NEWS AND VIEWS (COMMENT): This is a delightful modification to the conventional foxhunt. It has all the trappings of a conventional foxhunt except that the prey is a couple of people running as fast as they can. They are motivated to run faster by the sound of the baying hounds in the distance. Before the foxhunt starts the human runners mix with the hounds so that they can smell their body odour. At this time, the hounds sing with delight in expectation of what is to come. It’s great fun for them and is also great fun for the humans on horseback who are enjoying all the usual pleasurable aspects of foxhunting without killing foxes, which as far as animal advocates are concerned is cruel and a stain on this pastime.
The idea of chasing runners rather than foxes came, I believe, from Charlie Ward, 51, a riding teacher. He set up the Nar Valley Hunt in Norfolk where he lives near Castle Acre. He wanted to try a different way of hunting with hounds. Apparently he likes the dogs and being in charge of a pack of hounds. He acquired a pack of trained bloodhounds last spring.
One runner is Rachel Hunter (aptly named). She goes out on a Sunday morning run with a sharpened incentive to do better as she’s followed by a pack of 25 bloodhounds. She is 50-years-of-age and very fit. She is a personal trainer and one of several volunteers who participate in this kindly way of foxhunting. It is called a “clean boot hunt”. She belongs to the Nar Valley Bloodhounds, one of a dozen groups in the UK who like the appeal of a chase with horse and hound without the bloodshed.
In a nice touch, when the bloodhounds reach their prey they slobber all over them as dogs do rather than tear the prey animal to bits. Don’t you think that’s appealing and a very pleasant way to end a foxhunt? The runners give the dogs cocktail sausages as a reward.
You may remember that the Queen guitarist, Brian May, is an anti-foxhunting campaigner and a general animal advocate of great significance. His voice is heard. He is the co-founder of the Save Me Trust an animal welfare campaign group.
He says that this sort of humane and decent ‘foxhunting’, “offers all the traditional joys of the chase, without the stain of torture and killing”. He rides with the Three Counties Bloodhounds in Swansea. He says the riders have chosen to reject the cruelty of traditional foxhunting while pursuing their passion for riding and giving chase.
He wants this pastime to be publicised, to give it more visibility so conventional foxhunters can see the benefits of it, become enlightened and attuned to it, so that they too can have fun in the countryside without the attendant cruelty.