This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at www.jenniferhudsontaylor.net.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The History of Fox Hunting

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.

Sources:
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)


7 comments:

Jennifer, this is fabulous information! I have been fascinated by the culture of the Fox Hunt for years and it ties in with my most recent blog venture's style. I can't wait to do more research on this.

Have a wonderful weekend,
Jen

For a view of the hunt from those who are appalled by it, please check out our website at: www.campaignfordecency.org.uk

As an excuse for a sport, this is as cruel as it gets but if you knew what they do to the fox cubs in the process of training the young hounds, it would make you ill.

Thanks, Jen. I'm glad you found it to be informative.

Mhayworth, thank you for the link to your site. I didn't cover the blooding b/c it is so disgusting and heartbreaking.

In my book, I had wanted my characters to trap the fox, but I was told this wasn't historically accurate. I didn't realize how awful the foxes were treated until my research. Thanks for all the awareness you are bringing to people.

I love reading historical novels - which means I will probably end up writing historical novels. Thanks for sharing some of your research and making such a feat seem possible :)

Hey Jennifer, I read your blog on foxhunting with interest. However in the Regency period in England most of the women who hunted were "not quite nice". In other words women of sketchy reputations like the famous Skittles, equestrienne extraordinaire and "special friend" of the Prince of Wales among others. I foxhunt and do not consider it a cruel sport-any more than I consider the fox (or coyote in our case) cruel because he hunts to eat. Indeed unless people don't eat meat or wear leather I think they are fooling themselves a bit about where their food/clothes come from. JMHO but I'd be glad to go in to more detail if you'd like.

So, unless your heroine is "fast" she wouldn't really be in the hunt field in that period-well, a few daughters of huntsmen or horsetrainers rode but they were from the lower socio-economic groups.

Regards,
Andrea Garrett

I'm a little perplexed regarding your comment "about how awful the foxes were treated." In a hunt country, their habitat is preserved, and they are not kept in captivity--they simply live in their natural habitat, which is preserved by the hunt and landowners. They are not hunted during the season when their kits are born, there is in fact an off season, as you note.

They are not pursued with guns, and so the pack must actually reach them in order to damage them; they cannot, in other words, be killed at a distance, something which gives them an advantage. They are not captured and moved or "dropped" in front of a hunt, and so they have a natural advantage in that they are being chased, much as they would be in nature, across their home territories. As Andrea Garrett noted, they are pursued much as they pursue.

It would be a shame for someone who so obviously engages in good research and who prizes accuracy to form an opinion without actually visiting a hunt and seeing first hand that the standard treatment of the game is not "awful."

Jennifer, Thanks for this post. I was doing some online research and was that cool that your pic and name came up with this post! Will email you about some Q's.