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As soon as they are ready, the apprentice hounds join the main packs on their daily exercise walks. Out into the field they go, under the watchful eye of Mrs. Hannum. Each young hound is "coupled" to an older one by a leather collar and chain, and in this way pack discipline is taught to the inexperienced hound. This goes on day after day, and slowly the young hound learns to move about as a member of the team. At first he riots after any old rabbit or bird, but, coupled to the older hound, he soon learns to curb his natural instincts and act upon command only. All the time Mrs. Hannum watches them and notes their progress, studying each hound's personality.
Later, the coupling collars are removed and the young hounds go out with the pack unguided. They are walked in the meadow and along a roadside and are taught to watch and listen, to obey and to heed the sharp crack of the whip. After being "walked out" from April until July, their mounted road work starts. Then hounds are walked and jogged along the roads, with the hunt staff mounted on horses. By the time cubbing starts, hounds are used to being out for about three hours and their feet are tough and hard, as are their whole bodies.
"But anywhere along the line they can misbehave themselves right out of the kennels and hunt. Too much individuality, a quarrelsome or timid nature, a streak of disobedience?any one of these inbred qualities can finish a hound," says Mrs. Hannum. But when she thinks they are ready she draws the new entries for size, levelness of conformation and sex, and divides them into packs to be taken out cub hunting.
This is the last phase of their training, their graduation exercise. Though part of the regular hunting pack, they are still rookies until they have had a full season's hunting. If they come through this final examination successfully, they are considered "entered hounds."
GRADUATION DAY AT LAST
They take their place in the pack, excitedly bounding their way at the feet of Mrs. Hannum's horse. The whippers-in are there too, watching their charges carefully, ready to chastise a riotous hound with their trailing whips and stern commands. There's a snap in the air and the Brandywine is veiled in mist as they go to the meet. They are a blood-stirring sight, swishing rhythmically over field and stream, snuffing the scented earth.
Mrs. Hannum, her horn tucked between buttons of her hunting coat, leads them on, a low, trilling whistle on her lips.
The whip cracks and a recalcitrant bounds back to his proper place in the pack. Up the slope they come, jogging at a trot-pace, etched softly against the backdrop of the Brandywine. "Here they come," goes up the cry of the field, as the star performers join the meet.
The hunting horn sounds its twanging note, and another day's hunt has begun.