"We usually chase a blonde named Paddy Earl," says William Allen, with great relish. "They go better, and we go better." Allen, who resides in Warwickshire, England, is master of the Wootton Hall bloodhounds—the aforementioned "they"—and a proponent of a burgeoning sport in Britain, namely hunting human beings rather than foxes. Naturally, the League Against Cruel Sports is delighted with the substitution and, according to one gentleman whose daughter had heretofore hunted foxes, "It's certainly better than coffee bars, isn't it? That's where the rot sets in, let's face it."
The bloodhounds comprising the four packs now hunting in Britain are not of the type seen at dog shows; the large head and heavy bones have been bred out, so that the dogs more resemble the black-and-tan St. Hubert hounds, which accompanied William the Conqueror. Moreover, bloodhounds such as Allen's are so fast that a galloping horse cannot keep up with them after a mile.
Allen generally hunts Miss Earl, an office worker, or Garth Caddock, a stable boy in his employ, or eager members of a local cross-country club. "I like it," says Garth. "I must have been hunted a thousand times. You get used to fooling them—turning sudden right angles as you run, wading through pools, jumping ditches, walking straight through cow dung. There's an art in it."
Allen is likewise fascinated by the nature of scent, about which Mr. Jorrocks, the fictional English fox hunter, observed there "is nothing rummer except a woman." Allen daily measures ground and air temperatures, wind velocity and humidity and is becoming convinced that there is no such thing as scent, or, at least, scent is not what the hounds actually follow. Allen believes that their tracking ability may instead have something to do with "a positive magnetic field or a negative one, or vibration." He points out that not long ago his hounds successfully followed Garth despite the fact that he donned new rubber boots a mile from the start, did a mile in them and then changed back to his shoes. To Allen, this feat plus others, such as being able to follow a right-angled track through water, is quite convincing proof.
Whatever the case, Allen knows that if the air temperature is two or three degrees above the ground temperature, there is always a terrific "scent" and he is in for a "screaming hunt." This, he adds, is a fox-hunting term and is not meant to denote in any way the possible reaction of the quarry. As Garth says, "You get bitten now and again, but only by accident."