Ruth and I last visited Cheverny six years ago. Again, I have to say that the Hunting Dogs of Cheverny are still its greatest attraction.
After you have seen many, many chateaux, they all morph into one. There is a similarity about them. Even the tourists start looking the same.
But not at Cheverny. It is different. Chantilly may have its horses, but Cheverny has its dogs. And that is why we have come a second time.
On our last visit, the kennels were being refurbished and the dogs were housed elsewhere. So, we were determined to see them this time, particularly La Soupe Des Chiens (feeding time) that takes place at 5 pm (Apr-Sep).
We arrived early at the kennels, and after making a few new friends (dogs i.e.), I reluctantly agreed to take another look at the Chateau. But I made sure that I was back at the kennels in time for the feeding.
Around seventy hunting dogs live in Cheverny. The dogs — half English foxhound and half French Poitou — are taken out hunting twice a week in winter, the hunting season. Judging by the horns in the trophy room, they are very good at their job.
The kennels are quite spartan with much concrete, ideal for washing away the tons of crap that the dogs produce. We were reminded by the trainer that the dogs are treated as dogs, not pets; but they don’t look too unhappy. A memorable quote by the trainer gives a hint as to Cheverny’s approach to their dogs:
There are no bad dogs, just bad owners. It’s the owners that should be put down, not the dog.
La Soupe Des Chiens is a crowd-puller, so get there early, about 20 to 30 minutes beforehand to get a good position, preferably where the bars are wide enough to put a camera through. Don’t worry, the dogs are too busy concentrating on the food to worry about your camera.
The hungry hounds are gathered on the kennel rooftop and begin howling as the trainer brings in a barrow of chicken, pasta and kibble.
As the he opens the gate, the dogs grow more and more agitated, but will not attack the food until the trainer gives the order. Only then do they go absolutely berserk and dive in.
It is a real scramble, although the food seems enough to go around. I certainly did not see any emaciated animals and wagging tails in the air suggested satisfaction. Some of the less aggressive dogs hang around the outside of the scrum waiting for the first onslaught to abate before diving to get their share.
The whole exercise was over in a few minutes. Not a piece of kibble left. Like a vacuum cleaner, they swept the site clean. With full bellies, these well-trained dogs sauntered off inside the kennel for a good nights sleep.
Chateau de Cheverny
1, Avenue Château Cheverny 41700
+33 (0)2 54 79 96 29
9:45 am to 5:00 pm (Jan-Mar); 9:15 am to 6:15 pm (Apr-Jun); 9:15 am to 6:45 pm (Jul-Aug): 9:15 am to 6:15 pm (Sep); 9:45 am to 5:30 pm (Oct); 9:45 to 5:00 pm (Nov-Dec)
Motorway A10, Paris – Bordeaux, Exit Blois, 170 km. By train to Blois.