WHAT IS ITS PRIMARY PURPOSE?
Like spectators and players at football matches (and at other sports and
games), people foxhunt to experience the thrills of competition and to
enjoy seeing or using the skills of "The Chase". Here are a
- Hounds finding the scent of a fox, often in thick undergrowth and
then following it through all sorts of contamination; cattle dung,
oil from cars etc, while "giving tongue" in a thrilling
- When they "check" and lose the scent, hounds "casting"
about methodically to find it again.
- The Huntsman encouraging his hounds to "draw" cover by
searching harder in likely places or to "cast" in the best
way; using his voice, his horn and his knowledge of the habits of
foxes and of his countryside.
- The Whipper-in gathering up hounds that have become detached from
"the pack" or stopping the pack when they are approaching
land where they are not wanted.
- The mounted followers jumping fences such as that in the picture.
By the way, few are as large as this "drop fence with a ditch
on the landing" like Becher's Brook in the Grand National. It
is perfectly possible to keep up with hounds on most days by opening
and shutting gates without jumping anything.
- It also has a valuable secondary purpose of helping to maintain
a limit on the number of foxes around farms with property at risk
(e.g. lambs) if there is too high a concentration of foxes.
THE HUNTING YEAR
Hunting starts around September 1st, with Autumn Hunting. This is primarily
- to accustom young foxes and young hounds to the chase.
- to distribute or cull any over concentrated populations that could
increase the risk of predation of farmers' property.
- confined to woodland and areas of cover; such as gorse patches,
maize fields etc.
By the start of Autumn Hunting the year's cubs are young foxes, 6 months
or more old and have developed into efficient killers. Hounds start by
meeting around 6 AM and going home around 9AM before flies and heat can
create much discomfort for hounds and horses. As temperatures fall hunting
becomes progressively later until meets are around 9AM.
Around November 1st the Hunting Season proper starts. Packs of Hounds
(Hunts) meet twice a week in Hunting Countries covering a relatively small
area to 4 times in larger countries. Meets are usually at 11 AM and hounds
go ("call for") home around 4PM. During a good day there will
normally be 3 or 4 "runs" each lasting 20 to 40 minutes. Shorter
runs are quite common but sadly, due to modern traffic and built up areas,
longer runs are rarer. In lowland Hunts the season finishes in March,
later in upland countries. A medium sized English Hunt will have been
out on about 50 days and will have killed about 100 foxes. The meeting
point ("meet") and time of each local Hunt are normally published
in the local papers.
In Norman England, Hunting of deer and boar in the UK was confined initially
to the Royal Family and those whom they invited. It took place in "Royal
Forests" which were areas where the quarry species were protected
by making it a serious offence to kill them there except as part of a
"Royal Hunt". Later the privelege of "Hunting Forests"
was extended to notable land owners (Eg; Bishops). As early as the 13th
century the Crown granted licences to hunt foxes and some crown servants
were employed for the purpose. Eventually the laws protecting the quarry
species became those covering trespass and poaching which applied on land
owned by anybody. Gradually Hunting in the UK was opened to Hunts (with
hounds) and stalking (with guns) for which Sports anybody can apply to
take part.By the mid-16th century quite a number of private landowners
had formed packs of foxhounds but Staghunting predominated.
In France, the Revolutionaries won the right in the Constitution for any
citizen to Hunt.
In the 18th century many factors were making Stag Hunting more
restricted. Some Stag Hunts started to chase foxes and found that they
were worthy quarry. Furthermore, farmers well outside traditional Stag
Hunting Areas welcomed fox-hunting as one method of helping to control
numbers of a significant "thief" of their possessions of lambs,
chickens etc. Thus the Sport of fox-hunting spread until it covered much
of the UK and acquired the dual purpose of sport and fox population
management. As fox-hunting grew in popularity it became better and better
regulated until it became the well disciplined sport we see today.