The Beginnings Of The Melbourne Hunt Club

The Melbourne Hunt Club Inc is a not for profit horse riding club located in Pakenham, Victoria. We provide riding opportunities to everyone of all ages and riding backgrounds. Melbourne Hunt is the oldest continual pack of hounds in Australia, having being founded by Mr George Watson in 1852 with hounds being brought to Australia from Ireland.

George John Watson (1829-1906), racing entrepreneur, was born at Ballydarton, County Carlow, Ireland, son of John Watson, gentleman, justice of the peace and master of foxhounds. George was schooled at Kilkenny College and brought up amongst hounds and horses. Although intended for the army, he decided to make his way in Australia and arrived in Melbourne in March 1850. On 20 August at St James's Church, Melbourne, he married Sarah Jane Townsend.

In 1851 Watson became lessee of Kirk's Bazaar, the leading colonial horse sale-yard. He also bred, trained and spelled horses on a large scale on Riverina properties, which he leased with Hewitt until 1862, and at I.Y.U., near Pakenham. He owned 4779 acres (1934 ha) of I.Y.U. in 1872-84.

Watson was a member of the first committee of the Victoria Racing Club in March 1864 and was an owner, committee-man and starter into his old age. His main interest was steeplechasing in which he was an outstanding amateur rider and successful owner. His colours of cerise and black won on the flat also; his horse Flying Colours took out the Derby in 1860 and he won the first Oaks Stakes at Flemington in 1861 with Palestine. His great skill, harsh discipline and forceful language as starter brought him world fame and the nickname 'Prince of Starters'; once, after the splendid start of a large Melbourne Cup field, the enormous crowd cheered him again and again. His superb horsemanship, ability and integrity made him one of the most respected men in Victorian racing.

Watson had brought several couples from the famous Carlow pack to Melbourne and when in 1853 he bought the pick of local hounds, he founded the Melbourne Hunt Club and developed the fastest and best pack in the colony. He hunted until 1895 when his son Godfrey became deputy-master. Watson carried the traditions of an old Irish hunting family to Australia. His face, 'well-cut and clean-shaven', often reminded people of pictures of Wellington; his courage, judgment and straightforward dealing made him one of the best known and most popular men of his time. He died, aged 80, at his home in St Kilda on 11 July 1906 and was buried in the St Kilda cemetery. He was survived by six sons and a daughter.

*Taken from  Watson, George John (1829–1906) by Jill Eastwood

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

The kennels originally were at Kirk's Bizaar, near Alex Morrisons in Bourke Street, Melbourne. They were then moved to St Kilda. Caulfield then became headquarters until the Melbourne Hunt Club again moved to Deer Park in 1885. A further move to Oakleigh (Now Huntingdale Golf Course), where they remained until 1929. The next move was to Cranbourne where the club stayed until 1998. The present kennel site is in Pakenham.

Membership Information

There are a few different memberships available to the Melbourne Hunt Club.

*Full Hunting membership

*Child Hunting Membership

*Family Hunting Membership

*Social Membership

*Open Capping - where you pay a small fee per hunt, for insurance purposes

Melbourne Hunt gives you the opportunity to ride on some of Victoria's most stunning properties with a great group of people, we have social events, training days, and also provide qualification required to enter hunter shows which includes the opportunity to represent Melbourne Hunt at the Royal Melbourne Show.