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Blessing of the Hounds on Thanksgiving

November 14, 2022

Matthew Carroll

Matthew Carroll

For more than 100 years in several places from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and beyond, fox hunters gather at churches or fields on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate a ceremonial blessing of the hounds before partaking in the long-standing British tradition that is more about horsemanship and hounds in pursuit than actual hunting. 

The Pandemic Couldn’t Stop The Blessing of the Hounds

The pandemic may have paused or altered the tradition, but it is back on in Southern Pines, NC, according to the article by Mary Kate Murphy in The Pilot who recounts the more than a century-old tradition there. 

“I remember colorful Maryland fox hunts, too, preceded by the blessing of the hounds. For more than 100 years, fox hunting clubs of Maryland have come to countryside churches for an Episcopal blessing on Thanksgiving Day, and modern times have seen the custom grow beyond a dedicated few in dark leather boots, white breeches, red coats, and black hunters’ caps. One of the oldest of them still occurs at the Saint James Episcopal Church in Monkton, where generations of spectators have gathered annually for decades to watch riders and hounds observe the old English tradition. 

“After the pageantry, huntsmen and hounds would set off across the nearby countryside, crossing streams and jumping fences on property whose owners freely grant permission,” writes Kenneth Lasson, a professor of law, in The Baltimore Sun, as he reflects on the magic of Thanksgiving’s past in Baltimore and the surrounding Maryland area. 

Lasson notes there are more than 160 fox hunting clubs across the United States. 

Tips for Enjoying the Festivities

The Blessing of the Hounds on Thanksgiving is a cherished tradition that brings together both the equestrian and local communities. As the hounds and their riders gather for this special event, there are some essential tips to ensure a memorable experience.

First, arrive early to secure a good viewing spot and witness the blessing ceremony. Dress warmly and comfortably, as Thanksgiving weather can be unpredictable. Don’t forget to bring binoculars to catch all the action up close.

Finally, embrace the festive atmosphere by bringing a thermos of hot cocoa or cider to sip on as you enjoy the sight of the beautifully adorned hounds and riders parading in celebration of this unique holiday tradition.

Read more about the blessing of the hounds and other Thanksgiving traditions on iSportsmanUSA.
Photo by Maria Showfer.

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