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Prior to the 1850’s the Georgia foxhound had no problem running down the local gray fox. With the migration of the red fox into Georgia, these foxhounds did not have the stamina to keep up with the red fox. Colonel Harris, a prominent fox hunter and occupant of Cedar Green Plantation at that time, acquired a pair Irish Foxhounds, July, the male, was bred to the local Georgia hounds, thus creating a linage that remains to this day. This new linage, The July Foxhound, had the all important appearance of a Georgia foxhound, but with the speed of an Irish Foxhound. This July Foxhound linage has proven itself to be a prized, champion hunting dog around the world (and quite capable of running down the red fox).
The genesis of the July Foxhound had it origin in 1814 when the Duke of Leeds gave to his guest, Bolton Jackson from Maryland, two Irish Foxhounds, Mountain and Muse. The Duke of Leeds had married a daughter of Charles Carroll (figure to right) of Maryland, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Jackson in turn presented these two hounds to Colonel Sterrett Ridgley, Speaker of Maryland's House of Delegates. Colonel Ridgley of Howard County eventually presented Mountain and Muse to Governor Ogle of Maryland.
Two of Mountain and Muse descendants, Red Tickler and Lade, were owned by a Mr. Nimrod Gosnell, a noted Maryland hunter, who was born in Baltimore County in 1820 and died in 1884. Mrs. Mary Hobbs, daughter of Mr. Gosnell, who inherited her father's love of hounds and hunting, helped her father raise the pups. His all time favorite was Red Tickler, the sire of July and Mary. Mary’s favorite was Lade, the dam of July and Mary. Lade was a tan bitch of medium size and the most untiring runner that was ever known in Howard County. Tickler was a red hound with white on neck and it is said his toenails were also red. He was not a free opener on a cold trail but his note was a fierce chop. Mr. Gosnell always regarded the mating of Lade and Tickler as being his most successful cross and raised three hounds from this pair after July and Mary were shipped to Georgia.
Colonel Miles G. Harris was born November 29, 1803 and died June 2, 1877 at the age of 74. His beautiful home in Hancock County consisted of two stories and a front yard lined with beautiful oak trees and a mound sodded with Bermuda. During the summer this princely man would spread rugs and pillows on the lawn for the purpose of reading. To the west of the mound in the front yard there still remains a sunken garden where he planted all types of flowers. A 300 foot long rock wall was built in front of the house by an Italian contracted from Italy. The wall was unique in that every 30 to 40 feet a stone pillar was constructed with a large stone sphere at the top that was hewn from the stone making the pillar. Additionally a stone kitchen with walls 3 feet thick was constructed behind the house. All the stone for the rock wall and kitchen was hauled by ox carts from Stone Mountain about 100 miles away.
Colonel Harris was the most extensive planter in middle Georgia with his land extending on both sides of Shoulderbone Creek in Hancock County. As a large slave owner, Harris built unique octagonal shaped brick homes (photo to the left) for his workforce, the duplicates of which where not to be found on any plantation in the south. And, with his fondness for hunting, he kept a pack of 15 to 20 of long eared foxhounds. Colonel Harris’ groom was a faithful mulatto slave named Warren, whose sole duty consisted of feeding and caring for the hounds.
Colonel Harris’ pack, prior to 1860, was of the Proctor and Redbone strain being large red hounds with long ears hanging like “window curtains” and “rat tails” as long as fishing poles. A foxhound wasn’t a foxhound unless it fit that description. These hounds were used for hunting mink, gray fox, and wild cat.
Harris, being an extensive planter and always requiring a greater amount of stock for farming than he could raised on the plantation, made occasional trips to Cincinnati, a great live stock trading center. It was on one of his trips to Cincinnati that he met Mr. Ben Robinson of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, from whom he bought mules. Harris and Robinson soon found that they had a common interest in hounds which resulted in Harris' visit to the Robinson home to see and hear the Robinson pack run a fox.
During a demonstration of Robinson hounds, instead of a fox, the dogs jumped a deer. The pack, consisting of bloodline descendants of Mountain and Muse, bayed the deer in the Ohio River in less than an hour. Col. Harris was amazed at the speed and drive of this pack and asked Mr. Robinson about the history of the hounds as they were the most incredible he had over seen run.
Harris was to1d that the hounds were acquired from Maryland, so it was in November of 1857 that Harris went to the home of a Mr. Nimrod Gosnell near Roxburg Mills in Howard County Maryland. Col. Harris told Mr. Gosnell how the red fox had invaded Georgia which caused the grays to leave, adding his hounds could catch grays but the reds were too much for his dogs. He also told Mr. Gosnell of his visit to the Robinson home in Kentucky and what he had seen the Robinson’s hounds do with a big buck. On hearing this, the Maryland sportsman told his guest that he would have to spend the night and see his pack run a red, which he stated would be killed or denned in 40 to 60 minutes, if the day was favorable for scent.
Next morning a gale was blowing from the east, a poor day for hunting, but they went anyway to see how this famous pack would work. A fox was unkenneled and passed in full view of both men. Without any warning from the hounds, though, the flying pack came in pursuit, running abreast with Red Tickler showing the way. In a few seconds the hounds were out of hearing range.
The two men waited, their ears strained for any sign of the pack, though nothing could be heard for a half an hour when Mr. Gosnell caught the call of a crow to his right. He followed the course of the crow with his eye and pointed out the hounds to Col. Harris just as the dogs were about to disappear beyond the brow of a hill. Tickler and Lade were leading the pack. Due to the wind no attempt was made to follow the pack.
Col. Harris' attention naturally was turned to Tickler and Lade. He told Mr. Gosnell to price the pair and “if money can buy them, they are mine.” Mr. Gosnell replied, "My good fellow, they are yours and your money to, for a good man who travels so far in order to secure good hounds as you have done convinces me that Tickler and Lade would have a better home in Georgia than they now have. Accept them, sir, as a gift." Col. Harris replied, “My friend, you are too generous to be taken advantage of, and I decline to accept this pair of noble hounds.” A compromise was reached with the consent of Col. Harris to accept a pair of puppies from the cross of Lade and Tickler.
In June of 1858 a pair of wooly haired cockeared tan colored puppies, from Lade and Tickler, were crated and routed to Georgia. The hound puppies reached Sparta the first of July, for which the male puppy was named and his sister was christened Mary. Their advent in Georgia created wide and adverse criticism. A Mr. Harvey Dennis from Putnam County, 30 miles away across the Oconee River, was invited to view these Maryland puppies. Mr. Dennis felt much chagrined when the pups were submitted to him as they did not at all resemble a foxhound (short ears and the wrong tail). They were such poor looking pups that a lot of hunters, friends of Miles Harris, thought a joke had been played on him. At that time no pup was promising unless its ears were long enough to lap around his nose and tie into a bow. The adverse opinions from all hunters caused Col. Harris to clandestinely raise these pups until grown.
In October of 1859, Colonel Harris invited fox hunters for miles distant to join him for a hunt. They accepted and brought their best runners. The pair of Irish yearlings, July and Mary, about 23 inches tall with wooly tan hair and cocked ears, were coupled and ready for their first race. A red fox was quickly unkenneled and led the pack in the direction of the Oconee River. Some tried to follow the hounds and some remained. The fox made his circle and returned with only two hounds in close pursuit, pressing him hard while the rest of pack was scattered from the river to Shoulderbone Creek.
The chop and yelp of Mary and July astonished the other hunters, for the two hounds were pumping the wind out of the fox. The fox came in sight, showing signs of distress. The Irish pursuers had marked the fox for their game. The fox was forced to shorten his circles and began "tacking" for another lead, but the unerring nose of July and Mary guided their speed and the fox was soon killed in an open cotton patch in less than an hour, with no other hounds to be heard or seen.
Later that year Mary came into season and was tied by Warren in the gin house loft at the plantation near an open window. Too much leeway was given Mary and she jumped from the window and hung herself. Harris was so upset that he had Warren thrashed, this being the first and only thrashing Warren ever received. Naturally, July's popularity soared. Bitches were brought to him from all over the Georgia. July’s new get had the appearance of a Georgia foxhound, but with the speed of the Irish. Eventually, July’s stud capacity was so over taxed, that if a driver turned into the large iron double gate, July tucked his head and ran to hide.
So started the linage of the July Foxhound, the bloodline of which remains today. The July Foxhound line has proven itself to be a prized, champion hunting dog that continues to win awards around the world.
During the latter 1860's, Col. Harris' hearing failed. His hunting days were over and he sent his faithful ex-slave Warren over into Putnam County with old July and six other hounds with instructions in writing: "These hounds are sent to Putnam County friends for their benefit, and to be owned in common by them for the purpose of making suitable and necessary crosses. "Six of them are given in total, but it must be expressly understood that old July is simply loaned out, and the title to him shall never pass from my hands.” A Captain Ham Ridley of Jones County had July only a few months in 1872 when this famous foxhound passed away. July was buried in Captain Ridley's orchard, which is now in woods. A marker was placed over this noble hound’s grave.
With this 1938 poem by Mr. George Garrett, author of the book “Fifty Years With Fox And Hounds,” the story of the one and only July closes.
Have you ever seen the grave and the stone erected on it,
Have you ever read the words so roughly hewn upon it?
Have you ever paused to think upon the reason why
Such an honor is here paid a dog; a hound known as July?
The Putnam woods, the bending trees have heard the music of his voice.
To “Turner's Old Fields” the huntsman road and there with nature they'd rejoice.
What? Hold! Yet huntsman of the field, July has struck a living trail,
The trail is cold though it matters not, for see, July is in the van,
He will have that fox within an hour, so hasten all who can.
Also referred to as a forest fox, the gray fox is native to the eastern forests of both Georgia and the United States. The association of the gray fox with forests may in part be based on the gray fox’s ability to elude predators such as predatory birds, coyotes, and bobcats by climbing trees-a feature unique among foxes. Even though gray foxes are associated primarily with forested areas, they are also found along woodland edges and in and around urban/suburban areas. Gray foxes are quite territorial spending most of their life in a one-square mile home range. Gray foxes are considered carnivores because a large portion of their diet includes rabbits, rats, mice, squirrels, birds, and insects, however they also will eat carrion and vegetation, including all types of fruits, nuts and berries.
Grizzled gray in color with patches of reddish fur on the neck, flanks, legs and underside of the tail, gray foxes weigh between 8-12 pounds, are 34-40 inches in total length. A black stripe runs along their back down to the tail tip. Sexual maturity occurs at approximately one year of age and the mating season runs from January through April. Following a 53-day gestation period, females give birth to 2-7 pups. Considered monogamous, both male and female gray foxes work together to raise pups until the pups become independent after about 3 months of age.
Originally introduced into America by European settlers and now found throughout Georgia and most of the United States, the red fox is characterized as an old field or edge-species since it is commonly found in areas of mixed pine-hardwood forests interspersed with fields, cropland and/or grasslands. Red foxes are quite common in urban and suburban areas throughout Georgia because of the abundance of food in these areas and their adaptability. Oftentimes home range and territories overlap and vary in size depending on red fox population densities and food abundance. Red foxes are considered carnivores because a large portion of their diet includes rabbits, rats, mice, squirrels, birds and insects. However they also will eat carrion and vegetation including all types of fruits, nuts and berries. When preyed upon by coyotes, bobcats, and/or predatory birds, red foxes utilize their adaptation of speed and endurance to elude predators. This adaptation is what made this species so popular for fox and hound hunting.
A furry deep reddish brown to yellowish red animal with a characteristic bushy red tail tipped with white, the red fox weighs between 8-14 pounds, and is 36-45 inches in total length. Sexual maturity occurs at approximately one year of age and the mating season runs from January through February. Following a 53-day gestation period, females give birth to 4-5 pups. Considered monogamous, both male and female work together to raise pups until the pups disperse at about 6 months of age.
Both the Red and gray fox are considered game species and furbearers. Hunting and trapping seasons are from approximately December through February. Foxes are typically harvested for their fur value which is used in the coat and trim markets.
Commemorating the 1858 July Foxhound