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 the 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, beginning with the sound of the huntsman’s horn as hounds give chase. The fox or coyote maneuvers, circles and runs through the countryside, 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 until the fox goes to ground or the hounds lose the scent and the hunt is over.
There is tremendous variety of both terrain and quarry in the United States and Canada. Hounds hunt red fox along the sand dunes of Long Island Sound. They hunt red and grey foxes, coyotes and bobcats in the pine woods of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida and the Carolinas.
The stony fields and thick deciduous growth of New England make perfect covert for the red fox. Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware offer a countryside closer to the traditional English landscape. Here, the fox is plentiful.
Moving westward, there is hunting on the great plains of the Mid-West, in the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains and along the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Coyotes predominate as one moves westward. Canada has the same variety of terrain and quarry as one moves from east to west.
Foxhunting exists in thirty-five states and four Canadian provinces.
The Masters of Foxhound Association (MFHA) insists on compliance with its rules and standards in order to organize and supervise the conduct of the sport. Since the sport does not have the agricultural imperative to control the fox population, American foxhunting emphasizes the thrill of the chase in a beautiful natural setting.
To ensure that the sport is conducted with respect for its quarry, the MFHA recently published a booklet entitled The Code of Hunting Practices which emphasizes that foxes and coyotes must be hunted in their wild and natural state. Any other practice that does not give an animal a sporting chance is contrary to the best traditions of the sport and is strictly forbidden. All hunts, in both the United States and Canada, that are members of the association must follow this code or lose their membership.
The popularity of foxhunting continues to grow. There are more than 170 organized clubs in North America. There are many reasons for its popularity. An old adage 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.
Discipline Association: Masters of Foxhounds Association of North America
Information provided by MFHA