Published 12:00 am, Thursday, November 23, 2017
Zalmon Bradley was president of the Fox Hunters Club of Fairfield, founded in 1867. He is shown here with his hounds in front of his house at 5060 Congress St. around 1870. Fox hunting began in England in the 1500s, when farmers began using dogs to catch the foxes, which were considered pests. Colonists continued fox hunting here in America and in Fairfield. Starting in 1924, on Thanksgiving day, a traditional fox hunt took place in Fairfield at the old Dwight School Green. It began promptly at 10 o’clock in the morning. According to the author of “More About the Hill: Greenfield Hill,” Elizabeth Banks MacRury, “a live fox was released and the merry chase proceeded over the many lanes and byways of Greenfield Hill.” The hounds used in the hunt were Penn-Mary-Del hounds, which were direct descendants of those used by George Washington. The Thanksgiving fox hunt continued in Greenfield Hill through at least 1967.
A 1986 New York Times article by Charlotte Libov noted that fox hunt club members “rigorously adhere to traditions that have remained unchanged since fox hunting as a sport was brought to colonial America. Hunters, for example, have a specialized vocabulary. They always refer to dogs as ‘hounds’; hounds do not bark, they ‘speak,’ and the huntsman leads hounds to ‘draw,’ or to search for a fox in a certain area, called a covert. Although the Connecticut Humane Society opposes the sport, fox hunters point out that the idea behind the hunt is not to harm the fox, but to have it lead the hounds, the horses and the riders on a good chase.”
Today there is still a fox-hunting club in Fairfield County. Fairfield County Hounds is the oldest surviving live fox hunt in the state. Its website notes it was established in Westport by two local businessmen, Donald Perkins and Carlton Palmer, in 1924, and was recognized by the Master of Foxhounds Association in 1926. “Fairfield County Hounds operated under the auspices of the Fairfield Hunt Club in Westport, hunting the sleepy rural farmland of southern Connecticut in the Fairfield/Westport area. As Westport and the surrounding areas yielded to development pressure, Fairfield’s members began hunting the northern part of the county in the 1940s. In 1965, Fairfield reorganized as a separate entity from the Fairfield County Hunt Club and relocated the kennels in Newtown. As the large tracts of open land dwindled in that area, Fairfield purchased and renovated an old dairy farm further north in Bridgewater, Connecticut in 1986. The kennels were moved in 1987, and Fairfield celebrated Opening Day 1987 in its new location in the rolling hills west of the Shepaug River.”
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, 370 Beach Road, is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org. The Fairfield Museum relies on funding from individuals, corporations and foundations.