Thursday, June 7, 2012


This is another picture of a hunting scene from one of the placemats Mom bought that I told you about before.  It was painted by the same artist as the last one, Sir Francis Grant.  The name of this picture is The Meeting of Her Majesty's Stag Hounds on Ascot Heath.  And then in fancy scripty letters under that, it says "To the Right Honorable the Earl of Chesterfield, Master of the Royal Hunt."

The Chesterfield coat of arms,
which is really cool because it has two dogs in it!

Ascot Heath is about 6 miles or so away from Windsor Castle, which is one of the places where the Royal Family likes to hang out.  Except that nowadays there isn't really a heath at Ascot anymore, because a whole big racetrack got built on top of it.  But I will tell you more about that later.

Windsor Castle

Anyway, in this hunting scene painting, you can see a whole bunch of men in red jackets, sitting on their horses, waiting for the hunt to start.  And at the right-hand side, there is a black carriage, which maybe has the queen inside it.  The queen we are talking about would be Queen Victoria, who was a big fan of dogs and horses, so she probably also liked stag-hunting.  If you want to know more about Queen Victoria and her dogs, you can look at my blog entry where I talked about that very subject.  Sir Francis Grant painted several pictures of Queen Victoria, so maybe she asked him to paint a picture of the hunt for her, too.

Queen Victoria, painted by Sir Francis Grant

The dogs in the hunt scene are not foxhounds.  They are staghounds, which are bigger than foxhounds.  Also they don't run quite as fast.  Nowadays, there aren't a lot of staghound packs in England because there aren't a lot of deer left to hunt.  Staghounds are about 24" tall at the shoulder.  They were probably bred from foxhounds that were too large to do well in foxhound packs.

A staghound named Ruby,
from the Royal Kennel

There are no particular standards for staghounds because they are never put in dog shows, like foxhounds are.  The qualities of a good staghound are muscular strength, sturdy bone structure, courage, and a good nose.  They have to be in good condition and know the countryside well, so that they can keep up with the stags.

Okay, now about Ascot Heath.  A long, long time ago, in 1711, a queen named Anne was out riding her horse on the heath, and suddenly she realized that it would make a good place for "horses to gallop at full stretch" because it was large and flat.  So she got busy organizing the first race ever to be held at Ascot.  It took place on Saturday, August 11, 1711.  The big prize was was Her Majesty's Plate, which included a purse of 100 guineas.  Any horse over the age of 6 could enter, and 7 horses did.  These horses were not thoroughbreds, which is what race horses are today.  Instead, they were hunters, like people rode when they went fox hunting.  The race was made up of 3 heats, and each of these was 4 miles long.  Which meant that the winning horse had to be able to run for long distances.  Sadly, no one remembers now who won this first race, or more importantly, how they spent the 100 guineas.

Queen Anne in 1705

In the picture that Sir Francis Grant painted of the Queen's Staghounds, we can see a track in the background, where a couple of horses are running.  I think this might be part of the original Ascot race track, but I could be wrong about that.  Anyway, nowadays there is a big, fancy track there, with stands for people to sit in.  The track is still connected with the Royal Family, since it is so close to Windsor Castle.

Horses passing the finishing post at Ascot

Every year, from May to October, there are 26 days of Flat racing at Ascot.  Then during the winter, there is jump racing, which includes hurdles or steeple chase.  In Europe, horse racing is usually done on turf or an all-weather synthetic surface.  This is different from the U.S., where racing is done on dirt or all-weather surfaces.

So that is all I can really say about this second hunting print on a placemat.  But I will just add this disclaimer to my blog entry, which is that when I talk about stag hunting and horse racing, I am just trying to help you learn some things, and it doesn't mean I approve of these activities or think you should go out and do them yourself!

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