Master Of Hounds
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When dark draws her mantle around us,
And cold by the fire bids us still,
Our children will say, "Father tell us
Some tales of the famous John Peel."
And we'll tell them of Ranter and Royal,
Of Britain and Melody too,
how they rattled a fox round the Carrock
And drove him from scent into view.

(from) The Horn of the Hunter Trad.

Basic Information

A master of hounds is a specialised and senior huntsman who has charge of a pack of hunting dogs (the hounds). Traditionally this will be in service to an employer - otherwise he is more of a master with hounds (or just a guy who owns a lot of dogs) - which historically was often a member of the nobility, but in the modern era may be a private club.

Most of his work is involved with the care, breeding and training of the hounds, working to develop the best and most effective pack he can for the type of hunting for which they are required. As part of this he will be responsible for managing a group of kennel men or kennel boys, dog handlers and other subordinates appropriate to the needs of the pack. When the hunt is on, he will also be expected to lead the hounds out - since becoming the pack leader is normally the most efficient way of running a group of dogs - keeping them in hand until needed, searching out the quarry (without sending up any false scents) and then running the quarry down. Depending on the nature of the quarry he may also be involved in the kill, or in bringing it to bay so that the human hunters can make their kill. Afterwards he must recover the dogs, deal with any casualties as needed and then return and settle them again at kennel. Onesuch who does not take the dogs out on the hunt may be termed a kennel master instead, typically working for a man who likes to be master of his own hounds. A kennel master may also look after a number of dogs who do not form a pack - for example those that single work with a handler.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Fox hunting is an activity involving the tracking, chase and, if caught, the killing of a fox, traditionally a red fox, by trained foxhounds or other scent hounds, and a group of unarmed followers led by a "master of foxhounds" ("master of hounds"), who follow the hounds on foot or on horseback.
  • John Peel (from the flavour text) was a master of hounds in the North of England whose exploits across the turn of the C18-C19 became almost legendary and had him considered almost an epitome of a fox hunting man.
  • The Master of Hounds for The Wild Hunt, by contrast, would be a very different sort of person.
  • In between are such fictional worthies as Ingen Jegger (from Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, Thorn) and the charming Ben Bones, kennel master to Ramsey Bolton in A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • Realistically, most noblemen who were prone to any sort of hunting (which is to say, practically all of them) would have employed someone of this stripe to manage their dogs for them.
  • A master of hounds may also serve to organise tracking dogs, intended to hunt human quarry instead for a police force or military provost unit.
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