A fox hunting

THE CHASE

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Clearing a big one

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 few:-   

  • 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 "cry".
  • 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
 
Autumn Hunting  

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.  

The Season  

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. 

Historical Note  

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.

 

 

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