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Hunting history question: when did women begin to hunt?

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  • Hunting history question: when did women begin to hunt?

    I was having a neat conversation with one of the professors I work with, whose specialty is 18th century British literature. He asked me today what kind of saddle a Somerset was, and if it was common, as he sees references to it in a lot of the works he reads. I knew it was a sidesaddle brand, and I sent him lots of links to the American Sidesaddle Assn. web site.

    We got to talking and trying to figure out about what time period it would have become socially acceptable for women to hunt, and not just sit in the house. There's quite a gap between the 18th century women (generally poorly educated, restricted by society and class) and their 19th+ century counterparts.

    It piqued my interest, so I thought some of you history buffs might could point me in the right direction. I looked through the MFHA site, but the information is more about hunting in general.
    Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

    My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.

  • #2
    I can think of quite a few depictions of women participating in mounted hunting. One of the winter scenes in "Les Tres Riche Heurs" for the Duc de Berry by the Limbourg Brothers has one. Even some Persian miniatures have ladies hunting. I have no idea when it started, but it wouldn't be hard to find many examples in art history from the middle ages in more than one culture.


    • #3
      My mother wrote a book about just this subject - the first women in horses.
      Equal To The Challenge. By Jackie Burke.
      She writes for the CotH sometimes.
      It is an excellent book. You can find it at various tack and book stores or online.
      There are several chapters about it.
      * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.


      • #4
        Queen/Pharoah Hatshepsut (mid 1400s BC) hunted from a chariot, though probably not on horseback.

        chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


        • #5
          Anyone have a copy of "To Whom the Goddess" handy? I'm certain the answer will be in there
          Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


          • #6
            OK, "To Whom the Goddess" chapter 1 in hand:

            Let's stick strictly to anglo/European and American hunting. Ladies of the court of Louis XI were hunting. He was King of France from 1461 to 1483.

            Fox hunting as we know it apparently came into it's own sometime around Shakespeare's time, which would also be the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) James I of England brought hunting back into fashion. He became King of England in 1603 and his Queen Anne of Denmark hunted.

            There is a nice portrait of the Countess of Oxford (1694-1756) hunting aside as master of her own pack of harriers.

            And we know George Washington hunted his own pack, and his wife Martha had already begun hunting at an early age, and hunted with her first husband Daniel Custis.

            So, I'd say those ladies who chose to have been happily hunting alongside our male counterparts all along.
            Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans


            • #7
              SmartAlex - I thought foxhunting in its contemporary form, came to be around 1750s?? Prior to that they were hunting stag and fox was strictly vermin, not worthy of the gentry. It wasn't until most of the stag was hunted out of England that the fox became a sport hunting interest.

              From what I understand, women have always hunted in the contemporary version of foxhunting. Their horses were sometimes kept on a lead, and the invention of the double horned side saddle did much to improve their safety in the field...anyone know the date of the double horned side saddle?


              • #8
                Originally posted by Corky View Post
                ...anyone know the date of the double horned side saddle?
                The leaping head was invented circa 1830.
                Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles


                • #9
                  Women began to hunt when they and the kids got hungry and couldn't get hubby to put down the remote!


                  • #10
                    From The Horsewoman, by Alice M. Hayes, published in 1903:

                    "WHEN LADIES BEGAN TO HUNT.

                    Although the hunting field is nowadays graced by the presence of many good horsewomen who ride well to hounds and are capable of taking care of themselves and their mounts, it is only within about the last seventy years that ladies have ridden across country. Mr. Elliott in his book Fifty years of Fox-hunting tells us that in 1838 “Mrs. Lorraine Smith and her two daughters, with Miss Stone from Blisworth, were the only ladies who hunted then. The Misses Lorraine Smith rode in scarlet bodices and grey skirts. The improved side-saddle was not then invented to enable a lady to ride over fences.” We learn from the same writer that in 1841 “a lady named Miss Nellie Holmes was out, topping the fences like a bird to the admiration of all; and[305] when she came to the brook, over she went.... That was the first lady whom I saw go over a country. There is one certainty about ladies, what one does another will do, if it be worth the doing. Very soon others were at the game, and many have played it well since.” In a pleasant little book entitled The Young Ladies’ Equestrian Manual, written by a lady and published in 1838, we read, “No lady of taste ever gallops on the road. Into this pace the lady’s horse is never urged, or permitted to break, except in the field; and not above one among a thousand of our fair readers, it may be surmised, is likely to be endowed with sufficient ambition and boldness, to attempt the following of hounds.” The saddle given in a drawing in this book has no leaping head, but the writer mentions, as I have previously noted, that movable crutches were being introduced to enable a lady to ride on either side of her horse. The leaping head, third crutch, or third pommel, as it was first called in England, came into use in this country in the forties, and with its aid ladies felt themselves endowed with sufficient ambition and boldness to follow hounds. Captain Elmhirst, writing in 1877, says: “It will, I think, be admitted by everyone that the number of ladies who hunt now is at least tenfold as compared with a dozen years ago,” and every year since that was written, has seen a steady increase in the ranks of hunting women."

                    It is an excellent book. I have a copy, but you can read it online here: http://www.sidesaddle.com/reference_...M_%20Hayes.htm
                    Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Corky View Post
                      SmartAlex - I thought foxhunting in its contemporary form, came to be around 1750s?? Prior to that they were hunting stag and fox was strictly vermin, not worthy of the gentry.
                      According to that book, it was the late 1500s. Wikipedia agrees (although I know Wikipedia is no authority on anything )

                      1340: Mideval laws of hunting formalised. Edward I (ruled 1272 to 1307)has first royal pack
                      1534: Earliest recorded fox hunt
                      1670: Britain's oldest fox hunt, the Bilsdale, founded in Yorkshire
                      Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans