Fox Hunting has always been seen as a British activity during which highly trained dogs and human hunters on horseback pursue the red fox. Animal rights activists find the ‘blood sport’ to be brutal. However, its participants and proponents see it to be a traditional equestrian sport and an important aspect of England’s aristocratic history. Even though it does take place in several countries, fox hunting can be traced to the British.
Known as venery, scent hounds to track prey date back to Assyrian, Babylonian, and ancient Egyptian times. But, in England, fox hunting was prevalent using the Agassaei breed of dog, taking place before the Romans even arrived.
Later, the Romans brought over the Castorian and Fulpine breed of hounds, the brown hare, and several species of deer to use as a quarry. Wild boar was also known as a hunted animal.
Norman hunting traditions began when William the Conqueror arrived, using Gascon and Talbot hounds. The ‘tally ho’ cry is the Norman equivalent to the French ‘il est Haut,’ meaning ‘he is up.’
The year 1534 marks the first known attempt at fox hunting in Norfolk, England. There, farmers used their dogs to chase foxes as a pest control.
It wasn’t until the 17th century that organized packs began to hunt hare and fox, while those used specifically for the sport of fox hunting weren’t used until the 18th century.
The industrial revolution saw people moving out of the country instead of settling in towns and cities to find work. Even though roads, rails, and canals split up the hunting land, it made it more accessible to people who wanted to hunt—also, the improvement of shotguns during the 19th century allowed for game shooting to gain popularity.
Fox Hunting Today
Even though it is viewed as a usually typical rural British sport, hunting using hounds does take place all over. Those hunts in the United States., Canada, Ireland, and also India are considered to be, to some extent, a British Empire legacy. However, some claim that the first pack used solely for fox hunting was in the United States.
Other countries, influenced by the Greeks and Romans, also have a tradition of fox hunting using hounds. For example, both France and Italy still have fox hunts. But, in countries such as Switzerland and Germany, fox hunting has been outlawed.
In 2004, 170 registered packs found in the United States and Canada were included by the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, and there are much more unregistered.
When fox hunting is done in the United States, the pursued fox is often not caught. This is because the dogs are trained, so the foxes are not caught during the fox hunt.
During the late summer, young hounds are taken on hunts called “cubbing,” during which puppies are taught to hunt while the young foxes are taught to give chase. The proper season usually begins in early November.