Blessing of the Hounds
For more than 100 years in a number of places from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and beyond, fox hunters gather at churches or fields on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate a ceremonial blessing of the hounds before partaking in the long-standing British tradition that is more about horsemanship and hounds in pursuit than actual hunting.
The pandemic may have paused or altered the tradition, but it is back on in Southern Pines, NC, according to the article by Mary Kate Murphy in The Pilot who recounts the more than a century-old tradition there.
“I remember colorful Maryland fox hunts, too, preceded by the blessing of the hounds. For more than 100 years, fox hunting clubs of Maryland have come to countryside churches for an Episcopal blessing on Thanksgiving Day, and modern times have seen the custom grow beyond a dedicated few in dark leather boots, white breeches, red coats, and black hunters’ caps. One of the oldest of them still occurs at the Saint James Episcopal Church in Monkton, where generations of spectators have gathered annually for decades to watch riders and hounds observe the old English tradition.
“After the pageantry, huntsmen and hounds would set off across the nearby countryside, crossing streams and jumping fences on property whose owners freely grant permission,” writes Kenneth Lasson, a professor of law, in The Baltimore Sun, as he reflects on the magic of Thanksgiving’s past in Baltimore and the surrounding Maryland area.
Lasson notes there are more than 160 fox hunting clubs across the United States.