By Jennifer Hudson Taylor
The image to the left is of a fox hunt scene on a rug that we use as a welcome mat to our home. When I decided to write a fox hunt scene in my Regency manuscript, I had no idea how much research would be involved. A couple of critique partners from England alerted me that much more research needed to be done. They were right!
It's a very detailed and organized activity that began in 16th century England as a way to eliminate annoying foxes who plagued local farmers by killing and wounding farm animals. The activity was considered pest control in England. It later became a sport for those that could afford it as keeping and maintaining purebred hounds are quite expensive, and it requires excellent horsemanship. Fox hunting involves men and women on horseback who follow several packs of hounds who are trained to track, chase, trap and kill foxes. The leader of the group is the Master of Hounds or Master of the Hunt, who keeps them, trains them and knows them.
The main hunting season typically runs from early November to the end of February. In September and October, Cub Hunting occurs in which puppies are taken out on training hunts. These are a little less formal and are not quite as large as a regular hunt. People usually meet at a private house or club, which are referred to as lawn meets. The gathering will consist of refreshments and a social time of animated conversation in anticipation of the day's events.
The Master will sound his horn and he and the hounds will take off on the hunt. Everyone else follows. The hounds are cast or let into coverts, which are rough brush areas of undergrowth where foxes often lay in hiding during the day. Sometimes the huntsmen must move from covert to covert, recasting the hounds until a scent is discovered. Once the hounds pick up the scent of a fox, they give tongue.
The hounds will trail and track for as long as possible. Either the fox will go to ground or find an underground den for safety and protection or the hounds will wear him out and overtake him in a kill. Temperature and humidity are huge factors in how well hounds keep the scent of a fox. Often the chase involves extreme speed through brush and growth. A rider will need to be skilled in racing, jumping brooks, logs, brush, and the horses must be in excellent condition as well. The fox hunt is the origin of equestrian races like the Steeplechase.
This is a brief account as there is much more history and details that can be found in the sources below. The second image above is of a framed print of a fox hunt scene that I have had in my home for several years now. However, if you are looking for historical fox hunting images that are out of copyright, I found an excellent resource below.
Huntwatch Info (Site that gives info on how to monitor that hunts are following new laws)
The New Forest Hounds: Continuing 900 Years of Tradition in the Forest
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Prints Old & Rare - Fox Hunting (Out of copyright images of fox hunt scenes)
Friday, January 08, 2010
By Jennifer Hudson Taylor