Otago Hunt was established in 1883. The founders were:
Mr Harry Divers, Messrs Hugh Gourlay, T Leedham, J Thompson, SS Meyers, A Hastie, J Muir, J A Jordan and W Hayes.
65 acres of land was purchased at Blackhead, Dunedin by 4 members whom all made a cash donation of $10,000 each. A loan was never required.
The Hunt was based there until 2008 when that very run-down property was sold, and 70 acres with a 5 bedroom summer hill stone home, 26 concreted pig pens, and a dairy shed was purchased along the Maungatuas. This made for lovely new kennels and property.
In 2014, the Hunt also purchased a rental house in Mosgiel which continues to provide a good source of income today.
In 2022, the Hunt has 3 sources of rental income, 60 acres of land at Munro Rd to a local dairy farmer, and the Munro Rd house is rented out as is the Watt St house in Mosgiel. We also take income from subs, caps, and various small fundraising activities.
Otago Hunt is in good heart.
Colours: Registered 4/11/1912. Black collar on scarlet coat. Wemyss tartan on black coat.
1911-14 Hugh J Gourley
1914-21 J A Jordan
1921-23 James Mowat
1923-26 Robert Brunton
1926-29 Leonard Mowat
1929-33 J Neville Murdoch
1933-77 James E Brunton
1977-79 A A (Drew) Stevenson
1979-81 E P (Ted) Lovett
1981- 84 Mrs A A (Marion) Stevenson
1985-04 Colin Hanson
2005-09 Melanie MacLeod
2010– 13 Anne Beattie/Johnny Mains
2014 - Present Anne Beattie
1911-12 C F Cornelius
1914 C F Cornelius
1915 L A Stewart then D A Fitzgerlad
19-16-25 D Wheeler
1926-28 M Shine
1929-36 F R Kydd
1936-37 D G Binnie
1937-40 R Harvey
1940-45 A S McKay
1945-63 J S McKay
1963-70 Tom McCutcheon
1970-77 Barry Kelly During this period Mr Kelly was given leave of absence for two years and Brian Bridges was appointed huntsman
1977-78 Murray Jones
1978- 06 Ray Pledger
2007 Camilla Cavanagh
2008–12 Barry Skudder
2013-16 Stuart Sharp
2017-20 Anne Beattie
2021 - Present Jayne Beattie
The present Otago Hunt, formed in 1911, is a revival of the original body founded in 1883 with as President Mr FW Petre, Vice-President Mr C Samson and committee comprising Messrs H Gourley, McMastern Smith, Cameron, Jones, Hepburn, J Cotton, the hounds used were 10 couple belonging to one Mr Bradley, with kennels at Forbury. Mr Bradley was both Master and Huntsman for several seasons. Other later Masters appear to have been a Mr Hart, a Mr Taggart and possibly a Miss McMaster and the only other recorded Hunstman was, in 1889 J Poole. This organisation could at times muster of following of 50, non-subscribers of which were warned that they could be sued for trespass should their nuisance value be such as to bring them under the notice of the Hunt officials….. a novel way of adding to the coffers and civilising the field. Wire jumping was just not the thing to do, either, according to this rebuke published in the columns of the local paper:
“One Mr Baker, on noticing himself astray, rather foolishly put his horse over the wire to correct his course – happily without accident – we would advise him in future to leave well alone if only out of respect for his horse…”
The Hunt held its first race meeting in 1883, with stakes totalling £310 for the seven races carded. This was held on Forbury Park, as was its two-day meeting in 1886 (£700 in stakes) and its last in 1896, so presumably the steeplechase was an annual affair.
This was the last to be heard of hunting around Dunedin for 15 years. However, in 1911 Mr Harry Divers convened a meeting in the hopes of reviving the sport and such was the support his efforts attracted that by September of that year the new Otago hunt was formally established, and a pack took to the paddocks for the first time in April of 1912 with as Huntsman C Cornelius and as Master Mr Hugh Gourley. As had been the case with the original hunt, due to the scarcity of hares, the Otago hounds followed aniseed drags. They continued to drag hunt for many years, not only because hares were not numerous in the area but because members prefer it this way.
Because it takes more than subscriptions to maintain hounds, hunt servants and hunting country, the Otago’s first off-the-field activity was the inevitable one of the Steeplechase race meetings which was held in September of that formative year at Wingatui. A hunt social was held, with some trepidation, in 1913, and proved such a financial success that an annual ball was established the following year. The hunt affiliated with the National association in 1912 and incorporated in 1913 and apart from some very stormy executive meetings in its early years, settled down to running its affairs in a highly satisfactory manner as far as its finances are concerned, especially when in 1916 it ran its first totalisator race meeting at great profit, followed in 1918 by a similarly successful day. For the six years from 1916 to 1922 the hunt shared its permit alternatively with the Birchwood hunt, gaining its own annual one in 1922 – a red-letter year for both club and hounds, an annual permit being considered the making of any hunt (although later to prove something of a mixed blessing when meeting after successive meeting could be run at a loss), and the pack taking its place in history by being show-stealers on stage for the local production of the light opera ‘Dorothy’.
As far as kennelling is concerned, the Otago’s hounds have had a far more settled life than most packs in the Dominion in view of the length of time established. In 1912 when the first pack was secured, arrangements were made with the Ocean Beach Domain the lease of one acre of ground adjacent to Tahuna Park, against the sandhill in the city. The hunt paid an annual rent of £5 for this section and on it built kennels, stabling for its two horses, and a hut for the Huntsman as well as gallows and a feed room. Considerable labour was expended by members in levelling and beautifying the area – not without cause either, for these dunes in their wild state grew lupins of great size, and impenetrable to all but the odd hound who escaped and went rogue in them for weeks at a time. Before they were suitably fenced off. Hounds remained here until March 1968.
In 1930 the local Whippet Club was graciously permitted the use of one side of this section for a cinder track to course on – a gesture which bore unexpected fruit in 1934 when the Domain Board suddenly doubled its charge for rental. The hunt was able to defray its out-of-pocket expenses by sub-letting the whippet portion to the whippet blokes for the extra £5 per annum and life went on as usual.
In 1927 the hunt was presented with three hounds from the Oakland Hunt Club, Victoria. A stallion hound, Hearty, and a couple of bitches Windy and Widgeon, which proved a boost for the existing blood. In 1936 a further presentation, this time from one Mr Keep in England, resulted in the addition to the pack of a bitch from the Scottish pack of Sir Jock Buchanan-Jardine, MFH of Locherbie, and a West country lemon-pied stallion hound from Devon. This latter was to have a profound effect on many of the South Island packs, throwing not only his colouration but his tremendous ability as well, and his sought-after descendants still crop up and stand out in many a kennel.
For a pack housed for 56 years within the confines of a growing city, Otago’s caused astonishingly little trouble.
However, there is one skeleton in its kennels – at one period it appears to have had a penchant for Pomeranians. In the first instance back in 1927, the Huntsman’s report on the occasion would have one believe that in slaying its small victim the pack acted in self-defence, having been set upon from the ambush of a pillar box and finding it necessary to take drastic action before being allowed to proceed on its law-abiding way to the far side of the Octagon, near the Town Hall, for its appointed meet that day. The court did not credit this. The second occasion was in 1932. The action was deliberate, the little assailant died of injuries received in the encounter. The culprit was punished, and again the hunt paid up. It was still several years, though, before the executive considered it necessary to invest in a trailer to convey hounds to meets.
The slump years from 1932 saw the curtailment of hunting in the Middlemarch area and a complete stoppage in the newly broached Balclutha district. Hounds were culled and the Huntsman Kydd reduced from £3/10/0 weekly to £3/0/0, on account of his being appointed Clerk of the Course to the Dunedin Jockey Club at £28/7/0 the year, and assistant to the Forbury Park Trotting Club at £28/7/0 the year. Schooling jumps were erected in the kennels property at Tahuna Park to assist members schooling horses in the hope that there would be less damage done, hence less maintenance and repairs to fences during qualifying runs: the race meetings ran several consecutive losses, and only the points-to-point and the ball kept finances swinging. The turn of the tide in the later thirties saved the situation: the race meetings paid great dividends, there was talk of investing some of the surplus in a hunt farm, there were extensive repairs to Huntsman cottage and the kennels at Tahuna Park and then came the war. For two years this seemed to have little effect on the hunt except for the lack of able-bodied members to pitch in and help at the point-to-point, and none were available as Huntsman. The situation here was rescued by Mr AS McKay, a gentleman well into his sixties who hadn’t put horse to jump for years but whom now loaded his pipe, reefed up his braces and set sail with all the aplomb of a twenty-year-old.
Wars may come and wars may go but horses must still be qualified for racing. It was now that the hunt applied for and won permission to hold its qualifying runs over the steeplechase schooling fences at Wingatui racecourse.
Following the war, the executive took advantage of the better times to purchase its own freehold property of 67 acres at Sea View on the border of the city. This was done with the idea of eventually establishing the kennels there, of planting and beautifying the entire acreage, and making thereon a showplace plus a set course for schooling and qualifying. However, not until 1968 were the new kennels finally built and occupied, the house and farm meantime being leased to the huntsman Stan McKay, while hounds remained still at Tahuna Park.
The type of hunting country in Otago varied considerably in these times. Near Dunedin it was enclosed, tightish and fairly steep with railed wire fences, gorse hedges and the odd stone wall. Further out on the Taieri it was mostly flat with wire, hedge and ditch, and open ditch. At Middlemarch, Balclutha, and Palmerston it was open and rolling country with wire fences, and the odd gorse and thorn hedge. All country was sparred.
Otago Hunt recalls many names over the years that stand for long and faithful service – notably Mr BS Irwin who became vice-president in 1912, president in 1915, and held that position a full 44 years before becoming patron prior to his death in 1963. Mr LC Hazlett figured largely for years, as did Mrs F Conn, Mrs J McKay, Miss Edith Smythe, Miss Dolly Mowat, March Stratham (Mrs Jack Talbot), Mrs T Dalziel and Edna Greenslade (Mrs Ray Howard). Mr Jim Brunton was Master for 36 years and saw great changes in his 45 years of hunting. He witnessed the almost complete discard of the hack and hackney-type of hunter in favour of the thoroughbred or near-thoroughbred; the continual increase in the number of followers and the vastly improved standard of jumper and rider; the disappearance of the hired horse and private stables, and the very favourable influence of the Pony Clubs on the standard of riding to hounds.
Otago Hunt pursued its chosen course over the next twenty years much as it did prior to 1969. The ball had given way to the cabaret, the point-to-point to hunter trials. The Easter weekend meet at Middlemarch and weekend meet at Balclutha still prevailed, where locals constructed the ‘tracks’ and arranged the activities as was the fashion with Birchwood and Eastern Southland hunts. The season started at the beginning of March and continued until the end of June. All meets were drag and the fields full of budding hurdlers and steeplechasers. The average following was in the forties with a tally always well over the hundred at Middlemarch. Named horses to come up from the Otago’s field included Prize Ring, Opstan, Mountain Lion, Blason, Lucas Lad, Fine Chase, Dark Jester, Wrenway, Casscalo and Charlie Brown.
In 1972 the addition of a feed room and three looseboxes added to the amenities at the kennels, while in 1976, with a membership of 260 odd, subs rose from $4 to $6 and saw the introduction of ‘paddock caps’ of $1 a follower. A junior group was formed in 1978, this running some of the social activities at the hunt. The Otago Hunts Centennial Year was celebrated in 1983 with a mighty centennial week of race meeting, ball, publication of a neat and well researched history booklet and all the trimmings. Visitors came from all over, two of the honoured guests being Bessie Fullerton-Smith and Fred Skeet, then President of the Association.
Jim Brunton, QSO, was elected Patron in 1987, this culminating an unbroken record of office-bearing of 56 years. Mr Brunton was elected to the committee in 1931, became President in 1959 and was Master for 44 years. In the year of 1989, he had served his hunt officially for 58 solid years; to commemorate his 59th, he donated to the hunt the sum of $10,000 invested as a security for the future.
The Otago hounds were a lively bunch and still after many years showing the colour influence of the grand lemon-pied stallion hound imported from Devon in 1936, and the white hound Snow from Tom McCutcheon’s time as Huntsman. They could almost be called ‘orange-pied’ and were more finely bred than most South Island packs.
Ray Pledger worked his hounds at least four times a week in the season, often after dark around the gravelled-road block. They were surely fit, and they needed to be for Otago’s was a busy season.
Here is a point to ponder, in 1923 the total stakes of the hunt’s race meeting were $1930, with the hunt cup worth 150 sovereigns. In 1989 the hunt cup alone was worth $8500 plus a trophy.
Otago Hunt was strong with members such as the Bruntons, the Stevensons, the Russells, the Reids, the McCutcheons, Sutherlands and McKays. People of this ilk look after their own and the Otago Hunt was theirs.
2008 saw the sale of the Black Head property and the purchase of a new property at the bottom of the Maungatuas. A very run-down sixty-five acres was replaced with a very tidy seventy-acre property with twenty-six concrete pig pens which lent themselves to conversion to hound runs, and a solid low maintenance five-bedroom summerhill stone house. There was even a sum of cash left over to invest. The best feature was the location – in the heart of dairy country – a great source of both hound tucker and farmers willing to lease sixty acres from the Hunt.
The Hunt had a new property and a jubilee to organise, but with the resignation of Mrs Cavanagh, no Huntsman. Barry Skudder was the successful applicant for the job, having had over ten years whipping experience with Ryan Smith from South Canterbury. He was thrown in the deep end having to hunt unknown hounds at Otago’s 125th Jubilee within a month of starting the job. Visitors came from throughout New Zealand – the weather was fantastic, and Otago hunted at Middlemarch, Black Rock and Outram. It was a very successful jubilee and a credit to the hard work put in by the committee and the new Huntsman. Otago’s neighbouring hunts also assisted with hounds and helped run a Live Hunt at Middlemarch for the visitors. The South Island Hound Show was again hosted at Wingatui as part of the jubilee celebrations.
2009 brought the introduction of live midweek ‘working the hounds’. The development of the Hunt property continued with kennels being completed and a large walk-in freezer built. The hound pack was now radically different from the 2007 pack Otago had at Black Head. This pack both live hunted and drag hunted with success.
In 2010 a wash-down system was put into the kennels. Combined hunts were beginning to happen with neighbouring Hunts which were always live. Otago members were starting to get quite a taste for some of this live hunting.
In 2011 Otago hunted under joint Masters; Mrs Anne Beattie and Mr Johnny Mains. After an enjoyable and successful 2011 season, members continued to make improvements to the property and to also meet socially. Huntsman Barry Skudder continued to fine-tune the hound pack and had an on-going breeding programme in place. Fundraising was always on the agenda with Hunter trials and jumping days always popular.