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The pace quickens

Clive Aslet reports on hunting, which has grown more popular since the Hunting Act of 2005 forbade the use of hounds to hunt foxes.

According to Aslet no one sits around waiting for the hounds to find a scent as they once did. They set off on a good ride in pursuit of a scent trail they have laid themselves. With them go eagle owls and hawks on the arms of falconers. Under the curiously concocted hunting act, hounds can be used to flush wild mammals, including foxes, toward hawks and owls.

In the Pursuit of Love Nancy Mitford wrote lovingly of fox cubs “playing in the pale-green light of the woods”. She also described the rapture of riding to a hunt -

For three hours that day I forgot everything except my body and my pony’s body; the rushing, the scrambling, the splashing, struggling up the hills, sliding down them again, the tugging, the bucketing, the earth and the sky. I forgot everything, I could hardly have told you my name.

No hunts have closed since the Hunting Act came into force; two new ones have opened. Currently there are more than 300 registered packs in the United Kingdom. Many country people follow the hunts, and country people from farriers to farmers to horse breeders depend on them for their livelihood.

Broken bones are an occupational hazard for those who hunt, but they are outdoors with neighbours, horses and dogs, alive to beauty, experiencing danger in a galloping rush, and drinking in the intoxicating air in huge gulps. Their joy is a mystery to the urban dweller.