Bowerman’s Hounds

Sunrise over Hound Tor. February 2021
Sunrise at Hound Tor in early December with Haytor in the background beside the sun.

Legend tells us that a hunter named Bowerman was out hunting with his hounds, when they came across a group of witches deep in a magic ritual. A rather clumsy hunter he was, because he succeeded in upending the witches’ cauldron standing in a fire pit. This upset the witches very much, as they had to start their “witch ritual” all over again.

So, one of the witches turned herself into a hare and got the hunting party to chase her into some boggy terrain, where the witches surrounded Bowerman and his hounds and turned them into stone. Quite harsh, but the poor witches were of course upset to have their ritual disturbed and wanted revenge.

A Dartmoor pony grazing later in the morning at Hound Tor
Granite rock formations at Hound Tor
One of the many smaller granite blocks that rise at Hound Tor
Looking north northeast at Hound Tor towards Hayne down and Becka Brook valley just after sunrise

The hounds can be found at Hound Tor. Given the enormous size of the granite outcrops (there are two large ones and several smaller) the dogs must have been huge, and it must have been a lot of them too. Hard work for the witches to convert them all into stone! Here in this post, I have included several images of or from Hound Tor in the early morning light. The large granite outcrops stand 20 to 30 metres above the surrounding ground, whereas the smaller ones are only five metres tall or so. Maybe puppies out for their first hunt?

The poor hunter himself, Bowerman, was also turned to stone by the annoyed witches and is standing a mile north of his hounds, where Bowerman’s Nose is proudly looking out over the landscape. He is the only image that I captured in afternoon light. His position makes an afternoon portrait more attractive, whereas all his hounds were photographed at sunrise.

Bowerman’s Nose, situated roughly a mile north of Hound Tor looking northwest in an afternoon in early November

Hound Tor consists of two main granite outcrops and a “passageway” in between them going from northwest to southeast. A few minutes after sunrise I positioned myself at the passageway and the image immediately below is shot towards west. You can see that only a few of the granite stones on the southern block are yet lit up by the rising sun, whereas in the second image below, we are looking at the northern outcrop bathed in the first sun rays.

Looking west at sunrise towards the southern granite outcrop
Looking towards the northern outcrop just after sunrise

The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the crime novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where the famous detective Sherlock Holmes appeared again solving the crime and mystery. It has been speculated that Sir Arthur got his ideas about the diabolical hound from the legend about the hounds around Hound Tor. They are said to have been seen often in different stories from the Moors and Bowerman should have been quite an unpleasant character.

However, to me Dartmoor has never appeared sinister. I think modern navigational helps like a GPS and protective clothing and boots help to change the atmosphere from menacing to intriguing and exciting.

I have photographed Hound Tor before in December last year (see Hound Tor) and came back to it now in February. The image of Bowerman is from early November 2020. Below Hound Tor is the remains of the medieval settlement of Hundatora. That will be the topic for my next story from Dartmoor in a few days time.

Hound Tor is easily accessible from a road and car park nearby and from the tor itself you can see far away to Haytor and Saddle Tor in the south, and an attractive walk takes you on reasonably easily treaded moorland to those tors.

I finish with two images looking west and northwest towards the most westerly outcrop. The first one is captured just before 10 am and the second before sunrise as the full moon is about to set. Maybe you can hear Bowerman’s Hounds howl, as the moon is about to give away to the first sun rays from the rising sun?

Looking west towards the westernmost outcrop of Hound Tor at 10 am.
The full moon setting just before sunrise beside the same outcrop as in the previous image

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