Mark Howcutt's retirement




After five-and-forty years’ service as whipper-in and huntsman to Lord Rothschild’s staghounds, Fred Cox has laid down the horn to enjoy well-earned repose. From his earliest years his tastes lay in the direction of the stable and kennel; he began his hunting career as second whipper-in to the Tedworth, of which pack Mr. Assheton Smith was then master. Mr. Assheton Smith was also one of the hardest working masters that ever controlled the destinies of foxhounds, hunting six days a week, and often having out two packs on a Saturday. After four years with the Tedworth, Cox went to the Vale of Whitehorse hounds, of which Mr. Villebois was master, and thence to the Puckeridge country, where, he says, “I think I saw the best sport I ever saw with foxhounds.” From the Puckeridge he went to the Cottesmore, with which pack he remained till Major Burroughs sold the hounds, when he came to Baron Rothschild, in whose service he has been ever since – five years as whipper-in and forty as huntsman. Not only in the field has Cox made his mark; possessed of exceptional judgement, he leaves the Ascott kennels proof of his ability as a hound-breeder in as fine a pack as there is in the kingdom; the Fitzwilliam, Warwickshire, Oakley, Brocklesby, and also the Belvoir have contributed to make the Baron’s staghounds what they are. As may be supposed, a man of Cox’s experience has much to tell worth hearing about the doings of horse and hound; of one horse he speaks with special fervour – Gay Lad, who earned renown by jumping thirty feet (measured) over the Wing Brook. He also waxes enthusiastic over stags he has known; the best of these was Sunlight, who was uncarted for six seasons, and was rarely taken before he had given a run of fifteen to twenty miles.


A few years ago the veteran met with a very severe accident, and, though he recovered sufficiently to be able to mount a pony, has not been able to hunt the hounds since. Cox’s retirement was made the occasion of a pleasant little ceremony, whereat the Earl of Orkney, on behalf of the members of Lord Rothschild’s Hunt, presented the veteran with a substantial testimonial in the shape of a purse containing £325. Lord Orkney voiced the feelings of the fellow members when he spoke of the unfailing ability, courtesy, and tact with which Cox had discharged his very difficult duties. At no time is the position of huntsman to a popular pack a bed of roses; but his difficulties are magnified tenfold when he hunts a country so easily accessible from the Metropolis, which sends down a crowd of strangers not always versed in the unwritten laws of hunting. Cox is approaching his seventy-fifth year, but is still in the enjoyment of good health.


Mark Howcutt, first whipper-in to the Baron’s staghounds, also retires this season, after thirty-five years service with the pack. Since the accident to Cox referred to above, Howcutt officiated as huntsman, and proved a worthy successor to the man to whom he had turned hounds for so many years. The members of the Hunt gave practical form to their appreciation of his services by presenting him also with a purse of £325.


Tom Whitemore, who has been for thirty years huntsman of the Oakley, and who happened to be on a visit to Ascott kennels at the time the photograph was taken, appears in the background of the group. His name is a household word in Bedfordshire, and his opinions on hounds and hound-breeding are held in high respect. (2)




This account was first printed in "The Sketch", 26 May 1897. It was accompanied by separate pictures of Mark Howcutt and Fred Cox and also a group picture of both of them with Tom Whitemore and some hounds.