Ruth and I last visited Cheverny several years ago. While there is much to see and do at Cheverny, I believe the dogs are its greatest attraction.
After you have seen many, many chateaux, they all morph into one. There is a similarity between them. Even the tourists start looking the same.
At Cheverny, it is different. Chambord may have its horses, but Cheverny has its dogs. The dogs were the primary reason for our return visit.
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) at 11:30 am (April-September).
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 we were back at the kennels in time for the feeding.
Around a hundred hunting dogs live in Cheverny. The dogs — half English foxhound and half French Poitevins— 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. The trainer reminded us 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.Cheverny Trainer
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 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 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. Wagging tails suggested satisfaction. The less aggressive dogs hung 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 nap.
NB: La Soupe Des Chiens will not take place in public to ensure compliance with physical distancing measures during Covid-19 restrictions. Please check the website for the latest information.
- From Apr 1 to Sep 14: every day.
- From Sep 15 to Mar 31: Mon, Wed, thu, Fri.
1, Avenue du Château, Cheverny 41700
+33 (0)2 54 79 96 29
10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Jan-Mar : Oct-Dec); 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (Apr-Sep).
Motorway A10, Paris – Bordeaux, Exit Blois, 170 km. By train to Blois.