NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – As the Huntsman for Golden’s Bridge Hounds in North Salem, Ciaran Murphy has proved he is adaptable in his life, and with his pups.
Murphy emigrated from Ireland in 2002 and worked for nearly a year in South Carolina before coming to Westchester County. He cares for 50-70 hounds, ranging in age from two months to 10 years old. Due to the changing ecological landscape, his hounds now chase coyotes in their hunts. When he arrived, his pups pursued foxes.
“This was an opportunity to try and better myself,’’ Murphy said. “We all want to come here and do well and make a better life. I’m very happy here. Living here in North Salem is the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life.”
Murphy is happiest caring for his pups. He cleans the kennels in the morning, and exercises them during the day. On the weekends, the pups hunt with club members. “I make sure they’re healthy mentally and physically,’’ Murphy said. “That’s very important to me.”
Murphy began his career with dogs in Ireland and received more training when he came to the U.S. “It’s always been my passion,’’ he said. “The hounds tend to be the easy part. The hard part is the politics. The language of the animals is easy to understand. They know the rules and they don’t ask any questions.”
All the hounds are born and raised at Golden’s Bridge, and Murphy determines the breeding patterns. His pups deliver two or three litters per year, and 4-10 pups per litter. “The goal is to try to breed a specific type of hound that does well in your area and your conditions,’’ Murphy said. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve been pretty successful.”
Perhaps Murphy’s biggest challenge was transitioning his pups from chasing foxes to coyotes. “The coyote,’’ he said, “has decided there’s no room for the fox.”
Murphy had to change his breeding to adapt to the change. “Coyotes run a lot further and a lot faster,’’ Murphy said. “Coyotes also tend to run a lot bigger circles. The scent is different, and so is the whole running pattern. It’s not just about coyotes, though. It’s knowing the deer population, the raccoon population, which animal had a good winter. There’s a lot of science involved.”
While Murphy’s role is to take care of the pups, monitoring the complete landscape plays a large role as well. “If you want to learn, you have to be in tune with nature,’’ Murphy said. “Was it a full moon? Is there a cold front coming? What’s happening with the grass? Everything factors in. I love to learn about my surroundings. In the ever-expanding urban life, it’s important to know what’s happening around you.”
Under Murphy’s direction, Golden’s Bridge Hounds has become one of the most successful kennels in the country. “They are bred to hunt,’’ Murphy said. “Their natural instincts take over, but hopefully your breeding will shine. We’ve done phenomenally well. It’s nice because people here have given me their full support.”
The hardest part for Murphy is seeing the pups move on as they age. Most of the older pups are transferred to another facility where they can still chase.
“That is difficult,’’ Murphy said. “With that said, I know these hounds. The reality is they are happiest when they’re hunting. That’s what they love. If I can send them to do it for a few more years, I’m happy they have a job. They’re the happiest bunch of dogs I know. Every morning I walk out there, there are 70 faces that are happy to see me. Not too many people get that in their job.”