His first hunt was on November 14th 1879 at Howtown: one fox was killed and two went to ground. In his first season he took 19 foxes, in the second, he took 29, and subsequently he became more successful and averaged 50 foxes per season.
He had prodigious stamina and strength on the hills, walking extraordinary distances. In one such hunt he started in Patterdale, following the hounds to Kentmere, then back over Martindale through Mardale to Howtown where the fox ran into the station waiting room and then sprang off the pier into Ullswater, followed by the hounds who ultimately despatched it in the water.
In another, hounds raised and killed a fox in Grisedale valley in the morning, then raised another that ran up Hellvellyn. The hunt continued across to Fairfield, then on to the Langdale Pikes, Borrowdale and Honister where the fox was holed up and killed in a quarry by Bowman’s hound Crowner. The dead fox and the rest of the hunt was ultimately found at Ennerdale. The local Innkeeper housed the hounds for the night and then sent off one of the hounds, Cleaver, with a message tied around his neck, hoping he would return home to his kennels. Bowman had reached Honister in pursuit, but having lost the pack decided to return to Grassthwaite How, finding Cleaver waiting for him upon his return.
He was an extraordinarily talented hound breeder, focussing on speed and quality. His favourite hound was Cleaver. It is Joe Bowman who was the first person to cross a blue-black Border Terrier with a black and tan Fell Terrier to create what he called a Patterdale Terrier. The Patterdale breed is alive and well today and is always on show at the famous annual Patterdale Dog Day which takes place in King George Vth field in Patterdale on the last Saturday of August.
Joe Bowman died in 1940 at the age of 90. The whole of the community turned out for his funeral cortège. There is a Memorial to him at the Kennels. He is buried in St Patricks’ church, Patterdale.
A special Hunting song was composed in his honour:
Down at Howtown we met with Joe Bowman at dawn,
The grey hills echoed back the glad sound of his horn,
And the charm of its note sent the mist far away
And the fox to his lair at the dawn of the day.
When the fire’s on the hearth and good cheer abounds
We’ll drink to Joe Bowman and his Ullswater hounds,
For we’ll never forget how he woke us at dawn
With the crack of his whip and the sound of his horn.
Then with steps that were light and with hearts that were gay
To a right smickle spot we all hasten away,
The voice of Joe Bowman, how it rings like a bell
As he cast off his hounds by the side of Swarth Fell.
The shout of the hunters it startled the stag
As the fox came to view on the lofty Brook crag,
“Tally-Ho” cried Joe Bowman “the hounds are away,
O’er the hills let us follow their musical bay”.
The shout of the hunter’s it startled the stag
Master Reynard was anxious his brush for to keep,
So he followed the wind oe’r the high mountain steep,
Past the deep silent tarn to the bright running beck,
Where he hoped by his cunning to give us a check.
Though he took us oe’r Kidsey we held to his track,
For we hunted my lads with the Ullswater Pack
Who caught the fox and effected a kill,
By the silvery stream of the bonny Ramps Gill.
Now his head’s on the crook and the bowl is below,
And we‘re gathered around by the fires warming glow,
Our songs they are merry, our choruses high,
As we drink to the hunters who joined in the cry.
When this song is sung at Ullswater, the third verse should be given as follows:
The shout of the hunters it startled the stag,
As the fox came to view on the lofty Brook Crag,
“Tally-Ho” We’re away, o’er the rise and the fell,
Joe Bowman, Kit Farrar, Will Milcrest and all.
by Tim Clarke and Emma Bray
Reminiscences of Joe Bowman W C Skelton 1921