As we get back into the swing of things with the hunting season now that the cull has finished in Gloucestershire, there’s something that’s been annoying some of us here in 3C and that’s the fact that so many people commenting in support of the hunts or defending them keep using the term “drag-hunting”.
Now the principle is very similar in drag-hunting and trail-hunting (which is what hunts which “used to be” foxhunts should be doing now that “real” fox-hunting is illegal) in that a scent is laid on the ground instead of a live animal being chased. But there is a difference…
For a start, the term ‘drag-hunting’ is a term owned by the Masters of Draghounds. It belongs to them, not the foxhunts. There are only about 10 hunts in the UK which are actual drag-hunts (check out the Baileys or Horse and Hound hunting directories, there’s a whole separate section dedicated to them, it’s just not very big. If the hunt you’re talking about isn’t in there, they’re not a drag-hunt). Drag-hunts tend to be a lot more focused on jumping and the scent tends to only be laid a few fields or so ahead, usually at a spot in open country and with a predetermined route. They’re probably not too fond of constantly being associated with hunts who are trying to pretend they’re not chasing live quarry!
Hunts which hunt foxes should now be trail-hunting using a false scent; this is usually still the scent of a fox (to keep the hounds ready for when the anticipated repeal comes through) and even the ones that do genuinely lay a trail will still try to simulate the same kind of scenario, laying the scent through covers, etc. where foxes would normally be found.
Of course, many of them are not, in fact, trail-hunting. We’ve witnessed first-hand hunt staff calling back hounds when they’re not supposed to give chase or when they’re chasing an animal towards a main road or railway line, even when those hounds are in full-cry, so we know it can be done if the hunt staff know what they are doing and are actually in control. There is no excuse not to be, or to be “a couple of miles away” which we have heard used as a defence when a fox has been chased – even if the huntsman falls off his horse and is badly injured, whippers-in (who tend to be in training to become huntsmen) should be able to step in efficiently. If this isn’t the case, the hunts should not be out there.
Bloodhounds, by the way, are totally different again and they will chase the scent of a human runner. Harriers, Beagles, Minkhounds, Staghounds and so on are all different again…
But we don’t know anything about hunts do we, so we should probably just shut up now. But make sure to get your terminology straight before you try to argue with us. Thanks!