Aiken Hounds’ Blessing of the Hounds — Thursday, November 23, 2023 — 9:00 a.m. at Memorial Gate. South Boundary entrance will be closed to vehicles. Pedestrian access only at this entrance. For more information, see

Blessing of the Hounds FAQ’s

The Aiken Hounds’ annual Blessing of the Hounds in the Hitchcock Woods is one of Aiken’s favorite, longstanding Thanksgiving traditions. Each year, the ceremony is part of the Aiken Hounds’ Opening Meet, which officially kicks off Aiken’s busy hunt season. Below are some of the questions that are most commonly asked about the event. If you have a question that is not answered below, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Hitchcock Woods Foundation at (803) 642-0528 or

What is the Blessing of the Hounds?
The Blessing of the Hounds is a ceremony that pays homage to the various traditions of foxhunting, to the heritage of Aiken’s historic hunt culture, and to the skilled hounds that make this sport so engaging.
Are live animals hunted during foxhunting?
The Aiken Hounds is distinguished as having the oldest drag hunt in the nation. In a drag hunt, cloth saturated with fox scent is dragged across the terrain to create a trail for the hounds to follow. Mounted riders follow the pack, which is rewarded at the end of the artificial chase.
When and where does the Blessing of the Hounds take place?
The community is invited to observe the ceremony, which takes place at Memorial Gate in Hitchcock Woods on Thursday, November 23, 2023 — 9:00 a.m. The ceremony lasts for about 30 minutes, but visitors should allow 90 minutes altogether for finding a parking spot and walking to Memorial Gate and back to their vehicles. Visitors should know that the distance from this point to Memorial Gate is six-tenths of a mile. The return walk is a slight uphill grade. The most direct entrance to use for the event is South Boundary.
Where am I able to park for the event?
There is no designated parking for the Blessing of the Hounds. Those familiar with the Hitchcock Woods are aware that there is a parking area at the South Boundary entrance. During this event, there is no traffic permitted beyond the intersection of Laurens Street and South Boundary Avenue. Those wishing to attend are encouraged to find on-street parking and walk into the Woods for the event.
Are there any options for accommodating people with disability parking stickers?
Vehicular traffic in the Hitchcock Woods is restricted to certain programs or allowances of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. The Aiken Hounds’ Opening Meet and Blessing of the Hounds is not such an occasion. The South Boundary Avenue entrance to the Hitchcock Woods is closed to traffic early that morning because pedestrians and riders begin arriving in great numbers, and considerably early. The trails of the Hitchcock Woods are very rugged and are narrow in some places. Mixing vehicular traffic with pedestrian and equestrian traffic would create a safety issue. Only one or two vehicles are allowed into the Woods that day, in order to convey necessary sound equipment and the clergyman. Drivers are hand selected because they know the trail. They are given guidelines for driving in that day. In the interest of the safety of so many visitors on foot and horseback, we must restrict vehicular access.
Is there any charge for attending the Blessing of the Hounds?
The Blessing of the Hounds is free admission for
Am I able to bring my dog with me to the blessing?
Attendees are advised to leave their dogs at home. Those bringing dogs will be turned away in deference to other pedestrians and to avoid distraction of the hounds during the ceremony.
Is smoking allowed during the event?
Smoking is prohibited in Hitchcock Woods.
What happens if there is inclement weather?
In the event of rain, guests may inquire about the status of cancellation by calling the Hitchcock Woods Foundation at 642-0528 or the Aiken Hounds at 643-DRAG.

Start typing and press Enter to search