MFHA - (Masters of Foxhounds Association)

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The online studbook is available to members of the MFHA and others, from all countries, who are involved in the breeding of stud book foxhounds. Apply to the MFHA for access with this form.

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The Hunt Staff Benefit Society (HSBS) provides personal pension schemes specifically for hunt staff. Find out more about how to join the HSBS, or how to support the HSBS through various Fund Raising initiatives.

Hunting and Hounds

Notes on Trail Hunting

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INTRODUCTION Since the Hunting Act (2004), Hunts have continued to strive to hunt within the law. A day’s hunting may include some of the activities or a combination of activities shown below:

• Trail hunting;
• Hound exercise;
• Using no more than 2 dogs to flush to a gun(s);
• Rabbit hunting;
• Rat hunting;
• Hunting hares which have been shot;
• Flushing to a bird of prey;
• Using no more than 2 dogs to rescue of a wild mammal;
• Using no more than 2 dogs for research and observation of the various quarry species.

These notes concentrate on trail hunting.

AIM The aim of trail hunting is to simulate traditional hunting as practised before the ban.

SCENT A trail is laid using a fox based scent – usually founded on fox urine. This is important because the aim is to keep the hounds focused on the scent of their historical quarry during the time of this ban.

METHOD The trail is laid across the country taking a route that might be taken by a fox – ie through hedgerows and woods and along ditches in essence simulating the natural movement of a fox across the countryside. It is laid by dragging a scent infected sock/cloth/sack along the ground. This can be done from a horse, a quad-bike or on foot, though good results maybe best achieved using a combination of all three. Common sense dictates that it is easier to walk or run through thick cover than to try to ride a bike through it.

The trail is not laid constantly, but is occasionally lifted for a distance of, say, 400 yards and then dropped again thus allowing the hounds to cast (ie to fan out to search (using their noses) for the scent) as they would have done when hunting a live quarry. The less that the Huntsman or the followers know of the route of the trail, the more the hunting will mimic its realistic and challenging form.

CONDUCT OF THE DAY Packs of hounds will meet and then go hunting from the same places they have traditionally met for years. The general conduct of the Hunt remains as it always has been and should mirror that of a day’s fox hunting thus keeping the traditions and practices alive. In essence the only difference is that the Huntsman now sets off with the intention of encouraging his hounds to find and hunt the trails rather than the live quarry. The Huntsman will continue to encourage and control the hounds using his horn and voice in exactly the same manner as he did before the ban. When hounds find the trail the excitement will be the same for the hounds, the Huntsman and the mounted field. Throughout any hunt the hounds may (depending on the scenting conditions) need help and encouragement from the Huntsman and perhaps the Whipper-in if the pack gets strung out and needs to be brought back up together. During the day hounds will hunt the trails that have been laid but will also come across both fresh and stale scents left by many different mammals. It is highly likely that foxes, deer, hares, rabbits will be seen during the day as well many species of bird associated with the countryside.

CRY OF HOUNDS The sound made by the hounds when hunting a trail is called the cry. The cry will be the same as when hunting a live quarry, though it will vary from day to day and during the day. This is due to factors that influence scenting conditions, such as ground and climatic conditions (including the wind), growing crops and density of livestock – the less the scent the less the cry. The number of hounds and balance of dog hounds to bitch hounds will also impact on the volume and depth of the cry.

DRAGHUNTING Vs TRAIL HUNTING Many think draghunting and trail hunting are the same activity – in reality they are poles apart. The term draghunting is the property of the Masters of Drag and Bloodhounds Association. Draghunting is an equestrian activity where the drag is laid over a pre-determined and generally known route taking in lines of often marked fences. Trail hunting is a hound based activity where the trail is laid along the line a fox might take when moving across the countryside. The scent used by Drag Hunts varies enormously, but for trail hunting it should be a fox based scent.

Tim Easby
14th December, 2012


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hunt buttonsFoxes were referred to as beasts of the chase by medieval times, along with the red deer (hart & hind), martens, and roes, but the earliest known attempt to hunt a fox with hounds was in Norfolk, England, in 1534, where farmers began chasing foxes down with their dogs for the purpose of pest control . The first use of packs specifically trained to hunt foxes was in the late 1600s, with the oldest fox hunt being, probably, the Bilsdale in Yorkshire.

By the end of the seventeenth century, deer hunting was in decline as land was enclosed with fences to separate open land into fields, deer forests were cut down, and arable cultivation increased. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, people began to move out of the country and into towns and cities to find work. Roads, rail, and canals split hunting countries, but also made hunting accessible to more people. Fox hunting developed further in the eighteenth century when Hugo Meynell developed breeds of hound and horse to address the new geography of rural England.

Read more: Foxhunting


The Hunting Act 2004

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horn and whipThe Hunting Act 2004 came into force on February 18th 2005. It affects England and Wales but not Scotland, which has its own hunting legislation, or Northern Ireland. The legislation was the subject of huge controversy throughout the many years it was debated in Parliament. The 700 hours of parliamentary time spent considering hunting and massive demonstrations against a ban meant that the injustices and flaws of the new law were a matter of public record long before it ever came into force.

On 19th February 2005 every hunt in the country met and they have continued to do so ever since. There have been just nine attempts to prosecute MFHA hunts under the Act and six of them failed. The first, involving Exmoor huntsman Tony Wright, eventually reached the High Court where a very important judgment limited further the chances of hunts being convicted under the Hunting Act. There have only been three successful prosecutions involving MFHA packs and one of those is currently subject to repeal.

Read more: The Hunting Act 2004


houndsThe British Isles consists of vastly different types of country and therefore hounds have evolved over time to suit different countries. Thus a different a sort of hound is required in the steep fell of the lake district (inaccessible to the horse) than in the hard riding fields of Leicestershire.  However, hounds require some ‘generic’ qualities no matter what sort of country they are hunting  as shown below:

  • Nose.  Hounds hunt by following a scent rather than by sight. 
  • Stamina.  Hounds hunt for many hours a day, two or sometimes three days per week.
  • Cry.  Cry or tongue is very important so that the hound can let other hounds (and the Huntsman and followers) that it has the scent.
  • Pack sense.  Hounds need to work as a pack and not become too independent
  • Speed.  When foxhunting was allowed hounds needed to able to put pressure on the fox during a hunt
  • Drive.  The ability to keep going forward and not to dwell on the line.
  • Courage.  The get back to the pack when separated, to enter thick cover and to kill his fox.
  • Fox sense.  Hard to explain but this is what makes certain hounds stand out from the others. Those who have it find and kill more foxes than others.

The Foxhound has been very carefully bred and in many cases pedigrees can be traced back to the early 1700’s, however the first volume of the Stud Book was not produced until 1841.  The types of hounds mainly seen today are:

The Modern Foxhound

The Old English Foxhound

The Fell Hound

The Hill Hound

The Welsh Hound

The West Country Harrier

Most packs now hunt the Modern Foxhound but many have been bred using a judicious blending of Welsh blood. In some cases packs have out crosses to other types the most recent being the American.