hunting foxes with dogs on horseback at duskHunts will often claim they ‘love’ their hounds, and that the hounds love what they do – so why do Countryside Alliance figures estimate around 3,000 hounds are prematurely put down each year. With Simon Hunt Director of the Countryside Alliance citing:

“Hounds are kept for as long as they are happy and an active part of the pack.” Some ageing hounds go on to be mentors to inexperienced pups, but many don’t.”

Foxhounds are the unfortunate other victims of hunting. Find out more about the way hunts treat their hounds in this blog post.

It’s worth noting that the figure above of 3,000 has been widely disputed by anti-hunt groups, and does not take into consideration the other hare, mink and deer hunt across the UK.

Treatment Of Foxhound Pups

There is no real evidence of hound mistreatment during birth and in their younger years, however, the Foxhound Kennel Stud Book lays out the desirable shape for the hound from performance perspectives, features that are condemned include:

  • Curly tails
  • Protruding upper or lower jaws
  • Protruding elbows
  • Narrows backs

So, what happens to the hounds that don’t meet the criteria?

Treatment Of Foxhounds During Hunts

Foxhounds are a result of selective breeding to create a dog that has immense stamina, reasonable speed and sharp hunting instincts, and whilst they may enjoy the chase – there have been several reports over the years of hounds being mistreated by the hunt, hit by cars, electrocuted by rail lines and left to die – all in pursuit of the fox.

UK Hunting Fox Hound Left To die

This generally happens because foxes move erratically when fleeing from hunters, meaning the hunt will follow them across main roads, around quarries and over rail lines.

In addition to this, if the hounds don’t ‘perform’ well during hunt season, they are at risk of being put down with former huntswoman Lynn Sawyer stating:

“The hounds are very much the other victims. With every fox hunt that goes ahead, hounds are at risk of dying too.”

She went on to say that any dogs showing a sign of weakness were shot in the head or clubbed to death, sometimes at half their life expectancy.

Hunts will also put down any hounds that could aid the spread of TB and there have been widespread rumours of cover ups by DEFRA on bovine TB being spread by hounds.

Hunt Discipline 

In addition to the way hounds are treated throughout their lives, in some hunts they are subject to horrific disciplinary measures if they put a foot out of line. Ex huntsman Mr. Pellow said to the Daily Mirror:

“If a fully grown hound makes a sound when it is not supposed to during a hunt meet, or if it bays when it is supposed to, they are punished. Another offence would be chasing the wrong animal instead of the fox the hunt is pursuing.”

“I have seen hounds being whipped quite frequently. They wallop them with a whip crop. The hounds flinch, yelp and cower. Hounds are disposed of immediately if they are perceived to have failed in any way.”

Life After Hunting 

The problem with hounds after hunting is that working hounds do not make good domestic pets for people that can’t commit the time to them, as they are very heavy maintenance. So whilst some hunters may take them in after their working days – re homing them to the general public is difficult as they are animals that thrive in packs, and require a lot of exercise.

Paul Tillsley, the manager of the League Against Cruel Sport’s West Country Sanctuary who himself had adopted an ex hunting hound had some thoughts on the matter:

“Foxhounds are very intelligent and affectionate dogs. If you have the space and the patience, they make excellent pets.” However lovely and well-adjusted Annie may be, 20,000 is a lot of hounds. If the hunting fraternity really cares about its dogs, it should forget the gun and start neutering. Now.”

What To Do If Hunts Are Trespassing On Your Land

Hunts and foxhounds can cause considerable damage to property and livestock, if you are a landowner and your land is being illegally trespassed by the hunt – there are a number of things you can do:

  • Ring the police wildlife crime number on 101
  • Warn off your local hunt by contacting them – the PR or Secretary is best to ask
  • Contact your MP and make them aware of the activity
  • Spread the word online – use social media to express your concerns
  • Erect ‘no hunting’ signs on the borders of your land
  • Failing this, further information can be found here

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