Fox Hunting - History of Hunting Foxes
By: Ruben Sanchez
Fox hunting is a sport that has long captivated many in the Western world, while also causing a good deal of controversy. Each participant rides out on horseback. The group is usually accompanied by a pack of foxhounds that track and chase the fox. Not all foxhunting requires that the prey be killed. In many hunts, the fox is simply chased for the thrill of the sport. However, foxhunting in some other areas, especially Australia, involves firearms. This guide will introduce more about the rich history of foxhunting, its practices, and the actual hunt with dogs.
The History of Fox Hunting
As far back as medieval times and even earlier, people enjoyed hunting or chasing foxes, as well as other animals such as deer. The first actual record of a foxhunt involving a pack of dogs is from 1534 in Norfolk, England. At the time, it was done by farmers for the very practical reason of controlling the local fox population. Later on, foxhunting was practiced for sport. It was especially popular among the upper classes. In the mid-1600s, as Europeans began to migrate to the Americas, foxhunting was introduced in the New World. Although foxhunting was once an extremely popular sport, its practice has declined significantly in the past century. However, in the U.S., Russia, Italy, France, England and several Commonwealth nations, foxhunting is still enjoyed in certain areas.
- What is Fox Hunting? Learn all about fox hunting and its history.
- A Brief History of Fox Hunting This guide discusses the beginnings of foxhunting and answers common questions on the subject.
- Fox Hunting in the U.S. Read about how fox hunting evolved in the U.S.
- U.S. Fox Hunting History Fox hunting in the U.S. originated from the famous British sport in the 1600s.
- Irish Fox Hunting Fox hunting in Ireland officially become governed in the mid-1800s.
The Practice and Procedure of Fox Hunting
Given its background, foxhunting involves a strict code of formal attire, as well as certain rules and regulations. The group typically heads towards forested areas where foxes may be hiding. When the dogs detect the foxs smell, they begin tracking it as a pack. In turn, the riders trail behind the hounds, following the chase. In most hunts, the riders are simply there to observe the course of nature. They normally do not participate in killing the fox. The hunt is officially ended if the fox either escapes, burrows into a den, or is caught and killed by the dogs. In some instances, the group may also have terriers in the pack. Since terriers are smaller and more agile than hounds, they can follow the fox into the burrow and retrieve it.
Within the group, each person has their own specific roles. The Master of Fox Hounds is the head of the group and dictates how the hunt will be performed. After him are huntsmen, whips (the huntsmens assistants), and kennelmen. The group always rides out in order of precedence and maintains this positioning even while riding. It is not acceptable for anyone to ride ahead of the Master of Fox Hounds.
- English Fox Hunting Follow the different roles that people play in a British-style fox hunt.
- Fox Hunting Attire This article outlines the formal attire required on a fox hunt in the U.S.
- Etiquette When Hunting These tips can help new hunters enjoy the sport safely.
- Fox Hunting Protocol Learn how to observe proper protocol and decorum while on a hunt.
- Rules & Etiquette Familiarize yourself with the rules, responsibilities, and etiquette involved in fox hunting.
Fox Hunting with Hounds
Young hounds are usually taken out on their first hunts in autumn to chase after young foxes. This type of chase makes it easier for them since the young foxes are weaker and more inexperienced. During this training period, the young foxhounds are taught to work together as a pack, and successfully track down the fox (instead of being distracted by other creatures). Hounds that are most often used in foxhunting are the American Foxhound or the English foxhound. It is the Master of Fox Hounds who oversees the dogs and kennels, while the kennelman takes care of the dogs in their off-time. Even other members of the hunting party have to learn to work with the dogs. While the dogs are tracking, it is usually forbidden for the hunters to talk to or pet the dogs. In some clubs, they are not even permitted to talk if they are riding at the front of the group, for fear of distracting the dogs.
- American Foxhounds This dog is actually among the rarest in the U.S.
- Hunting with Dogs (PDF) A foxhunter recounts the camaraderie and training involved in hunting with his foxhounds.
- Foxhounds (PDF) Learn about the different seasons related to foxhounds, including whelping, hound shows, training, and more.
- Scent Hounds Scent hounds are valued for their skill in tracking and holding prey instead of killing.