Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cheverny : Release The Hounds!

As I've been hinting, one of the highlights of our visit to the Château de Cheverny was the daily feeding of the hunting dogs, called la soupe des chiens.

A sign on the fence around the grassy dog run.
"Please don't come any closer."


These are big dogs, a mix of English and French hunting hounds. They're kept in special kennels near the château's kitchen garden and other out-buildings. They have a large grassy yard to run around in that is, naturally, fenced off and marked with the signs pictured above.

The line of kibble and raw, quartered chickens.

As feeding time approaches, a crowd gathers around the concrete pen just outside the kennel. The dog keepers have lined up an impressive pile of kibble mixed with quartered chickens. At this point the dogs are milling around on the roof of the kennel, watching, waiting.

Dogs cast shadows on the pen wall as they wait for feeding time.

A clock somewhere on the property rings five bells, and the dogs are ready. The keeper releases them into the pen, but the dogs don't pounce on the food yet. They hang back, their bodies tense with anticipation, letting out a yelp here, a howl there.

Waiting for the signal.

The keeper gives a signal and all hell breaks loose. It's every dog for himself (they all males) and they dive in, each grabbing a chicken carcass and moving off to the side to devour it. For a while all you can see are the backs of dogs with tails wagging skyward as they eat up the kibble. Some of the dogs come up with bloody snouts (from the raw chicken) and other dogs will lick them clean.

Chow time!

The whole spectacle takes about five minutes and then the crowd disperses. It's at this point that you can get in close to the pen and see the dogs unobstructed. Each one has a shaved "V" on its flank to identify it as belonging to the château owner.

The aftermath.

John got some really good photos of the dogs, but you'll have to make do with mine until he starts a blog of his own!

John snapping a few more photos.
The sign says, "Please don't excite the dogs."

Shortly after the feeding, two helicopters swooped down and landed on the lawn not too far from the kennel. Some of the dogs were fascinated by this and stood up to watch, as you can see in the picture above.

I gawked a little, too, along with the rest of the proletariat, to see if I could recognize any famous faces. No Johnny, no Carla, no Depardieu. Just a bunch of horsey-looking tourists who have way too much money. We moved on.

8 comments:

  1. yes i've heard of the hounds even though i'm from thousands of miles away!

    they look so smart and dashing!

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  2. Oh my goodness Walt, those pictures are fabulous. That looks like it would have been such a sight to see.

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  3. This whole series was a treat and you saved the best for last.

    I know of Carla and Depardieu, but who's Johnny?

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  4. Is it Johnny Halliday?
    I thought he wanted to keep his "hard-earned" money away from the fisc in Switzerland!! :-)

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  5. Claudia in Toronto13 April, 2008 19:40

    Wow!

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  6. kyh, I'll bet they are quite smart.

    justin, thanks. It's actually the second time I've seen it!

    louise, the beaver is right, it is Halliday, our "Johnny National" as they call him.

    claudia, you can say that again!

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  7. Great series on Cheverny, Walt! - Ginny

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  8. ginny, thanks! C'mon over and see it in person!

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