"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
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
"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
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
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
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.