Horse Riding - The Calpe Hunt in Gibraltar

The Calpe Hunt in Gibraltar

The Gibraltar Directory of 1897 says of the Calpe Hunt. "In the winter, the (cork) woods constantly resound with the cherry cry of the Calpe Huntsman , the sound of the horn, and the deep notes of the hounds." One season, it recounts, the hounds even brought to bay a large wolf in the cork wood, and despatched it.

The Hunt owed its formation to the Garrison Chaplain, who in 1812 imported a couple of fox-hounds - Rockwood and Ranter - to deal with the plague of foxes who were raiding the gardens and poultry sheds of the Rock families. Other civilians imported more hounds at their own expense, until gradually a respectable size pack was formed.

The founders named themselves the 'Civil Hunt', sporting blue uniforms with silver buttons engraved CH. Eventually, the management of the Civil Hunt was taken over by the officers of Gibraltar Garrison, and in 1814 became the Calpe Hunt. Their uniforms were changed to scarlet, with the addition of a royal blue collar later on. The Directory describes it as 'the great institution of Gibraltar... The noble sport of fox-hunting, so dear to Englishmen, is here maintained in its fullest integrity. "

The hunting, of course, took place in Spain around the Rock, twice a week during the season (November - March), the farthest meet being about 14 miles. The horses encountered "every sort of country except enclosure, for there is no jumping," the Directory continued ' " Plough, cultivation, thick woods, thick coverts and crags occur in their order, and the riding to a novice seems more than dangerous; but this feeling soon wears off when he sees the ease and safety with which the little coarse bred Spanish horses get over the ground, and also when he sees very many ladies riding safely and well to the front.

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"It can easily be imagined how great is the relief to those cooped up on the Rock, on a day's ride through beautiful scenery and with usually most lovely weather. The very ride to the meet is most exhilarating, as the highway to the greater part of the meets is the Spanish beach, with its gloriously fresh sea breezes. Everybody knows everybody else, while the presence of many of the fair sex gives grace and animation to the scene." The Spaniards did not share the Englishmen's' taste for fox-hunting, because, explains The Directory, "the Spanish farmer cannot understand why so much expense is maintained, and why so much fuss of men and horses is made about an animal which he can, and indeed very often does, get rid of by a pot shot; and therefore, the same feeling remains as describes by a local poet many years ago:

“The novel sight the Spanish hind amazes, And still he cries: ‘Que locos los Ingleses!' (how crazy the English are!)“

Unfortunately, the Calpe Hunt has not survived to go on telling its tales. However, another horsey sport has. Rich Gibraltarian have turned to polo instead.