Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, Sep. 28, 2023

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The 411 on Working Foxhounds to Non-Hunting Neighbors


Norfolk Hunt 7 NY RuthWorks Photography Oct 2022Norfolk Hunt in Massachusetts this past October 2022. Photo Credit RuthWorks Photography.

*I wrote this a few years ago to be helpful to my neighborhood of non-foxhunters. Hopefully more will find it useful to educate new landowners or neighbors to kennels.

Much of the population has never lived near a kennel of working dogs. And sometimes one of these non-hunting neighbors will find a lone hound on hunt day. Some have expressed concern upon finding a lone hound, shivering in the cold temperatures after a day’s hunting. This article is to give a bit of education to those non-hunting neighbors on working hounds and the sport of Foxhunting.

Some of the concerns of the non-hunting public about finding or seeing a lone foxhound out and about after a day’s hunting are that the hound is too skinny, the hound must be neglected because it’s all by itself out in bad weather, or the hound must be mistreated because it is acting skittish and is hard to catch. These concerns are addressed below.

Hound Is Too Skinny

 Since the hounds hunt several times a week, traveling many miles each hunt, these hounds are in excellent shape. Or they could never keep up. The average foxhound can appear emaciated and undernourished to the average dog owner, but that is because these hounds are basically marathon runners. Compare the winner of an Iron Man competition to the average person, and obviously, the athlete appears skinnier. One also needs to consider the short length of the hound’s fur; there isn’t much there to pad the outline of the dog. If the active-military German Shepard Dogs could be seen in short, hound-length fur, then those very fit, four-legged soldiers would also seem very skinny. The same goes for the working Border Collies on ranches.

Hound Must Be Neglected To Be Out By Themselves

There are many reasons for a hound to be by itself on a hunt day. During a day’s hunting, hounds are encouraged by the huntsman to spread out to look for a scent line of their quarry to follow, and a very focused hound could have just gotten himself separated by accident. Or the hound was older and couldn’t keep up with the pack as they raced across the country (hounds are incredibly fast – that’s why we ride horses to keep up). Or maybe it was a puppy that was by himself because he got confused or scared by loud noise. A typical hunting pack of hounds contains over twenty hounds. Even though the huntsman and staff will endeavor to keep an eye on the entire pack, one or two hounds may inevitably slip away from watchful eyes. However, in this modern age, almost all hunting hounds wear GPS tracking collars for quick retrieval if they get separated from the pack. Hunt clubs make a substantial investment to ensure that every hound gets home at the end of the day as these collars cost several hundred dollars each.

Hound Must Be Abused Due To Its Reluctance To Come To Strangers

Hounds are like people – they have their own personalities. Most hounds are attention gluttons and love every person they meet shamelessly. But some are shy and skittish. That doesn’t mean that they are beaten with a two-by-four every morning. So, if a hound is wary of coming to a random person who pulled over in their car after spying the hound trotting down the road, there is no need to worry for their welfare if the hound doesn’t jump into the backseat easily. Most hounds never ride in cars - they travel all together in the back of a horse trailer. Understandably, some hounds will mistrust getting into a vehicle by themselves with a strange person.

The Working Foxhound

Foxhounds are working dogs, which are very different from household pets. The instinct for a hound is to hunt, and it’s just as strong as the instincts are for a Border Collie to herd, or a Belgian Malinois to protect and serve. These hounds have a job, and that job is to hunt in a pack and listen to the huntsman. Every hound knows its name and will come to its name, even in a pack of sixty hounds all begging for cookies. But even with the strong desire to hunt that is bred into every working foxhound, the hound can still choose not to be a hunting hound. Hounds that don’t like to hunt will leave the pack and go off on their own during a hunt. Resulting in the huntsman and staff mounting a search party following the GPS collar. It will only take a few of these searches, in the dark, in the rain or snow, for the huntsman to agree with the hound. These hounds who want to nap more than chase, along with puppies that never quite get the job, or older hounds who just can’t keep up anymore, will be adopted out to become couch surfers. The average foxhound is naturally so gregarious and friendly, that once they see a couch and realize it’s theirs to use, then those hounds become shameless in their laziness. All hunts have stories of adopted-out hounds turning into the best house pets. Many hunt clubs have non-profit organizations devoted to just caring for their retired hounds.

The local hunt club very much appreciates the neighbors when they call about a found hound. All hunt clubs have collars on their hounds with the phone number of the huntsman to call when a lone hound is found. Because hunt clubs do want their beloved hounds home safe and sound. And all hunt clubs love to show off their kennels and hounds to the neighborhood or to anyone else who is curious. All one has to do is ask. Huntsmen are shameless in showing them off. And just maybe, after befriending the local hunt club, a non-hunting neighbor might find themselves living with an adopted foxhound whose new mission in life is to make sure that the couch never moves. It’s an important job, you see.

Originally published on September 26, 2023.

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