Every Thanksgiving morning, a unique and time-honored tradition unfolds in Southern Pines, North Carolina. The Moore County Hounds invite the public to attend their opening meet for the annual Blessing of the Hounds. This ritual, dating back to the Middle Ages, marks the formal launch of the foxhunting season and gathers hounds, riders, and over 1,000 spectators in a celebration of heritage, sport, and community.
The event takes place at Cameron's Meadow on North May Street, where the robed figure of Father Tom Harbold presides over the blessing. The ceremony includes a prayer from St. Hubert, the patron saint of hunting, asking for protection for rider, horse, and hound from danger to life and limb.
The blessing is a poignant moment, connecting the present-day sport with centuries of tradition. It's a time for reflection, gratitude, and anticipation for the season ahead.
The first to arrive are the riders, assembling around 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The leadership group, including joint masters and hunt staff, dons scarlet-colored jackets, while the rest of the riders, known collectively as the field, wear traditional foxhunting attire.
Horses of various breeds gather, each matching the rider's size, ability, and preference. The crowd begins to congregate, and the kennel man prepares the scent for the hounds to follow.
The stars of the event, the Moore County Hounds, make their grand entrance, tails wagging, led by their huntsman, Lincoln Sadler. These Penn-Marydel hounds are known for their great scenting ability and have become a symbol of the Moore County Hounds' legacy.
During the hunt, the hounds are guided by the huntsman and assisted by whippers-in, who work as additional sets of eyes and ears. The hounds are trained to follow specific scents and are taught to ignore distractions like squirrels and deer.
After the blessing, the crowd witnesses the division of riders into three groups, each following a joint field master. The huntsman gathers the hounds, and the sound of the horn signals the beginning of the hunt.
The hounds and riders depart from Buchan Field into the piney woods of the Walthour-Moss Foundation, a 4,000-acre tract of land that the Moore County Hounds hunt by cooperative agreement.
A Living Tradition
The annual Blessing of the Hounds is more than a ceremony; it's a living tradition that embodies the spirit and values of the Moore County Hounds. It's a celebration of outdoor sporting life, friendships, and the joy of watching the hounds do what they are bred to do.
Join us this Thanksgiving for a spectacle of grace, tradition, and community, as we honor the hounds and the sport we love.