What is Foxhunting or Riding to Hounds?
If you love the fresh air, riding horses and adventure, I can tell you it is the most fun you will have on a horse, bar none.
Foxhunting is the sport of mounted riders chasing wild quarry with a pack of hounds. It is a union of humans and animals in the beauty of nature’s setting. Man is an observer mounted on a horse, the vehicle that allows him to follow and observe the hounds as they hunt the fox. The scenario unwinds before the foxhunters eyes and ears with the sound of the huntsman’s hunting horn as hounds give chase. The fox or coyote maneuvers, circles and runs through the country cunningly evading the hounds.
The popularity of foxhunting continues to grow. There are now 156 organized clubs in North America and Canada and organized member hunts exist in 37 states. There are many reasons for its popularity. There is an old adage that says, “some people ride to hunt, others hunt to ride”. Certainly the thrill of galloping over the countryside on a fine horse, who meets his fences well, is a thrill for anyone. Also, the sight of a pack of hounds in full cry is breathtaking. Today’s hunters have a special reward, the permission to ride over private and public land which still constitutes magnificent open spaces. No group of individuals is more aware of this privilege, nor is there a group more outspoken in their desire to protect quarry and preserve their environment. It is enjoyed by people from all walks of life and any age. It is a wonderful recreation for the whole family that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Do hounds ever catch a coyote? Is this a shooting sport?
Foxhunting is mounted riders watching a group of hounds hunt the scent of a fox or coyote and following them as they trail the route the quarry has taken as it moves through its home territory. Hounds rarely make visual contact with the fox or coyote. The riders do not carry guns as the hounds are doing all the hunting.
The hounds work like detectives using their sense of smell to trail the quarry. They bark—called “giving cry”—when they find the scent and their crescendo of voice allows the riders to know where they are and how to follow them. The hounds are trained to stay in a group and respond to the sound of the huntsman’s horn.
The fox or coyote, also a hunting animal, most often eludes the hounds by cleverly taking a path that is difficult to follow, or in the case of the fox, going into a secure hole. The hunt ends when the hounds can no longer find the scent or the huntsman and or Masters are ready to call it a day. Sometimes the quarry, usually a hurt or unhealthy animal, is caught by the hounds and quickly killed. Healthy quarry live to hunt another day.
I’m a little confused. If you don’t want to catch the fox, why chase him?
That’s a good question. We do it because we like to get outside in the countryside. We like to watch the hounds try to find the line of the fox and work it out. We love to hear hound music. We like the uncertainty of whether we will find a fox, and if we do, where he will lead us. We hope to catch a glimpse of him. (View him) We enjoy galloping around and getting covered with mud, soaked by rain or sweat, depending on the weather, slashed by brambles, whacked by tree limbs and other such thrills. We love to ride until our legs feel like jelly. We love the partnership between horse and rider that this sport requires. And, if we don’t find a fox, and spend the day standing around, we still are satisfied by being outside and trying. We like spending time with our friends. And we have great parties afterwards where we tell lies about what we did.
Isn’t the object to kill the fox?
No, not in America. If we kill him, we can’t chase him the next week. We want to have a healthy fox population.
Do you ever chase anything besides foxes?
Hounds will not make a distinction between fox and coyote, so if there are coyotes in the area, they will get chased. However, coyotes are very, very fast and are hardly ever caught. In the South, where bobcats are numerous, the hounds sometimes chase them.
What is drag hunting
In countries that are too built up for hunting, an artificial trail of scent will be laid down for the hounds to follow. It should simulate the trail of a fox, and not be laid as a steeplechase. In this way, the hunt will go only where it is welcome, and hounds will not be endangered by traffic. It is not as good as live hunting, but for some countries, it is the only thing possible.
What do I wear for the foxhunting season?
What we wear in the hunt field depends on the weather and the time of year. Early in the summer during June and July we wear polo shirts, starting in August we switch to Ratcatcher or Informal Attire and then finally in the end of September thru till the end of season we are in Formal Attire.
Are you not sure what Racatcher means? Or what kind of riding coat to wear during formal season? We have you covered! Check out our Fox Hunting Attire page for detailed information.
Again, we understand that in the beginning not everyone has all these different outfits to ride in. So we require our new riders to have an approved helmet, tan breeches or riding pants and a collared shirt or dark colored coat depending on the weather. If you have any questions about what to wear in the field just Contact Us. We are here to help you!
I’ve heard several words I do not understand when people talk about fox hunting, what do they mean?
Fox hunting does sometimes seem to have it’s own language, but it’s really not all that difficult. We have created a page with a Fox Hunting Terms to hopefully answer your question. Still don’t see what you’re looking for, then as always please do Contact Us and we’d be more than happy to answer!
Tell me about the hounds that are used for hunting?
Hounds are hounds, NOT DOGS. However, correcting a non-foxhunter who calls a hound “dog” is in bad form. Hounds are counted in “couples”. A male hound is known as a “dog hound.” Likewise a female hound, no matter how exemplary, is known as a “bitch.” A hound has a “stern” instead of a tail. When he moves same, he “feathers his stern.” A hound never barks, he “opens,” “gives tongue,” or “speaks.”