Hunting, Art and Tradition

Château de Montpoupon

Hunting with hounds at Château de Montpoupon

What is hunting?

Also known as venery, hunting has a long history. It consists of chasing an animal on foot or on horseback using a pack of dogs known as hounds. Those who practice this style of hunting are known as coursers.

The season for hunting with hounds runs from September to March.
Hunting with hounds has a specific and complex vocabulary and is deeply rooted in our cultural heritage.

Let’s spend a day out hunting!

Hunting with hounds is a group activity and the hunting party, which comprises horses, hounds, h hunt unters and the whipper-in, is called the.

The hounds play the leading role in this kind of hunt, chasing the animal until it is caught. The hunters are there only to serve the hounds.

The whipper-in is in charge of training and taking care of the hounds. Here he is on the left, leading the hunt.

Six species of animal are hunted: young stags, roe deer, boars, foxes, hares and rabbits. Huntsmen never hunt more than one species.

The first stage of the hunt is the invitation. The hunt master informs the hunters (also called “buttons”) of the date and place of the “meet”.

At the Château de Montpoupon, Emile de la Motte Saint-Pierre, then the owner of the estate, formed the hunt in 1873.

When it was dissolved in 1949, the Berry Hunt took over and hunted deer at Montpoupon.

Even today, a dozen hunts with hounds are organized at Montpoupon every year.

Clothing and accessories

Special clothing and accessories are essential for hunting with hounds. They define each role during the hunt and also enable hunts and their specific characteristics to be recognized.

Special vocabulary is used when referring to hunting clothes. For example, colors are given different names. Red becomes cherry, beige is called doe’s breast and yellow is jonquil.

The colors of the Montpoupon hunt are cherry with purple facings (pockets and collar)
The garment worn is a thick woolen frock-coat which must be very tough to withstand the rain and cold in winter.

Women wear adapted clothing when they ride side-saddle.

Guests must wear special clothes: white breeches and a black jacket.

Leather hunting boots are high to protect the riders’ knees.

The velvet hunting vest reiterates the hunt’s colors. For example, the Montpoupon hunt’s vest is purple edged with gold and silver hunting braid.

The cape (here worn by Bernard de la Motte Saint-Pierre, the master of the Montpoupon hunt) or cap is worn by men.

The cape of the whipper-in can be recognized by its edging of hunting braid (silver or gold).

Women wear a three-cornered hat.

The hunting button, now considered one of the distinctive signs of a hunt, did not appear until the 18th century.
The hunt’s attributes, its emblem and/or name are inscribed on the button.

The hunting pin is used to fix the knot of the tie.

The whipper-in and the “buttons” carry whips. Together with the voice and the horn, they are used to communicate with the hounds, stopping them and gathering them into a pack. A good huntsman is sparing with the whip.

Another essential accessory for the hunter is the hunting horn.

It enables hunters to communicate with one another during a hunt. There are numerous calls (tunes sounded on the horn) corresponding to each stage of the hunt. Each hunt has its own call. The horn also communicates with the hounds which know what they are supposed to do according to which call is sounded.

Fanfare de Montpoupon

In hunting, the expression “hunting horn” is used. The instrument is not called a trumpet.

The horn appeared in the 17th century to add magnificence to hunting with hounds.
Hunting horns are made of brass or copper. They are 4.545 meters long and are tuned to the chord of D.

Three different types of horn were developed:

- the Dampierre, created in the 17th century, is rolled one and a half times

- the Dauphine, dating from the 18th century, is rolled two and a half times

- the Orléans, widely used in the 19th century, is the model still used in hunting with hounds and is rolled three and a half time

Preparing for a day's hunting and setting off

On the morning of the hunt, a huntsman inspects the terrain with his dog. He notes any traces animals have left in the wood during the night and reports on them to the other members of the hunt.

Based on the report, the hunt decides which animal it will hunt. Only one animal is chosen which the hounds will recognize from its scent. When the report is presented, hunt instructions are also issued.

When the hunt sets off, the hounds run behind the whipper-in.

Hunt report and departure at Château de Montpoupon.

The Hunt
The animal plays many tricks during the hunt to escape from its pursuers. On average, any animal confronted escapes three times out of four.

Getting started: the hunters lead the hounds to the place where the animal’s traces were found that morning.

The hunt has begun. The hounds follow the scent of a single animal. When the animal is sighted, the hunters sound a call: the view.

La vue

Tricks: the hunted animal will use tricks to lose the hounds and hunters. It breaks cover, that is to say it emerges from the wood to try to distance itself from the hounds in the plain. It goes back on its tracks and mixes with other animals to dissipate its scent.

Fanfare du débuché

When the hounds have lost the animal’s scent, they are said to have defaulted. In spite of the efforts of the hunters and the pack, the animal may not be found again. The hunt stops. This happens three times out of four on average.

La retraite manquée

The animal is beaten. It has played its tricks but this time the hounds have got the better of it. It turns to face them and the huntsman dispatches it.

Fanfare de l'hallali sur pied

Of the many customs and traditions of venery, that of producing a report after each hunt retracing the route taken by the animal makes each occasion unique.
These reports are sometimes illustrated and can be true works of art.

After the hunt

Venery is not confined to a day’s hunting - it is an art of living in itself. Many everyday objects evoke this ancestral hunting method, ranging from 17th century tapestries to present day creations.

Venery is evoked in the dining-room, as at the Château de Montpoupon in the Loire valley, where hunters reassemble after the hunt.

This dinner service was inspired by hunting…

as is the porcelain...

...or more unusual creations such as this stag’s horn chandelier made in the 21st century, many versions of which you will see in the Château de Montpoupon.

Being a hunter also means observing a series of codes designed to make hunting with hounds an environmentally friendly activity which respects animals, but also people and their work on the land.

Since time immemorial, many writers have defined the fundamental principles of hunting with hounds. The Société des Veneurs [Hunters’ Society] now publishes charters aimed at hunters, photographers and hunt followers everywhere.

Hunting has always inspired artists in their pictures, drawings and sculptures.
The Musée du Veneur [Huntsman’s Museum] at Montpoupon in the Loire valley holds a large collection of works by Jules Finot, the Verteville family, Karl Reille, Henri de Linarés and many others.

Hunting also helps maintain French skills and offers craftspeople the opportunity to demonstrate their talent: saddle makers, master ironsmiths, taxidermists and tailors continue to earn a living thanks to hunting.

As a secular tradition, venery is not just a method of hunting. It helps preserve forests and species as well as the skills of craftspeople.

At Montpoupon, surrounded by the Châteaux de la Loire, hunting continues to live through the Musée du Veneur (classed among the great hunting museums of France) and events such as the hunting festival in August and also thanks to the people who have hunted there each winter for centuries.

Plus d'informations: Château de Montpoupon

Château de Montpoupon
Credits: Story

The Louvencourt family, owners of Château de Montpoupon
The Association of Friends of the Musée du Veneur at Montpoupon
La Société de Vènerie
Clémence Bevand, creator of the exhibition
Photographic credits: Jean-Paul Payreault
La Société de Vènerie
Château de Montpoupon
Audio credits: Trompes de Montpoupon
Video credits: Château de Montpoupon

Credits: All media
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