Origins of Fox Hunting
Fox hunting, as practiced by the Chagrin Valley Hunt, has its origin in England where several centuries ago the landowners began hunting stag with hounds. As stags were depleted, and the cost of keeping large staghounds became exorbitant, the fox became the quarry. In England, foxes were, and are, very plentiful – so much so as to be considered vermin. Farmers, shepherds and keepers of large shooting estates find the fox a voracious eater of poultry, lamb and game. The sport became formalized in the 18th century. Shortly after the American Colonies were settled, hounds and actually red foxes were imported into Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland for the landowners to hunt. These states still have the largest number of organized foxhunts in the United States. Our first president, George Washington, was an avid foxhunter and maintained his own pack of foxhounds. Hunting in America, however, should really be called chasing, for despite hounds pursuing foxes; the terrain, the number of holes, water and scenting conditions make it unlikely that the fox will be caught.
A Brief History of the Chagrin Valley Hunt
The Chagrin Valley Hunt was organized by a group of Cleveland enthusiasts in 1908. Windsor T. White purchased several hounds from England and began hunting in the Chagrin Valley on many large properties and farms in the area. Soon the original organizers were prompted to purchase The Maple Leaf Inn in Gates Mills which was renamed the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club. Using the Club as a base of operations, the founders built a Kennel and Stable and hunted the land surrounding Gates Mills. In order to go across country on horseback with enough speed to follow hounds, jump fences had to be in place. To jump the farmers’ wire and barbed wire was difficult and dangerous. The solution was to place wooden jumps in the fence lines where horses could easily get across while still keeping livestock in place. The jumps, called chicken coops, are still used extensively today.
Hunting with the Chagrin Valley Hunt was very popular with not only residents from Cleveland, but also the local farmers and landowners in the Valley. The countryside provided excellent sport up through World War II. At the end of the War, however, with increased building in eastern Cuyahoga and western Geauga Counties, the area available for fox hunting steadily decreased. A decision had to be made as to whether to stop or move on.
In the 1950’s, The Chagrin Valley Hunt moved much of its activities to the area east of Middlefield and permission was sought and granted by many of the Amish farmers in the area for the Hunt to ride over their lands. In return, the Hunt established the Middlefield Fund to which members contribute. The Fund makes contributions annually to the Amish Schools in the area of which we hunt. The Hunt is environmentally concerned and works to maintain the quality of the land over which we hunt. We have maintained excellent relationships with the landowners in the area and after some 30 years have become, we hope, a permanent fixture in the community.