GENESEO — The Genesee Valley Hunt got its claim to fame over a century ago when it was referred to as “America’s first hunt.”
On Oct. 14 the famous American hunt will have its Genesee Valley Hunt Race from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 3320 Nations Road in Geneseo. The Hunt Races have been hosted here for over 120 years, and some of the finest steeplechase trainers on the eastern seaboard bring their horses here to compete for over $30,000 in prize money. Trainers, owners, and jockeys agree that the Genesee Valley Hunt Races are one of the most anticipated meets of the entire season.
On Sept. 26 Linda Gibbs, Hunt historian, gave some insight on the popular hunt that began on the Wadsworth property 140 years ago. Gibbs sorted through this fascinating history about 15 years ago.
“This sport isn’t a horse sport,” she said. “This is a fox and hound sport. The Fox Chase is not like a normal hunt. It has been going on in this area for a very long time.”
The foxes and hounds were brought in by the English in the late 1600s. They stayed in the south until the late 1700s when they migrated to the north. Over a century ago they brought these foxes to the Genesee Valley region. For 100 years the foxes have thrived in this area.
Our first president, George Washington, bred the first American Hounds. He did so by breeding English and French foxhounds. In 1876 William A. Wadsworth started the hunt at the Wadsworth Homestead.
“Our goal is to chase the foxes and coyotes,” Gibbs said. “The foxes will run into a den, and we will know where to chase next time. Our huntsman is a woman (Marian Thorne) who takes very good care of the hounds. She works with them all year, and they listen to her.”
The hounds have gps in their collars that help keep track of them if one gets lost on the hunt.
“The Stadium in the valley is amazing,” Gibbs said. “They hunted all over in 1876, because there were no wire fences back then. The horses could jump over the wooden and stone fences. There was no limit to fox chasing. They could go to Letchworth Park, Warsaw, and all over the valley.”
In 1880 the Wadsworth Family got their own hounds, and built kennels for them. They developed their own hunt over the years, and it was so good that famous public figures came down to hunt.
Gibbs said that William A. Wadsworth was the master and huntsman for many years.
“Anyone who owned land or was a tenant on the farms could hunt with him,” she said. “William A. Wadsworth did it all himself. He didn’t charge for the hunt. He wanted to encourage everyone to hunt no matter what their status.”
“This opened the eyes of people all over the country,” Gibbs continued. “It was called the first American Hunt, because it included everyone. William A. Wadsworth said it was his hunt and his people. When the farms got flooded he would forgive the rent; knowing they didn’t have crops to make money. He forgave $6,000 worth of rent one year, and that was a lot of money in the 1880s.”
The Genesee Valley Hunt would change huntsmen and masters over the years, but it remained within the Wadsworth family roots for the most part.
William A. Wadsworth had one son, William Perkins Wadsworth in 1906. He would carry on his father’s love and legacy for the hunt. He was the master and huntsman for over 40 years, and during his time he transformed the hunt.
In 2002 Marion Thorne, stepdaughter the William Austin Wadsworth, wanted to be part of the hunt. She has been the master and huntsman ever since.
Gibbs said the race is so much more than a hunt, and it has fun family activities. If you want to be part of the hunt all you need is a horse. Some keep up with the master, others do a nice trot, and some just walk their horses the whole time. Some people just like following in their vehicles, or watching from their lawn chairs.
For more information on the Genesee Valley Hunt visit http://geneseevalleyhunt.org/ or http://www.wadsworthhomestead.com/ or https://gvhraces.com/