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Future Of Hound Breeds Under Threat From Hunting Bill

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Press statement for press conference, to be chaired by Hon Nicholas Soames MP, President of the Show, at 11am Thursday 5th June at the Hound Show arena.

Huntsmen and specialist hound breeders at the South of England Hound Show have warned that the future of tens of thousands of working hunting hounds will be under threat should any legislation to ban or severely restrict hunting with dogs be implemented.

Fox hunt Master Ian Farquhar, professional huntsman Phillip Hague, and Beagle Master Dr Mark Thomas with huntsman Nigel Kirk of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles spoke about hunting's role in the management of fox and hare populations and emphasised that the breeding of hounds is a vital part of Britain's rural heritage.

The Government's Hunting Bill, if it ever becomes law, will effectively ban all hunting with hounds throughout the United Kingdom. The Bill threatens the future of all hunting dogs and hounds in this country.

Ian Farquhar said: "These hounds are produced with immense care and skill through centuries of progressive breeding policies. The success of these policies is proven by the international demand for hounds and beagles that have been bred and hunted in this country."

"They are magnificent examples of correct conformation that enables them to cross our countryside in pursuit of foxes for many hours during the rigours of winter.

"They have been loved and cherished by groups of country people for many generations and they matter desperately to a substantial minority of people who support hunting. Hunting people support their hounds as others may support their football teams."

At the South of England Hound Show (June 5-6), appropriately held within the South of England Agricultural Show, members of the general public can admire the hounds on display being judged by experts."

Dr Thomas, one of the country's experts on beagles, said: " We want to warn people that many bigoted back bench politicians - mostly urban MPs with no hunting in their constituencies - would like to see that this is the last opportunity to see these hounds on show."

A major injustice threatens the lives and the future of the hounds on display - here it is just foxhounds and beagles being shown, but the threat is to all hounds - harriers, bassets, deer hounds, mink hounds, greyhounds, salukis, whippets, lurchers and terriers."

The Hon. Nicholas Soames, President of the Show, said: "If the working role for these breeds is extinguished the breeds will be lost forever. The lives of tens of thousands of hunting dogs are at stake - and the future of their breeding lines is grievously threatened."

"Do we care so little about our heritage that we can accept such an appalling act of vandalism in our countryside? The South of England Hound Show and other leading hound shows held annually throughout Britain would have no purpose. The very few hounds left would be on the rare breeds list and their standards would fall drastically."

Nicholas Soames concluded: "The Government should avoid illiberal and unjust legislation which oppresses a minority of its own people, destroys their way of life and many jobs as well, and wrecks the irreplaceable heritage of our hunting hounds."


For further information contact:
Brian Fanshawe, Council of Hunting Associations 01451 821555, 07768 041538

Alastair Jackson, Masters of Fox Hounds Association 01285 831470, 07774 262540

Chris Austin, Assoc of Masters of Harriers and Beagles 01635 41320, 07876 235880



"Hunting with Hounds is the natural and most humane method of controlling the population of all four quarry species, fox, deer, hare and mink, in the countryside."
[A Veterinary Opinion: supported by over 500 members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.]

Natural because the wild animals are hunted in their own environment; they are used to hunting themselves and/or being hunted; they are adapted to it by evolution.

Humane because for a major part of any hunt the quarry is under no abnormal stress; the kill (if it occurs) is virtually instantaneous and above all certain; hunting leaves no wounded or damaged survivors; quarry that evade hounds rapidly return to normal behaviour.

Hounds perform a vital and unique search and dispatch function for the weak and the sick. [Examples: old age and starvation; disease - sarcoptic mange; gunshot and traffic injuries]

Hunting has an unique ability to assess the size and fitness/health of wildlife populations.

There are 182 packs of hounds registered with the MFHA, each of these packs hunt at least two days per week from autumn to spring - a proportion hunt four days a week.

The number of days for each pack will vary from 60 to 120 days per season.

A two day a week pack is likely to have approximately 60 hunting hounds (30 couple) a four day a week pack may have approximately 50 couple.

Most packs breed their own hounds but will frequently use stallion hounds from other packs. A two-day a week pack will be looking to introduce 10 to 15 young hounds to be entered each year. A four-day a week pack would aim for double this amount.

All these hounds are entered into the Foxhound Kennel Stud book, which was started in 1800.

Bitches are normally 'put to' early in the New Year so that the puppies are born in the spring. Puppies will be weaned at 10 to 12 weeks and sent out to 'walk' with local farmers and/or hunt supporters. They will remain at walk for as long as possible into the following autumn/winter before returning to the kennels. In the spring they will be integrated into the main pack as they are walked out twice daily.

During their second summer they will be brought to fitness for hunting by daily hound exercise. It is during this process of 'walking out' and 'hound exercise' that they will learn to respond to the calls of the huntsman.

The young hounds, as they are called, will start hunting in their second autumn aged approximately 18 months.

Hounds hunt by instinct. They learn through experience and most particularly from their elders. The huntsman's role is to guide and correct them so that they only hunt the selected quarry, far more than to teach them how to hunt. Very few hounds - perhaps 1 in 50 - fail to "enter" (hunt).

The hunting expectancy of a hound is likely to be 5 to 6 seasons, though there are exceptions. Every fit hound should be expected to hunt 2 days each week - some may benefit from a third day. There will always be a number of hounds that have minor injuries, such as thorns in their pads, knocked up toe nails or wire cuts. After Christmas there will be hounds that are not hunting because they are pregnant.

After 5 or 6 seasons, when they will be 7 to 8 years old, most hounds physically cannot run up with the rest of the pack. Similarly greyhounds, racehorses and athletes only have a period at their peak. Hounds that cannot keep up will adversely affect the efficiency of the pack and are liable to become a risk hazard. Hounds dislike being left behind. There is no other option other than to humanely put them down when they can no longer perform their role.

You can explain to a human athlete that there is a life after athletics but you cannot explain to a hound that there is a life after hunting. A hound that has led a kennel life that is centred on hunting does not make a manageable pet.

Working hounds need to have a routine to their lives encompassing feeding, exercising and hunting. They understand and respect a regular routine but will get frustrated and discontented if the routine goes astray.

There are 88 packs of hounds registered with the AMHB. They consist of 20 packs of harriers, half of which hunt fox - the remainder hare, and 68 packs of beagles. There are a further 10 packs of basset hounds registered with the MBHA.

Harrier packs are likely to have some 46 (23 couple) and beagles 36 (18 Couple) of hunting hounds. Approximately 6 to 9 young hounds are entered each year.

All these hounds are entered into the Harrier and Beagle Stud book, which has been kept since 1891.

The life cycle and routine for beagles follows the pattern for foxhounds.

In general
The hounds that are threatened include:

  • 14,000 foxhounds registered with the MFHA plus others from gun packs and unregistered hunts.
  • 500 harriers registered with the AMHB.
  • 2700 beagles registered with the AMHB.
  • 350 bassets registered with the MBHA.
  • 200 deerhounds registered with the MDHA.
  • 720 mink hounds registered with the MMHA.
  • An unknown number of:
    • Greyhounds
    • Lurchers
    • Salukis
    • Whippets
    • Terriers; and
    • Other sporting dogs.

The working hounds of the United Kingdom are highly valued wherever hunting takes place across the world.

Brian Fanshawe - 27th May 2003