Everything you could want to know about beagling, beagles, beagle field trials, hunting and hounds.

The headline in the Observer says it all - "270 hunts, 91 dead foxes, no arrests: the day the ban was put to the test ". Hunts around the country pushed at the boundaries of the Hunting Act to such an extent that an average amount of foxes were caught, all within the law. All the government has done is to ruin the beauty of venery; the magic of hounds puzzling out an invisible line of scent. The spectacle of the hunt is still there, horses are still galloping across the countryside, foxes are still being controlled. The Mirror headline on Friday was "Tally Ha Ha". They might be wondering what they have achieved now.

The appeal against the use of the Parliament Act in the passing of the Hunting Act has failed. Costs will not be paid by the Alliance, however, as the judges said the case was in the public interest. The case may now continue in the House of Lords. No interim injunction was allowed that would allow hunting to continue in the meantime.

Add your pack now! It is free to get a page on this site and your page will be set up for you. Just added - the Warwickshire Hunt from the English midlands

Please help to keep this web site up to date. Could masters and secretaries of hunts please send updates to this directory via this form.

This site welcomes articles on hunting with hounds of all sorts. You won't get paid but you will get the glory.

This site is dedicated to the promotion of field sports in general and hunting in particular. It is independent of all hunting associations, clubs and hunts and any views expressed on this web site are my own or those of the authors of articles that appear here. I am not party political but will back wholeheartedly any politicians who defend hunting from whatever political background they might come from.

Hunting films

Liam's Hunting Directory is pleased to bring you a range of hunting videos from Countryside Audio and Visual. These professionally filmed and edited videos are available in all common video tape formats throughout the world including PAL and NTSC. You can purchase these videos by sending cheques drawn in pounds sterling to Island Webservices, 2 Highwood Lane, Rookley, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 3NN or by using your credit card and the on-line purchasing system. All of these videos can be previewed using Real Player which is freely available from Please note that these previews are highly compressed samples and the originals are of professional quality. All clips remain the copyright of Countryside Audio and Visual.

Each video is available including packing and shipping for £24 to the UK and Europe, US$48 USA and Canada and £29 to New Zealand and Australia. All transactions take place in pounds sterling.

All videos are approximately 90 minutes in duration.

Full list of videos:

Fox Hunting in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight has its own very keenly supported hunts over some of England's finest countryside.

This videos looks at five of the outstanding hunts and discovers how each pack has its own very distinctive type of hunt country and style of hunting.

Hunts included on this video: The Vine and Craven Hunt, The New Forest Hounds, The Hursley Hambledon Hunt, the Garth and South Berks and the The Isle of Wight Foxhounds.

Foxhunting with the Six Fell Packs


One of England's most famous fox hunting areas is the Lake District and the Cumbrian Fells. It is here that the Six Fell Packs have their own very famous history and traditions. This video discovers the many fascinating and unusual aspects that stands them apart from other areas.

Enjoy some amazing hunting sequences for each pack and discover why hundreds of field sports supporters visit the fells each year to enjoy this unique type of hunting.

The six fell packs are: The Eskdale and Ennerdale, The Lunesdale, The Ullswater, the Melbreak, the Coniston and the Blencathra.

Ambridge Says 'No' to Hunt Ban - by WR Thom

Early on the morning of the Liberty and Livelihood March I walked my terriers across a field of stubble near the edge of town. As usual the heron was standing on the drain, as still and controlled as Darcy Bussell. Last year she mated and produced three incredibly ungainly young. They were so unlike their mother that it was as though Kristin Scott Thomas had spawned the Addams Family.


Soon they may well have to find new homes, as John Prescott, in his first flush of enthusiasm as Minister for this, that and the other thing, decided the field would be enhanced by a few hundred houses. Of course, Mr. Prescott has never seen this field or given a thought to the thousands of years it has been ploughed, sown and harvested. Or that it once belonged to Earl Harold, the last Saxon King of England, and later to Edward, the Black Prince. Or that the houses, if built, will be far too expensive for the young of the town.

I contemplated all this as my terriers sniffed for rabbits and then with the word "freedom" in my mind I thought of John Hampden who lived just three miles away. His refusal to pay Ship Money made him one of the most famous men of his time and when the King threatened to arrest him a thousand Buckinghamshire men rode to Westminster to defend him.

After taking the dogs back through the High Street (which has lost three ironmongers, two butchers, two greengrocers, a baker, a dairy and various pubs in the last few years) I was soon boarding a coach with the modern equivalent of those horsemen who were as determined as their predecessors and certainly just as angry.

The anger was the main difference between this march and the Countryside March of 1998. Back then we really did think that the Government would "Listen to Us" as our placards stated. Back then we were not quite used to Tony Blair's desire to please the people he is talking to at any one time without realising the consequences. We were certainly not naive this time. The banners were angrier, the shouts were angrier and even the tread of our boots seemed angrier. And yet, beneath the anger there was still the same good humour and good manners of the previous march even when we were passing the offices of D.E.F.R.A. At most marches the object of the participants' scorn would have to be defended by an army of riot-geared constables: just three constables stood on the steps and smiled at our ironic jeers. Surely any sensible government would not want to make enemies of such law-abiding people?

From a lot of the comments that could be heard they would be rather silly to do so. Many repeated Sir Mark Prescott's words at Hyde Park: "This is the last peaceful rally" and usually added "really" after the first word.

No-one could fault the Countryside Alliance's organisation of this march but many were critical of its reluctance to upset the government over the last couple of years. Had fewer marchers than 1998 arrived the Alliance could have been rather embarrassed but the huge turnout has probably saved its blushes. The organisation can expect little help from D.E.F.R.A. if the reactions of Alun Michael were examples of its thinking. He gave the impression that nothing of any importance had happened and considered that the anti-Apartheid and C.N.D. marches of his youth were far more significant. For the record, the highest attendance at any of these marches was 250,000 but most of them drew no more than 15,000. And we don't dig up cricket pitches!

Alun Michael's musings would have been of little interest to the thousands of children on the march. They were quite sure why they were there. There were six on our coach with the youngest only three. For the whole of the twelve hours they were away from home their behaviour was, there is only one suitable word, angelic. Three of them are the children of Mike Smith of the Old Berkeley Beagles: to think of those lovely children losing their home and the company of the beagle puppies (surely the most beguiling of animals) is unthinkable. All through that long day I heard only one child cry and she was inconsolable - she had lost her Bob the Builder tape measure. There can be no greater tragedy when you are three than losing your Bob the Builder tape measure: I hope she remembers the incident in twenty years time when she is out hunting.

On the way home my wife and I listened to "The Archers". Now that M.F.H. Oliver Stirling is a major character the writers and producers could not ignore this march as they had the previous one. Again we heard the shouts, the whistles and the hunting horns as a sort of reprise of the afternoon. And when Shula was shepherding the cast back into their coach I realised I had missed printing the best placard of all. AMBRIDGE SAYS 'NO' TO HUNT BAN. That might have got me on the telly!

Take the bastards on Mr Hart

There were times during the third reading of the hunting bill in the House of Commons that I almost felt sorry for Alun Michael. This was especially so when he was cowering under the accurate machine-gun delivery of James Gray backed up by the heavy artillery of Nicholas Soames. Even when the poor soul turned to his own side he was caught by the friendly fire from Ah Mr Michael, we meet again.Tony Banks. In the end he took the only course open to him - he surrendered.

It is a shame about Mr. Banks: on the odd occasion when he is not talking about football (where he regularly bores for England) or hunting (where he shamelessly reveals his complete ignorance of the subject) he is a very humorous speaker and is certainly a consummate parliamentarian. As for Alun Michael; I wouldn’t put him in charge of a rest home for retired gerbils.

Alun Michael. I wouldn't put him in charge of a rest home for gerbilsThe following week Mr. Michael was in his element. All he had to do was to say what was going to happen and not bother about the consequences. In this respect he was in auspicious company as only Oliver Cromwell and Adolf Hitler have found themselves in the same situation. The Germans still do not hunt, but Cromwell’s decision was overturned soon after his death: I would hate to think that we have to wait until Mr. Michael hands in his dinner pail before we can get on with our lives.

As for Alun Michael; I wouldn’t put him in charge of a rest home for retired gerbils.

At the moment our future depends upon the deliberations of the Lords and Ladies in the Upper House. It is unlikely that they will be as unstatesmanlike or as illiberal as their commoner colleagues, but we cannot just rely on them.

How did we get into this situation in the first place? Some blame must be accepted by the leaders of the Countryside Alliance for sacking the ebullient Janet George and for imagining that they were dealing with honourable men. It’s a wonder they still have all their fingers in place.

And some blame must be accepted by all the spokespersons for hunting that time after time put forward the limp excuse that hunting must continue because foxes kill lambs and chickens. Of course they do, but that is not hunting’s raison d’etre. If it were then there would be no defence of stag hunting or hare hunting or coursing. Stags and hares don’t eat chickens. I don’t hunt but some of my nearest and dearest do and they don’t hunt to save their neighbours’ chickens: they hunt because they love it and because their whole social life revolves around it. You cannot defend your sport in such a limp-wristed way. Certainly, if something I was passionate about - like compost heaps and losing favourites - were threatened I hope I would have jumped up and down a bit more than the C.A. have over the past couple of years.

And what if the House of Lords cannot save hunting? I do hope there will not be a general skulking back to tents and acceptance of fates. Remember what the great man said in a far, far worse situation - "this is only the end of the beginning".

Hunting cannot be successfully policed. Therefore, the best step the hunting organisations can take is to meet and compose a letter to the Prime Minister in which they state that they cannot accept such impractical and divisive legislation and will, therefore, carry on with their affairs as usual.

They might also paint Mr. Blair a picture of all the hunts on Exmoor meeting on the same day but on different parts of the moor. It would take all the police in Devon and Somerset to try to find them. Especially if there happened to be the odd strategically placed tractor parked here and there.

Hunting – Banned: Political and Personal Reflections

Part One: The Politics of the Ban by Alexander Moseley

War destroys liberties like no other force unleashed by man upon man. War – cruel and barbaric – swipes away life and property and in its wake freedoms and traditional rights; it stomps Goliath-like on the intricate cultures and patterns of complex life, it appeals to the lowest denominator of human baseness: hatred. In the kingdom in which I live, the past few years have seen liberty after liberty stolen, trampled on, undermined, and abolished. Rights to income earned, rights to property owned, rights to exchange and publication of views, swept away under the various guises of war’s mantle.

And I am not talking about the war in Iraq. I am talking about the war against the citizens, from which war abroad often follows.

This evening (Thursday, 18th November) in the United Kingdom a group of backbench MPs in collusion with the Speaker of the Commons have pushed through a ban on hunting with hounds in what can only be seen as a declaration of war upon a law-abiding minority. Several times over the past few years Bills to outlaw hunting with hounds have been soundly rejected by the upper chamber – the House of Lords, a chamber which, must be pointed out, is now increasingly populated by political hacks and cronies and Blair supporters than the image many hold of members of the (persecuted) aristocracy. Tonight, the Speaker of the House of Commons (a man whose pronunciation of English is somewhat garbled by his strong Glaswegian dialect) decided to force the latest Bill to ban hunting with hounds through Parliament, using a rarely used ‘Parliament Act’, which was designed, in 1949, to permit constitutional change to be forced through in the face of the upper chamber’s intransigence to change.

The powers of the upper chamber to check the exuberance, myopia, or plain stupidity, prejudice and arrogance of the lower chamber have been overturned. And do not even think that the Monarch comes into the equation. I once had a fondness for the monarchy, a patriotic regard similar to how an American may perceive the Stars and Stripes – forever there in times of trouble, standing true under attack, holding its head high when the country verged on ruin, an icon of unity and continuity. No longer. Her Majesty, who is a keen country sports supporter, has done nothing.

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing, the great orator Edmund Burke putatively said – how true.

Arrogant backbenchers laud themselves as representatives of the people, whom they believe seek a hunt ban. Arrant nonsense. Opinion polls typically show a 50-50 division on the issue if not a presumption in favour of hunting or the liberty to hunt. But with an increasingly urban population ignorant of the intricacies of life in countryside, and millions of children brought up on the culture and propaganda of animal rights, even such a division could not justify the forcing through of a Bill that tramples on rights and removes ancient liberties. As John Stuart Mill wrote – it would be wrong for 99% of the population to impose their view upon 1% as it would be wrong for 1% to impose its view on 99%. The Speaker and the backbenchers have rejected popular opinion and have rejected any sensitivity for ethical controversy. (Shooters, anglers and purveyors of halal/kosher meat beware!) The Commons shall set the ethical tone of the land – it will wage a moral crusade against smoking, drinking, hunting, music, and every other tradition in the land.

So why the ban? The politicians who supported it have rejected the findings of commission after commission, they have rejected evidence, they have rejected attending hunts or kennels, they have rejected the economic impact a ban will have, they have rejected freedom.

In previous articles I’ve called these Crusaders ‘Puritans’ in reference to Cromwell’s godly men who sought to abolish frivolity and secular pleasures. The roots of the Labour Party certainly can be traced to elements of that broad dissenting church, but its modern fruit is bitter indeed. I follow the hunt on foot in one of the oldest traditions in the land – hare hunting. It predates the Romans – indeed, British hounds were sought after by the Romans. (Incidentally, Plato even applauds the holy hunters who hunt on foot or horse!) The hunt – temporarily the monopoly of the crown and aristocracy in the early Middle Ages– is today, and has been for centuries, democratic and equal: all external social divisions evaporate on the hunting field where reputation rises on merit, wisdom, and sportsmanlike conduct. The dignity and classlessness of the hunts is achieved through private interaction – through the localised politics of private organisation and voluntary subscription; and the hunts have been at the forefront of both conservation and animal welfare measures. Their values and virtues could not be repeated by nationalisation, regulation, or government – indeed, at hunt suppers, guest politicians do not sit at the top table, for traditionally the Master of Hounds or of Fox Hounds is higher in social rank than an MP.

Perhaps that lowly yet accurate reflection of their rank in the hearts and minds of private society piques some MPs sufficiently to seek a ban on hunting. Others may be motivated by misplaced notions of cruelty or barbarity, some by animal rights theories; but most are motivated by old fashioned Marxist driven class hatred – naked prejudice against what they see as the remnants of an ancient feudal order: a land-owning class, supposedly Tory in its politics and capitalistic in its predispositions. In my experience – a newcomer to hunting in the past four years – the hunts attract a broad range of supporters in age, wealth, and class. But of course the MPs who have passed this act of war upon the land never went to find out with their own eyes – arguably, they cried for a ban because the hunts had become the last vestige of freedom: a self-regulating, dignified, and traditional institution. They have waged class-war upon a minority – and in winning the Parliamentary battle tonight, they have shown that the House of Commons rules the land. The Lords is defunct, the Monarchy useless.

The hunt lobby (the Countryside Alliance) will seek redress in the Courts – but challenging legislation without a standard of right or wrong is like grasping wet soap. Some hope lies with the European Courts. But what of revolt?

There have been moments of activism that even the left should have been proud of. Hunt supporters have brought motorways down to a snail’s pace, half a million have marched outside of Parliament, brave lads have stormed the Commons to express their indignation at the prejudice therein, Ministers have been ‘hounded’ and have cancelled visits to the countryside. The hunting population is generally incredibly law-abiding, yet thousands have signed a declaration to break the law. And still the backbenchers refused to listen – and what really irks is that we’re paying their bloody salaries, while they destroy our liberties. We’ve declared to go on hunting and the ban may be just what this country needs – a bloody wake up call to the institutions and liberties it’s losing hand over fist to the meddling fascists now roaming the corridors of national government.

When thousands break a law that the police deem unenforceable (how to arrest a woman or child on horse back with a hound at her heel in modern Britain is a rather humorous conundrum for the authorities), then the rule of the Commons will come into disrepute and hopefully into question. Yet questioning is far from most people’s minds these days – it’s been taught out of the population by the state school system and by the mind-numbing banality of popular culture. Still, images of red-jacketed huntsmen being arrested and pulled off their horses for hunting quarry on their own land, may provoke enough indignation in this slumbering land of lost liberties.

Part Two: Personal Experiences and Reflection.

The main hunting lobby – the Countryside Alliance – has come a long way in putting forward its message that hunting is ecologically sound, environmentally friendly, pro-conservation, and generally good for communities (the necessary language of the modern West!). But it made the grave mistake of believing the government’s cant that it was going to listen, despite all the evidence of spin on so many issues. Tony Blair will go down as the slipperiest Prime Minister in our history – a man who has ridden through personal and political controversy more regularly than our trains run, and he will ride through this one with his cheesy ‘what me? nothing to do with me, I’m just an ordinary guy’ grin. He has given the Hunt Bill over to his back benchers while his Cabinet wages an unjustifiable war in Iraq, a war that his own back benchers threatened mutiny on. Was it the thought of the Hunt Bill that appeased them to support the bombing and occupation of a foreign land? Perhaps, but then again, it is more likely the thought of a promotion to a cosy job in the unelected halls of Brussels for being good ovine supporters of Beloved Blair. Support the war and ban the hunts – simple.

The Countryside Alliance also made the mistake of preaching to the converted. Advert after advert appeared in the country sports magazines – or banners and posters along rural routes. Campaign tents were set up at country fairs – and yes, that’s where the membership drives ought to be, but evangelism needs to spread its wings into the dark corners of ignorant urban Britain. Many times and to many folk both high and low in the organisation I’ve expressed the need to preach to soccer crowds, to advertise to urban Britain and to get into the schools. Of course, I’m not the only one. Frustrations run high when the only organisation capable of producing the goods fails to do so or its spirit falters – it’s only natural to snap at those closest to you.

Yet when I met a new political adviser at a show, I was surprised to meet a young woman – a very attractive lass, but a science graduate. Youth against the political experience of back benchers whose average political experience spans decades! A science graduate against the PhDs of political science and theory. Beauty against the greasiest spinning machine ever produced in the land. Despair! Then, when I advanced a campaign idea of naming and shaming schools that permitted or acquiesced in state funded teachers mocking and intellectually bullying country sports enthusiast pupils, I had no reply – yet speaking to many pupils from the state sector it was obvious that the war had been going on for years and teachers could get away with such bigotry and prejudice that levelled against ethnicity or religion would have been a sacking offence. The campaign would have been cheap – and the marketing simple – no reply. I asked about an educational officer – none presently existed; one had taken the job after graduating, I was told by one of the best activists and campaigners the Countryside Alliance has (Clare Rowson, by the way, of the West Midlands division who deserves international recognition and a medal for her unflagging defence of hunting and her barracking of Ministers). After graduating? So again, no experience, no understanding of the national curriculum that prides itself on teaching how ‘stereotyping leads to prejudice leads to racism which leads to genocide’? He lasted a few months I gather.

A more personal gripe: last year I launched a novel, Wither This Land, set against the then predictable application of the Parliament Act to ban hunting while war waged in Iran (I had initially put Iraq in the first drafts, written months before any policy to attack Iraq had been publicised – another hat I wear is that of a specialist in the philosophy of war). The novel has been read by antis and gained their respect, it has been read by neutrals and got them interested in hunting; hunt supporters have loved it. It’s the kind of book that the CA should be flogging like hotcakes – not because it’s mine per se (although the income would be nice), but because it deals with the ideas surrounding the issue in a highly readable manner. The novel’s a ‘rip-roaring adventure’ as one of the CA executive said. I’ve sold the book to most of the executive of the CA and to many supporters of the more activist Countryside Action Network. But my reading of the situation is that my colleagues can’t handle (or market) ideas – even though that’s where the main war is taking place. In cynical moments I think that the novel’s absence from the CA on-line shop is due to its lack of pictures.

I’ve written to various personages saying, hey, this is the kind of book you should be disseminating in class rooms and book clubs – it’s hot, it’s on your side, it generates debate, it provokes, it satirises Blair’s Britain, it’s a laugh, it’s an adventure, it gets people talking and thinking. No replies. After the House of Commons was stormed by hunt protesters, I wrote to the major papers – I’d predicted this, many in the CA and CAN have read my novel – hello??? is there anyone in there? Want to know what could happen next?? No replies.

Despite an incredible campaign, the CA has been politically naïve, too accommodating (only marching on Parliament en masse on a Sunday – when there were no bloody MPs around!!!), too decent (and turning on the fuming membership who have crossed legal boundaries), and too bloody nice old-fashioned Miss Marple British by half. I met a farmer in Devon who said he’d blow the electrical pylons on his land that fed a local town if they banned hunting: I hope he has the courage to do so. The CA bumper stickers proclaim ‘Keep your bulls*t in Westminster and we’ll keep ours in the country.’ My car’s paintwork got ‘keyed’ because of that – but I hope the sht will now flow freely Westminster’s way. Wither This Land predicts – or encourages, if you like – more radical acts. It also provides a picture of how we could live – in a land free from interference.

My second novel is due out any moment. Tonight, I’m supposed to be writing the blurb for the dust jacket, but political news, usually so depressingly trite, obvious, and predictable, motivates me to pen this. But the second novel deserves a plug, after all I’m the only one doing any plugging: Vestiges of Freedom is set a hundred years from now – hunting’s banned and long gone, but so too have horses and pets and books. It follows the adventures of an artist who hears that horses still exist in the northern Wasteland (of present day northern England and Scotland) – an eco-nuclear disaster zone, the product of suicide terrorists and nuclear war. I don’t go into that scenario too much, for the book is a satire on the European Union and where we’re presently headed – regulations and licences needed for every move and breath we take. It’s about my country in the aftermath of war – international war and war on civilians. And my hero, the increasingly anarchic Robin Bradbury, decides to go on a quest to find horses. His adventures attract the attention of the authorities, who predictably close in, but how they do so, and what happens is much less predictable. Hah.

And so I close – war has been finally declared on the countryside. I’ve let out my barbaric yawps outside of the House of Commons; written email after email to journalists, letters to local papers, emailed dozens of comments to the BBC ‘Have Your Say’ column (rarely printed as I often encourage revolt or the privatisation of the BBC!), hand-written letters to MPs and Lords; I’ve dined with an anti-hunt MP at the House of Commons to express how inconsistent he was being (his reply: "I will vote for it but hope it fails" ... !!!); I’ve even written a novel about the issue and shouted its story from the rooftops and it nationally at great cost. And as I turn to retire, I fear that just as my personal campaign to get a damn good novel noticed and picked up has been overwhelmed by the noise of the modern society in which anybody’s opinion or writing is as good as any one else’s, so too will the hunt lobby’s campaign fall flat on deaf ears – politicians’ ears closed to reason and evidence, and the population’s ears closed to ideas and to controversy.

The hoped for rebellion in the countryside may remain a whisper in the woods that is unheard the world over.

November 20, 2004

Alexander Moseley has lectured and tutored in American, Canadian and British Universities. He spent the last two years sampling the State-run comprehensive system in the UK and now teaches privately. He and his fiancée have formed a partnership, Classical Foundations, to teach music and other subjects privately one-to-one in their area. Dr. Moseley is an avid exponent of the ideals Rothbard outlines in his Education: Free & Compulsory. He is the author of A Philosophy of War and the novel Wither This Land.

Beagling Article by Liam Thom

Beagling is foxhunting in miniature, the hounds are smaller, the kennels are scale models, hunt staff are fewer and the cost is a fraction. The range of grandeur is much the same, however, and while a field of five or ten can meet on a wind-swept Northern moor, charging the cost of a drink for the experience, a hundred may meet in front of a big house in the Home Counties, with hounds arriving in smart vans and trailers, and the staff dressed as for the Heythrop. whether those up on the fell have better sport than the downcountry folk is a debatable point, but they win hands down when it comes to getting thoroughly well lubricated and filling public houses with songs about foxes on rocks, Joe Bowman and men from Denby Dale.The Stour Valley Beagles

The beauty of beagling is the closeness the follower can be to the action. If the hare, hounds and huntsman have all read the script correctly then the well-situated follower can witness the day's sport from the safety of his shooting stick. This, of course, irritates the staff no end because they may run past this shooting stick half-a-dozen times and see rather less than its occupant.

The thruster is equally well catered-for because, as long as he gives hounds a bit of room, keeps out of the huntsman's earshot when the pack splits six ways on two litters, and makes sure that all is seen that somebody up front should have seen, ready to impart knowledge to the panting huntsman, then the thruster should be welcome. The only danger for the fast beagler is that the Master may put a whip in his hand and tell him to get to the top of that hill / by that road / next to that farmer's ostriches / to them hounds two miles away that are exercising the fox that the Kissmeoats Farmers' Foxhounds left behind the previous day. The most useful member of the field is one who cannot tell a hunted hare from a fresh one. by them you will not be approached 45 minutes after you have caught your hare, to be told that they changed and that the real one is absolutely cooked in the withy bed. "Absolutely cooked" is a misnomer for hares which have just got out of their form, yawned, stretched their legs and wandered off at a lope to find out if Farmer Mangold's barley tastes any better this morning - oh, and what are those noisy dogs doing over there?


Almost all information from people who know a hunted hare from a fresh one is to be treated with as much courtesy and salt as you can muster. Anybody who knows enough not to have learned the difference between a hunted hare and a fresh one can generally be relied upon to tell you within two feet where to catch your hare. The Stour Valley Beagles with (then) huntsman Liam Thom (left) and Master James Fairbanks

Beagling as with any other sport, can have its faux pas, the most offensive of which is calling the professional huntsman a "kennel-huntsman" which may lead to industrial action and the need for ACAS. Another blot on the copybook is saying something like, "oh yes, there were a brace of hare (sic) in that field when the hounds came through", meaning the foxhounds; meaning our beloved little jelly dogs are not hounds which they are.

Hare populations in many countries are waxing, which the pessimistic beagler will tell you is a bad thing. Is it 'eck as like? A large population of hares means that no time is lost searching for something to hunt. It also means that if you end a hunt you have not too far to go before you are off again. The thing to do when confronted with many hares is to keep hunting the same area, which is something the beagler can do, but which a harrier pack usually cannot. The important thing is to bring back any hounds which get outside the circle, otherwise you might find yourself with one couple of young hounds, and the rest of the pack hunting round and round in circles three parishes away and having added to their tally four times without telling you.

The best thing about a healthy hare population is that hounds become totally focussed on that quarry, something which is important to young beagles that would hunt a bush if it gave off a scent and moved fast enough. Too many in the beagling would thing that beagles will never run steady to riot. This of course is rubbish. The Dummer and the Brighton and Storrington are both steady packs (and not pet hounds either) with tallies well above the average. Making a riotous pack steady does not happen overnight. It takes years of selective breeding, but is greatly helped by delicate use of the whip (which means catching them in the act and telling them what you think of them) and a fair bit of draughting. What makes life easier is if the riot is only in half the country (as in ours at the Stour Valley) that you do not need to be rid of perfectly good hounds that happen to like the smell of roe.

it is often said that the best training ground for an MFH is a school or college pack of beagles. You would be foolish to disagree. By running after little hounds you should learn respect for your hunter when you take on a mounted pack. The young MH has the benefit of a lifetime's knowledge from the kennel-huntsman who will usually impart that wisdom as colourfully and succinctly as he knows how, sometimes followed by the RSM's "Sir".

Beagles tend to hunt themselves and, while they will ignore a useless huntsman, a young paragon with athlete's legs will have them eating out of his hand. Hunting beagles gives more opportunities in a day of seeing hounds at close quarters and of trying to give assistance than might be possible in a month hunting Charlie. Moreover, because the smaller hounds' noses work that bit better, the chances of coming out of a check are that much greater. But beagling is more than a training ground for the up-and-coming foxhunter; it is the height of venery.