George Brinkworth and the Leadon Vale Basset Hounds

Another hare hunting pack has reportedly folded

The Hunt Saboteurs Association reported on 28 June that the Leadon Vale Basset Hounds had folded. It said the pack, which was one of the few remaining basset packs in the country, had come under increasing pressure by sab groups in recent years. And its demise is a sign of the times for hare hunting.

Hunting with bassets is carried out on foot, making it broadly similar to hunting with beagles. Both target hares. However, bassets have a smaller stature and, as a result, a day’s hunting is slower going. Those that enjoy basset packs, though, will claim that they provide better opportunities to watch the hounds ‘work’. The Leadon Vale Basset Hounds’ then-master Anthony Greenwood told the Independent in 1997 that it was chasing and not killing that made hunting with bassets enjoyable.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the enthusiasm for hunting with bassets isn’t appealing enough to keep the tradition alive. The Albany and West Lodge Bassets and Barony Bassets both shut up shop in 2021. As the HSA explained, the end of the Leadon Vale Basset Hounds means there are five registered basset packs left:

  • De Burgh & North Essex Bassets
  • East Lincs Basset Hounds
  • Four Shires Basset Hounds
  • Westerby Bassets
  • Woolaston Bassets

Baily’s Hunting Directory also lists a sixth: the Marren Hunt, a private pack headed up by former South Durham Hunt master Andrew Marren. However, its current status is uncertain.

Hare stood still in a field

Bad news bassets

The Leadon Vale Bassets was established as a private pack in 1967 and a committee took over in 1994. It made news in 2019 when the private Elms School had planned to host a hunting event for its pupils aged between reception and year eight. The Leadon Vale Basset Hounds were set to lead the event. However, the HSA revealed the plans the day before, leading the school to postpone the event.

It also made the news more recently for more auspicious reasons. Final huntsman, George Brinkworth, was handed a 16-week suspended sentence in April this year for drink-driving. Severn Vale Hunt Saboteurs said shortly after the sentencing that the Leadon Vale Basset Hounds advertised for a new huntsman. The fact that it has instead folded just a couple of months later suggests Brinkworth’s arrest likely played a crucial role in the pack’s end.

With the Leadon Vale Basset Hounds finishing, the hares of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire will be a little safer next season. However, the fate of the bassets themselves – as with every hound that’s part of a pack that folds – is less certain.

Featured image via Leadon Vale Basset Hounds/screenshot

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