Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]

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The Western Mail  26th February 1934

Welsh Hounds “Finest in the World”

Descendants of Famous Pack

By GARETH JONES 

  “Welsh hounds!“ exclaimed the old huntsman who had hunted 50 years ago with the packs on the Glamorgan hills - “jawch, they’re the finest in the world.  Their music will beat any male voice choir in the Rhondda, and a pack of English foxhounds sounds like croaking rooks compared with them.

“Watch ‘em as they scamper over the mountains,” he went on.  “Rocks is nothing to them.  Why, they’d be over Mount Everest before you could say Jack Robinson.  O! dear, O! dear, I could cry when I think of the old Welsh packs which have gone.”

That was my first introduction to Welsh foxhounds as I listened by the fireside to the sentimental old fellow whose affection for his former hounds was only exceeded by his Celtic zest and propensity for exaggeration.

I had also learned that the Welsh foxhound was a sturdy independent hunter, trained to be self-reliant in the rugged and rocky hills, with a good tongue and a rough coat.  But that was almost all I knew about the hounds of my native country.

Therefore, I decided to visit a Welsh pack.  On a bright February day I crossed the Brecon Beacons by car, reflecting as I looked up to the sharp abruptness of the mountain tops on the difficulties of hunting in that country.  I drove past Sennybridge, in the Usk Valley, and after mounting and descending like a switchback a charming one-span bridge near a waterfall arrived at Pantysgallog, where Mr. W. H. P. Rees keeps his renowned pack of Welsh fox-hounds.

AT THE KENNELS

Before long Mr. Rees and I were walking up from the house beneath an avenue of trees to the kennels, outside which there was a Golgotha of bones, the remains of many meals, aver which chaffinches were now darting.  Lively little terriers, with the pluck of Welsh bantams, wagged their tails with furious excitement as we headed for the kennel door.

When the door had closed behind us we found ourselves in a courtyard laced by a group of rough-coated, high-domed, light-coloured hounds, with long ears and intelligent, doleful eyes, who rushed to offer us the hospitality and greetings of the kennels.  These were the famous Welsh foxhounds, and better hounds for the mountains which towered around us and for the crags of the summits you could not find. 

Natural hunters, they are built in the right way to go up and down in precipitous country.  They have good shoulders, good noses, and a good cry which you can hear miles away.  It is said that one day last week they could be heard six miles away!  Their lovely music is essential in a hilly district where the field follows quite as much by ear as by sight, and where a small ridge hides every glimpse of the hounds.

Let me introduce you to the pack, and you will, in meeting them, have a link with the famous hunts of Glamorgan in the last century, before the valleys wee filled with collieries and when the note of the horn was a more familiar sound than the engine whistle.

THEIR ANCESTRY

All the Pantysgallog Hounds are descended from these Glamorgan packs and a glance at them still enables you to trace their ancestry.  Look at those lemon and white hounds which sit upright upon the large bench, curiously studying the incomers.  They are surely from the Glog Hounds, for the Squire of the Glog, Mr. Williams, was fond of lemon and white, and bred many of them.  Many of the Glog Hounds had a red or a white star on the forehead.

Look at “Dido” with her white collar.  She is a relic of the Bedlinog pack, where the master favoured red hounds with a white collar.  The Bedlinog Hounds also had a white spot on the stern.  It was, therefore, with the pride of newly-acquired knowledge that I was able to point out some hounds and say to them, “Aba, I can see by that white spot on your stern that your grandmamma or grandpapa once roamed the hills near Bedlinog and probably saved the life of many a Bedlinog chicken.”

“What about those black and tan hounds?” I asked Mr. Rees.

“Those are descended from the Gelli, where they bred black and tans or greys,” he replied, and he explained how, as time went on and the packs were disbanded, they found their way to the Glog, whence they came to Pantysgallog.

THE BLUE-GREY HOUND

“Countess,” champion bitch at the Cardiff Royal Welsh Show, was the hound which impressed me most mainly by her curious blue-grey colour.  I had never seen a hound of that hue before.  These old blue greys, so well represented by “Countess,” are, so Mr. Rees explained, probably a cross of the Glog whites and the black hounds of the Gelli.

Some of the hounds are descended from the Glyncorrwg and some from the Bwllfa breed.  Therefore, in Pantysgallog today you have the pick of the many famed hunts of the Glamorgan of yesterday, and the preponderating colour is white, just as it was in the old packs.  “Gomer” and “Luter,” two champion hounds at Royal Welsh Shows, and their fellow-hounds carry on the good traditions of their Glamorgan forefathers.  They are cared for by Haydn Price, huntsman, and by scarlet-jerseyed Constantine Lloyd, groom.

After the kennel door had slammed behind me and I stopped near the bridge to look down at the deep pools and the splashing waters of the Usk, I thought of the old huntsman who had first roused my interest in Welsh hounds, and I reflected on the joy he would experience to see the packs he loved so much living on in the hounds of Mr. Rees, Pantysgallog.

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