Shropshire History

Shropshire

Fox Hunting

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Fox hunting (or riding to hounds) involved the tracking, chasing and sometimes killing of a fox by trained foxhounds and a group of unarmed followers, led by a Master of Foxhounds, who follow the hounds on foot or on horseback. Hunting on horseback with hounds originated in Britain in the 16th Century but was banned by an Act of Parliament in England and Wales in 2005 (Scotland had banned it in 2002 but it is still legal in Northern Ireland).  The shooting of foxes as vermin still remains legal. Many city dwellers are opposed to fox hunting on political grounds but they fail to realise that the red fox is an omnivorous predator that preys on lambs, chickens and other small farm animals. Its territory tends to cover an area of up to 15 square kilometres and it can run at a speed of 30 mph.

 

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Hunting with dogs goes back to Roman times but the prey then was deer or boars. The earliest organised hunting of foxes with hounds was in Norfolk in 1534, where farmers began chasing foxes down with their farm dogs for the purpose of pest control. The first use of specially-bred foxhounds was in the late 1600s, by the Bilsdale Hunt in Yorkshire. After fox hunting was banned, hunts follow began to follow artificially laid trails(drag hunting) and it is estimated that there are now about 240 Hunts throughout Britain. The hunt first gathers at a set location, where they drink sherry out of a stirrup cup. The hounds are then released into rough areas called coverts, where foxes often lay up during daylight hours. If the hounds manage to pick up the scent of a fox, they will begin to track it and the hunters will follow the sound of their baying on horseback by the most direct route possible. The skill needed to negotiate hedges and fences was the origin of steeple chasing and point to point horse racing. It was also good practice for cavalry officers in the 18-19th Centuries. The hunt continues until either the fox takes refuge in an underground burrow (goes to ground) or is overtaken and killed by the hounds. Some hunts also kept packs of terriers, which would follow the fox into the burrow and force it out.  One common ritual after a fox was killed was that of “blooding”, where the Master smeared the fox’s blood onto the cheeks or forehead of a child. Another practice was to cut off the tail (brush), feet (pads) and the head (mask) as trophies, with the carcass then thrown to the hounds.

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·         The Master of Foxhounds organises the hunt and maintains the kennels. The Huntsman directs the hounds and carries a horn to communicate to them and the followers. Whippers-in are assistants to the huntsman and they keep the pack together. A Kennel Man looks after hounds in kennels and a Terrier Man control the terriers which may be used underground to corner or flush the fox. In Britain, they often ride quadbikes with their terriers in boxes on their bikes. Mounted hunt followers usually wear traditional clothing, ie red coats and black caps. Some hunts wear jackets in other colours such as green or yellow. The following are the Shropshire Hunts :-

 

Albrighton Woodland Hunt

This has been based on an area 50 miles north to south by 30 miles east to west, taking in parts of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, since 1792.

 

Ludlow Hunt

This has been based around the Ludlow area since 1760.

 

North Shropshire Hunt

This is centred on Whitchurch and covers are area of 24 miles east to west and 26 miles north to south, from the county border to Shrewsbury. It dates from 1838 and famous members include Lord Hill. They meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

South Shropshire Hunt

This is based on the Shropshire-Welsh border. They organise a Point to Point race meeting at Eyton Racecourse on Easter and May Day Bank Holiday Monday.

 

United Pack

The hunt dates from 1839 and covers an area of 300 square miles from Bucknall to Shelve and Craven Arms to the River Teme.

 

Wynnstay Hunt

This is based on an area covering Cheshire, Wales and a part of Shropshire just south of the border. They organise point to point races at Bangor-on-Dee Racecourse.