) that are descended from the original Irish Hounds.
Trove Newspapers on-line: Geelong Advertiser
Sporting Review Edited by Craven circa 1846
by Phillip Doherty, Mount Rouse & District Historical Society Inc. 2015
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