Phillip Oppenheim,
"Drag hunting provides 'liberty and livelihood'"
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Your Questions Answered

What is it?
Drag hunting is a fun and traditional equestrian sport that involves mounted riders following a pack of hounds across country in pursuit of an artificial scent.

How does it work?
Drag hunts works in the same way as any other hunt except that they don't chase a live animal, just an artificial scent. A runner or a mounted rider lays the scent in advance. Then the pack of hounds chases the scent while followed by mounted riders (the field). This way, the route can be controlled and the master can ensure that the hunt does not stray into sensitive areas or trespass on private property.

Is drag hunting a new sport?
Drag hunting has existed in the UK since the 19th Century and it is growing in popularity. Since 1965, the number of live quarry packs has dropped while the number of drag and bloodhound packs has trebled. The original New Forest Drag hunt was established at the turn of the last century and records are kept in the Lymington museum. The hunt was disbanded because of the First World War and re-established by Michael Thomas about a hundred years later.

Are drag hunts traditional?
Most drag hunts follow the traditions normally associated with live quarry hunts. Many wear traditional livery, organise the same social events, take part in point-to-point racing, hold hound shows and use the services of local business such as farriers, feed suppliers and vets. The New Forest Drag Hunt also employs staff to help care for its hounds and is keen to follow the traditions established by its predecessor, the New Forest Buckhounds which disbanded in 1997. Drag hunting is an excellent means of retaining hounds and tradition and helping to support the rural economy.

Isn't drag hunting fast and dangerous?
Drag hunting in its current form has evolved as a different sport to live quarry hunting because some people like to participate in both. However, the beauty of drag hunting is that it can be organised to suit the riding ability of those taking part. Older and slower hounds can be used for novice riders and the "stopping and starting" of live quarry hunting can be duplicated by "breaking" the line of scent so that the hounds have to search an area to pick up a new line. As the routes are planned in advance, drag hunts can make the best possible use of land by doubling back on themselves or arranging a circular course. At the New Forest Drag Hunt, the emphasis is on having a fun day out with riders and hounds, not on speed.

People who hunt live quarry say that drag hunting isn't a replacement? Why is this?
It's not in the interests of those who hunt to admit now that they would switch to drag hunting in the event of a ban. But the experience of Scotland shows that once hunting is banned people are prepared to go drag hunting instead as it's the most similar equestrian sport available.

Can hunting hounds be retrained to hunt an artificial scent?
The New Forest Drag Hunt has successfully retrained a number of foxhounds to follow an artificial scent. Not every hound can be retrained or rehomed, of course, but the NFDH believe that, wherever possible, hounds should be given a second chance.

Do hunts shoot their hounds when they grow too old for hunting?
Some hunts shoot their hounds once they are considered too old for hunting, but not all. The New Forest Drag Hunt condemns the practice of shooting hounds just because they reach a certain age and believes that older hounds have an important role to play in drag hunting. They tend to be run at a slower pace and can provide an "easier" ride for those who are new to the sport or those with limited riding ability. Any hounds that don't show aptitude for hunting or are unable to stand the pace get to retire with the pack at the NFDH or are found loving new homes.

Do drag hunts organise point-to-point?
Many drag hunts already organise their own point-to-point meetings in the same way that live quarry hunts currently do.

Are farmers willing to allow drag hunting on their land?
A number of landowners have banned live quarry hunting on their land and would be more likely to allow drag hunting instead. If drag hunts were to pay farmers a proportion of their cap, paid on the day, many more would agree to allow drag hunts on their land. The Burns Committee reported that:
"As far as farmers are concerned, the RACE survey suggests that a substantial proportion of those who do not, or would not allowdrag/bloodhound hunting would reconsider their position if offered a direct
payment"

What sort of person goes drag hunting?
The New Forest Drag Hunt, along with most other drag hunts, welcomes people from all walks of life. We encourage people who are currently involved in a live quarry hunt to take part so that they can experience for themselves that drag hunting is a fun and non-controversial way of continuing their sport. We also, of course, attract a number of riders who like the idea of riding with hounds but object on moral grounds to chasing wild animals.

When do drag hunts operate?
Drag hunts usually operate between September and March each year. Most go out on Saturdays or Sundays and some even hunt on two days each week.

What Should I wear when I ride out with the NFDH?
Both turn out and discipline are important when riding out, but the NFDH is a family hunt. Most of all horses should be well groomed and in good condition. Tack should be clean and riders may either ride in traditional hunt livery or ratcatcher kit.

What about insurance?
Insurance is terribly important these days and it is the responsibility of every rider to ensure that he or she is covered by insurance for all eventualities before riding out with the NFDH.
Riding can be hazardous. The New Forest Drag Hunt does not accept any resposibilty for any damage, injury or loss that may occur during hunting.

What happens at the start of a drag hunt?
Before setting off, hunts traditionally gather at a local pub. This gives them a chance to meet and chat with the other riders before the hunt begins. The hunt normally sets off about an hour later.

How long does a drag hunt last?
Depending on the tastes of those taking part it can last for anything from a couple of hours to most of a day.

What is bloodhound hunting?
Bloodhound hunting, known as "hunting the clean boot", is similar to drag hunting but it involves following a runner instead of a scent that is laid in advance. Bloodhounds are reared to follow a human scent so they are often used for tracking people.