Scroll down for more (written) information on the calls themselves – information © 2008 IFAW
The function of the horn The use of a horn by the huntsman is integral to fox hunting and other hunting activities where hounds hunt their quarry by scent. It is employed as a signal from the huntsman to his hounds or followers to indicate what is required or to denote what is happening.
Normally only the huntsman uses a horn during the course of a hunt. However, his assistants, known as ‘whippers-in’, may carry a horn and use it on rare occasions when they need to communicate with hounds in an emergency.
The huntsman will put more or less excitement into his horn calls according to the tempo of the chase. Short notes, often repeated in quick succession, are used when there is a need to hurry the hounds. Longer, slower notes are for pauses; for instance, when a fox has run into an underground sanctuary 7, when hounds have failed to find a fox or at the end of the hunting day.
‘Signal’ calls These comprise single notes used to convey some routine signal from huntsman to his hounds, his staff, or his field.
‘Disappointed’ or ’sad’ calls These are longish wails that are used to indicate a blank covert, losing a fox in a covert, calling his hounds to him or blowing “going home” at the end of a day’s hunt. They have a slow, mournful tone.
‘Doubled’ calls Blown during moments of excitement and encouragement, in contrast to ’disappointed’.
Moving off (a signal call) This call is sometimes blown at the onset of a day’s hunting. It is a quickly delivered double note.
Drawing (a signal or doubled call) ‘Drawing’ means ’to look for a fox with hounds’. The horn may be used sparingly by the huntsman while hounds investigate and sniff out a scent. Calls comprise merely light touches on the horn. The aim of this employment may be either to get the fox onto its feet and moving, to keep hounds in touch with the huntsman in a situation where there is distance and or obstruction between the parties, or to keep hounds drawing in the direction which the huntsman wishes to go.
Calling hounds out of a blank covert (a disappointed call) This horn call is a long and mournful wail which may be repeated three or more times in an undulating manner. It is used by the huntsman to bring hounds out of a place where they have been searching which does not hold any foxes, and may be known as ’blowing out’. These notes may also be used at any other time when the huntsman is missing his full complement of hounds and wants to gather them in.
Doubling the horn (a doubled call) Doubling the horn is recognised as a series of short rapid staccato notes. Doubling the horn only takes place when a fox has been roused and is moving. It is an encouraging signal from the huntsman to his hounds urging the animals to hurry. Doubling may occur when a fox is being chased within a wooded area or other place (such as gorse or a field of maize), or when a fox has been seen by a member of the hunt running in the open away from hounds and the huntsman wants to hurry them together to give chase quickly as a unified body.
Blowing away (a doubled call) Similar but different to doubling the horn; it is a series of quick, pulsating doubled notes only blown by the huntsman when the fox has left his refuge, is running in the open and the hunt is on. It is often described as a thrilling sound, and apart from communicating a sense of urgency to the hounds it serves the important purpose of letting the person in charge of all the horse riders know that their moment has come to gallop across country in pursuit of the hounds.
Stopping hounds (a disappointed call) This is a long, even, repeated note. It is blown to stop hounds from hunting something other than the chosen quarry. Unless the pack of hounds is extremely well drilled this call, although useful, is seldom enough to stop hounds on its own. It is usual to combine ‘stopping hounds’ with whip-cracking and stern shouting (known as ‘rating’).
Calling the whipper-in (a signal call) This is a quick note followed by a rapid double (like: “one, two-three“). This call may be repeated and can be open to interpretation from different huntsmen. Variations on this theme may summon other officials, for example the second whipper-in, terrierman, or second horse-man.
Gone to ground (a disappointed call) This slightly sad, long and wavering note is repeated three times when the hunted fox has eluded hounds and taken refuge in an underground dwelling, animal hole, culvert or man-made drain. It may include a tremelo, which is blown by shaking the mouthpiece of the horn against the lips.
The kill (a sad call) This is an extended wavering note blown as a tremelo. Although it is not a doubled note, and by definition sad sounding, this call is sounded by the huntsman when hounds have caught and killed their quarry as a signal of congratulations to them for doing their job.
Blowing for home (a disappointed call) Blown at the end of each days hunting, this is a long and mournful wail. Historically, some huntsmen have sounded this call in an especially extended and extravagant manner at the end of the last hunt of the season.
Blowing for the pack This call is unique to the sport of stag hunting. It is an instruction from the huntsman to the whipper-in that a small group of select hounds (called ’tufters’) have separated the hunted stag from other deer and have got him up and running in the open. It is a long note blown with wavering undulations, and sounded in combination with a white handkerchief which is held aloft as a visible signal.
1. “Fox-Hunting”, Beaufort 10th Duke of, Alden Press, Oxford, 1980.
2. Fox Hunting in Hampshire & the Isle Of Wight, circa 2000, Vine & Craven Hunt, New Forest Hounds, Hursley Hambledon Hunt, Garth & South Berks Hunt & Isle of Wight Foxhounds [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
3. “The Hunting Horn: It’s History And Use Today”, circa 1995, Barclay J., Beaufort 10th Duke of, Wallace R., Lloyd D., Compton I., Adams G., Sugar M. [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
4. “Hunting By Ear: The Sound-book of Fox-hunting”, Berry M.F. & Brock D.W.E., H.F & G. Witherby Ltd, London, 1960.
5. Hunting into the Millennium with the Belvoir – A Season with the Duke of Rutland’s Hounds, circa 2000, [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
6. “The Chase: A Modern Guide To Foxhunting”, Clayton M., Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd., London, 1987.
7. “Foxhunting: How To Watch And Listen”, Robards H.J., Derrydale Press, Maryland, 2006.
The information below describes the vocalisations that may be heard in the hunting field relating to the direct control and instruction of hunting hounds. These relate to fox hunting, but the principles apply equally to hare hunting (with beagles, bassets and harriers), stag hunting and mink hunting.
The function of the huntsman’s voice in combination with the horn, the huntsman’s voice connects him with the hounds, his staff and all the people out on a hunting day following on horseback, on foot or in vehicles.
The volume and tone of human voices vary according to styles of speaking, accent and also depending on how fresh or fatigued an individual is. The same is true for huntsmen who also employ differing styles in their work. However, basic principles do exist.
Implicit obedience from hounds in response to vocal orders is the ultimate objective in the hunting field. To achieve this, skill, pitch, tone and emphasis are more important than volume.
The tone of voice is used in various ways:
Encouraging When urging hounds to do something which they are not keen to do, such as entering a thick and thorny covert to look for a fox or cross a river swollen with flood water.
Short notes blown on the horn often accompany the encouraging use of voice when hounds are searching for a fox. The aim of the huntsman is to unite his hounds with horn and voice instructions so they hunt the fox across open country as a unified pack.
Soothing To calm and reassure the nerves of over-excited hounds.
Harsh There are times when hounds hunt an animal other than the intended quarry. This is known as ‘rioting’. To stop rioting hounds, voice is used in combination with whip-cracking and is known as ‘rating’. It is suggested that only hunt staff should perform this function but the reality is that riders or other followers who are close to hounds may be heard shouting harshly and cracking whips in front of hounds in this situation.
Exultant This term may properly describe the celebratory whoops of delight, encouragement and “many bloodthirsty expressions” made by the huntsman at the kill.
“Bike” is a fundamental order, either spoken with a soothing tone or uttered harshly. This means “back” and is one of the first instructions a hound puppy needs to learn to obey instantly.
“Leu-in try” is one of many voice instructions used by a huntsman to encourage hounds to look for a fox.
“Harrk Fo-or-orrard” is used to encourage hounds to join others who are hunting the line of a fox, or to move hounds on to a place where the fox has been seen some way ahead.
“Holloa” is pronounced ‘Holler’. This is the word used to describe the exultant, high-pitched screaming yell sounded by a person who has seen the fox. Anyone may holloa a fox. The intention of sounding a holloa is to inform the huntsman that a fox has been seen. Blowing a whistle is an alternative to the human holloa. Some huntsmen prefer staff and followers to blow a whistle when a fox has been viewed leaving a covert.
“Huic” is an encouraging instruction that is pronounced “hike”. May sound like “hike to him, hike to him” or “hike to (hounds name)” if cheering hounds on to a reliable individual or couple of hounds who are barking in response to a fox’s scent. Hounds hunt with more urgency when cheered on by the huntsman.
“Huic Holloa” is pronounced ‘Hike Holler‘. This encouraging instruction, shouted or screeched, is intended to inform hounds, huntsman or both that a holloa has been heard further away. The whipper-in, whose job is to assist the huntsman, might give this instruction three or four times in quick succession.
“Tally-Ho” is pronounced ‘Tally-O’. This encouraging or exultant yelled cry may be given instead of a holloa by a follower of the hunt when a fox is seen in the open.
“Tally-Ho Back” is pronounced ‘Tally-O Bike’, indicating that the fox has been seen exiting the covert but then returning from whence it came. It may be described as encouraging.
“Tally-Over” signals a fox seen to cross open ground or a ride within a woodland setting. It can be instructional to other personnel or encouraging when repeated in rapid succession to hounds.
“Ware” is a shortened version of ‘beware’ pronounced “war“, spoken or shouted harshly as a warning and often accompanied by use of a cracked whip. It may be used to stop hounds on a riot or to correct them from hunting the scent of a fox
“A rolled tongue is used to make a rapid “brrr brrr!” sound. This can be employed by a huntsman to unsettle a fox while hounds are searching. Alternatively a rolled tongue sound may be made to turn a fox back from where it came or to change direction. Examples of this are during autumn cub-hunting when foxes are encouraged to stay in the wood, field of maize or other covert where hounds are able to hunt them in close proximity. This will often be accompanied by cries of “aye-aye Charlie” and saddle slapping, but may be used to stop a fox heading towards dangerous or forbidden ground.
1. “A Manual Of Foxhunting”, Wallace R., ed. Clayton M., Swan Hill Press, Shrewsbury, 2003.
2. Beagling in Britain, circa 2000, Taw Vale, Sandhurst & Aldershot, Trinity Foot, Colne Vally, Glyn Celyn [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
3. “Fox-Hunting”, Beaufort 10th Duke of, Alden Press, Oxford, 1980.
4. Fox Hunting in Hampshire & the Isle Of Wight, circa 2000, Vine & Craven Hunt, New Forest Hounds, Hursley Hambledon Hunt, Garth & South Berks Hunt & Isle of Wight Foxhounds [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
5. “Hunting By Ear: The Sound-book of Fox-hunting”, Berry M.F. & Brock D.W.E., H.F & G. Witherby Ltd, London, 1960.
6. Hunting In Wales Volume 1, circa 2000, West Wales MH, Brecon & Talybont FH, Llangeinor FH, South Pembrokeshire FH, David Davies FH [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
7. Hunting With The Zetland, circa 2004, Metcalfe W., Vigors N. & Jukes D. [DVD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.
8. “The Chase: A Modern Guide To Foxhunting”, Clayton M., Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd., London, 1987.
9. “The Hunting Horn: It’s History And Use Today”, circa 1995, Barclay J., Beaufort 10th Duke of, Wallace R., Lloyd D., Compton I., Adams G., Sugar M. [CD], Countryside Audio & Visual, Hampshire.