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 music of hounds in “full cry” is laced with the sound of the horn echoing off the woodlands and hills as they pursue the quarry across plains or through woods, fields, creeks, marshes and over rock walls and fences. A crescendo of sounds and sights that thrill you beyond imagination play out in front of you and your horse until the fox goes to ground or hounds lose the scent and the hunt is over. One can compare it to a theatrical production with mother nature the conductor and the hounds in full cry, accompanied by the hunting horn, the orchestra. Man is the audience privileged to watch, as hounds and fox or coyote, the actors, unveil the plot with never ever the same act repeated twice.
The popularity of foxhunting continues to grow. There are now 165 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.
And, from Our Sport: The Hows and Whys of Foxhunting by Lt. Col. Dennis Foster
Through the years, North American foxhunting has developed its own distinct flavor that is noticeably different from British foxhunting. The most obvious difference is that in North America the emphasis is on the chase rather than the kill.
In addition, a large number of hunts chase the coyote, rather than the fox. The coyote population has increased by large numbers throughout the United States and Canada. It is bigger, stronger and faster than a fox. In Britain the goal is to kill the fox. Because there is no rabies in the British Isles, the fox population is extremely high and fox are considered vermin. Farmers who keep sheep want the fox population controlled. In America, this is not normally the case.
A successful hunt ends when the fox is accounted for by entering a hole in the ground, called an “earth.” Once there, hounds are rewarded with praise from their huntsman. The fox gets away and is chased another day. When hounds do not account for a fox by chasing him to an earth, the vast majority of times hounds lose the scent of the fox and that ends the hunt.
On many hunts scent isn’t sufficient for hounds to run at all. They cannot run what they can’t smell. Even these slow days are fun as the scenery is always beautiful, fellow foxhunters enjoy the camaraderie of watching the hounds as they attempt to find the quarry.
That is not to say that foxhounds in America do not sometimes kill, but it is always the exception. Fox populations in hunt country are exceptionally healthy due to natural selection.
(No, I don’t consume any “Dutch Courage” before I hunt. Yes, I do dress that fancy! Augh, there’s some awful riding and jumping in that video!)
In Colorado, hunts chase coyote — and that’s still called “foxhunting.” I’m a new member of the Arapahoe Hunt, a well-known hunt with a long tradition of excellence. Our territory is wide open, and the coyote is damn fast. We never have “slow days,” and I’ve yet to be able to keep up with the hounds for a full outing. (You can see our territory for yourself in my helmet camera video of me foxhunting Dixie.) Here’s a description of our hunting from the web site:
The Arapahoe hunts only the coyote and was probably one of the first hunts in the U.S. to hunt coyotes exclusively since its reactivation in 1929. The fox and the coyote seldom appear to coexist peacefully. The coyote has extended its range in the face of civilization–one of the very few animals to do so. You have probably seen pictures of the coyote drinking out of a Los Angeles swimming pool or loping through a suburban New York City cemetery. Unlike foxes, coyotes do not scurry about or “go to ground” frequently. They tend to “take off” and run long distances; for example, runs of seven to ten miles are quite common. We have hunted since 1972 without “drawing a blank,” i.e. failing to chase a coyote. Although we hunt several coyotes each time we go out, accounting for them is the exception rather than the rule.
I hunted as a junior with my mom, with the Howard COunty-Iron Bridge Hounds. I loved it, and it’s great fun to be back in the field!