With the plethora of "hunting horns" offered on Ebay, the uninitiated may wonder which ones are real and which are fake. I note there are a lot of traders on Ebay trying to pass reproductions off as real horns, including some with quite dreadful brass fox heads and brass banding. I would estimate that over 90% of the horns listed on Ebay as "genuine" "authentic" or "traditional" are reproductions. Remember - a real hunting horn to a user is an instrument - a tool, and not a trinket.
Basically a hunting horn is a musical instrument and to sound right has to be crafted properly.
1, Makers Name - Most, but not all horns have a maker's name stamped on the edge of the bell. "Made in England" does not necessarily mean that it is a real horn. NB, a colleague tells me he has come across fake horns labeled "Swaine" so beware!!
2, Size and Shape - Most foxhunting / beagling horns are typically around 9 inches long and straight. Some earlier versions had a slight curve. Horns with one or more loops are intended for hanging on walls and are mock French hunting horns. They are usually made from1/2 inch plumbers copper tubing! Shorter curved horns were used for shooting but there are a lot of repros about. Horns of three or more feet are coaching horns (99%+ repro - you see these hung in pubs) and real ones of these are extremely rare,
3, Materials of construction - Apart from solid nickel or silver plated ones, the mouthpiece and stem are normally made from nickel or nickel silver, and the bell from copper. Brass was very rarely used for real horns. The stem should usually appear white / pale metal and not yellowy brass. The nickel stem of a real horn is typically around 1/3 of the total length. Reproduction horns have the stems typically 1/2 or even more of the total length (due to the constraints in the spinning process of the copper part). This is the easiest way to spot a reproduction horn at a glance.
4, Method of construction - The bells (copper part) of most reproduction horns are made by a process called spinning where a flat sheet of metal is formed round a spinning mandrel. As a result, the angle cannot be too sharp and so reproduction horns are usually more conical shaped. The stem therefore has to be conical to take this. Real horns are made by beating a sheet of metal by hand and joining it along the length with a brazed seam. Look for this seam - If there isn't one, it's a repro. The nickel silver stem on a real horn is almost a straight tube and not tapered. A real horn has a pure, clear tone. A repro sounds more like a cow in labour!
5, Mouthpiece - Real horn mouthpieces are usually fairly plain and robust with rounded edges and rim for comfort. Repros are usually ornamental with square edges.
6 - Decorations - Some real horns have silver / nickel bands on them but these are always smooth and rounded. Chunky bands are used on fakes and the detailing is often rough. Chunky fox heads / whips etc made from brass or silver (sliver prices are cheap now) look tacky and are found on reproductions, ofen they are very crude. Real horns with embellishments are extremely rare as decorations can affect the tone. If they are present, they are finely crafted (usually from silver or nickel) and very flat and thin profiled (less than 1mm). If it's chunky, it's a fake. I have been shown a reproductions catalogue which has imitation hunting horns listed with a choice of a brass fox head, horses head or man on horseback, and they are £18 each to buy direct from the catalogue. I am also told there is a version with a fleur de lys. A real hunting horn is either carried in a leather pouch on the saddle or between two buttons on a jacket, so you can see why ornamentation is rarely found on a real horn.
7, Engravings - Apart from the maker's name, the only type of engraving on a real horn is likely to be a presentation from one person, or hunt, to another person. names like "xxx hunt" are put on reproductions. Some hunts did actually sell them as souvenirs but they are not real.
8, Wide bells - Real horns have a bell diameter of typically less than 2 inches (with some exceptions). An average diameter is 1 3/4". Anything wider than 2" is likely to be a fake.
9, Dents - Anyone can put a few dents in a horn to make it look more authentic!
10, Quality of finish - a real horn will not show machining marks either on the outside or in the bell.
Remember - if you buy a horn in good faith as a "genuine" horn and when it arrives it turns out to be a repro, the buyer has misrepresented it and you are legally entitled to return it for a refund.NEW: A fellow enthusiast tells me there is someone selling something on Ebay described as VINTAGE HUNTING HORN WITH FOX'S HEAD FEATURE. This ia a reproduction, and I am told the fox's head looks more like a pussycat! He also tells me that people have paid silly money for them, so beware. Doesn't seem to be any of these listed at the moment so perhaps Ebay have taken note of his complaint.