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24th August 2015

The Fox Hunting Season Has Begun #keeptheban

Hunt riders holding-up maize in Dorset 22.08.15 pic: Dorset Wildlife Protection

A new season of fox hunting begins as soon as the harvest is in sufficiently to afford access to the land. In many parts of the country this means that during August, and certainly from September, hunts are out in force with horses, hounds and four-wheel drive vehicles.

Fox hunting in late summer and autumn is a prelude to the pomp and ceremony of the full season which runs mostly from end Oct/early Nov until March or April. Since the 2004 Hunting Act outlawed fox hunting, participants refer to autumn hunting as ‘hound exercise’. Before then it was known more honestly as ‘cub hunting’ (or ‘cubbing’ for short).

Hunt supporters may claim that what is described below is outdated because hunting is different since the Hunting Act. Actually, most of the evidence we have seen and heard suggests that very little has changed and the law is being widely flouted. Links at the bottom of this piece are evidence of this. Sure, there have been a few cosmetic tweaks which serve to confuse the issue, but the following is as true before the ban as now, ten years after. That’s why Hounds Off and many others are calling for the Hunting Act to be strengthened in ways which mean that foxes (and other abused wild animals) are afforded better protection.

The purpose of this article is to outline what cubbing is, what it looks like and how you can report it if you see it (or hear about it on the grapevine).


Cubbing usually starts in the early morning at first light. This means from 6am in mid August, getting later as autumn comes. By mid October 9.30 or 10am is the norm. At the beginning of the day, before the sun is at its full power, hounds are able to smell foxes better. Hounds hunt by scent so are trained to do this at times when conditions are best. In the early season hunts may finish by mid morning or, in late September/October, by mid afternoon.

Evening hunts are popular too. Scent is often good later in the day and an evening ‘meet’ might combine killing foxes with a social occasion (such as a barbecue).


Cubbing is vital for hunting purposes.

The principle objective is training the hounds. They need to recognise the smell, look and taste of a fox as well as how to hunt as a pack. Dog packs will be large. Many are youngsters trying to make the grade. Some older, experienced hounds will be there too, to teach and lead by example.

Young hounds are best trained by hunting and killing a lot of foxes. Cubbing, especially early in the season, is a brutal and bloody affair (though mostly conducted out of sight).

Here’s what the late 10th Duke of Beaufort wrote in his 1980 David & Charles publication, Fox-Hunting, on pages 68/69 (the late Duke had massive status in the hunting world):

“The object of cub-hunting is to educate both young hounds and fox-cubs. As was said earlier, it is not until he has been hunted that the fox draws fully on his resources of sagacity and cunning so that he is able to provide a really good run….I try to be out cub-hunting as often as possible myself, and the ideal thing is for the Master to be out every day….Never lose sight of the fact that one really well-beaten cub killed fair and square is worth half a dozen fresh ones killed the moment they are found without hounds having to exert themselves in their task. It is essential that hounds should have their blood up and learn to be savage with their fox before he is killed.”

If one or two foxes do escape that’s good from a hunting perspective too. These foxes know to get up and running when hounds are about and are dispersed to all over the place to ensure a reliable spread of animals to chase. Later on, when punters pay a tidy fee for the privilege of ‘riding to hounds’, these are the foxes which are hoped to provide the best sport. Hunts are businesses, after all.

By harvest time this years litter of cubs look like young adults and are still in family units. Huntsmen already know where foxes are living. Farmers and gamekeepers supply this information. Hounds will be taken for training to these places, one by one.


Cubbing in August and September often involves surrounding small woods or rough bits of ground with a ring of people on foot and horseback. This is known as ‘holding-up’. Holding-up may also happen around fields of maize or large-leaved crops such as sugar beet. Families of foxes often reside there because they can creep around freely but safely under cover. Woodland or standing crop, old orchard, bramble thicket or somewhere else, a foxy place is called a ‘covert’ (pronounced with a silent ‘t’).

When hounds are first entered into covert there may be complete silence apart from the occasional toot on hunting horn or odd word of encouragement from the Huntsman. Hounds will be searching, noses down, for the smell of a fox. When one hound gets a whiff he or she will ‘speak’. That means they bark in a particular way. As other hounds find the scent too so the speaking gets louder until all the dogs are ‘on cry’ and their collective noise reaches a crescendo.

At this point the fox is darting around in the undergrowth ahead of the pack, trying to escape. If it pops out from the edge of the covert then the surrounding riders and foot followers will shout, clap and slap their saddles to make a wall of noise to scare the fox back. Even if a fox is not seen, but the sound of hounds speaking is close enough to indicate that the fox is running close to the edge, a wall of noise is created. Hunt supporters help considerably to kill foxes during cubbing.

Sooner or later the fox will be caught and killed, either above ground in the jaws of the hounds or when dug out by men with spades and terriers if it tries to hide down a hole. This happens repeatedly until the whole litter is destroyed. Some brave foxes will beat the wall of noise and get away. These are ‘good’ foxes which are hoped to run far and fast during the winter months.


Cub hunting is not all holding-up. Any place likely to provide foxes is tried; hedgerows, streams, field corners, untidy back gardens, derelict farm buildings, even ivy-clad trees. Short hunting runs may be encouraged by hardly holding-up at all or on side only so that, by October and just before the lucrative full season, hounds are hunting their quarry in the open over decent stretches of ground.

Cub hunting has been illegal since February 2005. We advise always report suspected illegal hunting to the police using 101 (dial 999 if 101 is taking too long, or the suspected crime is in progress). Other people to inform are the League Against Cruel Sports via this link or for immediacy on their wildlife crime hotline 01483 361 108 and the Hunt Saboteurs Association via this link, on social media or phone 0845 2501291. All info received is important and will be recorded for future reference or acted upon immediately.


Cubbing happens August to October on any day of the week except Sunday, usually in the morning but sometimes in the evening after working hours. Meets are often held in farm yards or fields. Groups of riders, hounds and 4×4 vehicles are tell-tale signs.

The occasion and dress code is informal, even scruffy sometimes. Often nobody wears the distinctive red coats known as ‘hunting pink’. So you may see a hunt but not actually realise it because what you witness looks like just random groups of riders or people assembled at odd times in strange places and apparently looking at nothing.

Hounds running close to or across roads would strongly suggest illegal hunting. Nobody in their right mind would risk laying artificial trails in such dangerous places where the risk of accidents is so real.

Look out too for lines of riders spaced apart at regular intervals along country lanes or in fields and woods. They could be holding-up. Listen out for the ‘wall of noise’ made by hunt followers to frighten foxes. Staccato cries of “Aye-aye-aye!” are commonplace alongside whip-cracking. The combined sound is often unearthly. Riders may converge at pace amid a lot of screaming in an effort to force their quarry back towards the hounds.

Hunts make great play of the fact that they only go to where they’ve been invited. So if a hunt is trespassing on forbidden ground or somewhere else unwelcome then there’s little doubt that they’ll be up to no good.


We advise always report suspected illegal hunting to the police using 101 (dial 999 if 101 is taking too long, or the suspected crime is in progress). Other people to inform are the League Against Cruel Sports via this link or for immediacy on their wildlife crime hotline 01483 361 108 and the Hunt Saboteurs Association via this link, on social media or phone 0845 2501291. All info received is important and will be recorded for future reference or acted upon immediately.

Here is evidence of illegal cub hunting which resulted in prosecutions for members of the Meynell and South Staffs Hunt in 2012:

Here is an expose of the North Cotswold Hunt apparently feeding and housing foxes in artificial homes then hunting them with hounds during an autumn cub hunt in 2014:

On behalf of hunted wildlife, thank you for reading this and for caring.

© Joe Hashman

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32 Comments | Leave a comment

  • Gary stafford says:
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    I find it very disturbing that people still feel the need to do this and get pleasure. There sick perverted ways need to be stopped.

    Reply to this comment >
    • Chris Curran says:
      Posted August 26, 2015 at 9:33 am

      What is even more disturbing is the fact that these people for some reason believe they are above the law and can break it with impunity even assaulting those that oppose what they do at every opportunity, either verbally or physically.

      Reply to this comment >
    • Lili Castillo says:
      Posted August 02, 2017 at 10:59 am

      It is a cold blooded act. It’s coward, it’s unfair, it’s shameful.

      Reply to this comment >
    • R Adkins says:
      Posted December 16, 2018 at 10:40 pm

      Amen! The scum hunters say we’re against fox hunting because it’s a simple case of people in towns being prejudiced. It’s simple, for me IT IS CRUEL and BARBARIC and INSANITY! Please I’m causing suffering to animals is called, sadistic evil behaviour! END IT NOW FOREVER?

      Reply to this comment >
  • Jean austen says:
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    This should never be allowed to happen. It’s time it was stopped. It’s up to us to speak for the animals as they are unable to do so for themselves, man is the worst animal on the planet

    Reply to this comment >
    • margaret woodall says:
      Posted March 01, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      I totally agreee, all the animal charities seem powerless to stop it or at least prosecute as many wildlife officers and PC’s are in cahoots with the hunts for some reason. How anyone who is of sound mind can do this to an animal, is beyond belief. If a fox runs to ground surely it should be given the right to escape. I thought cub hunting was against the law, that is even worse, throwing innocent cubs to a pack of dogs.

      Reply to this comment >
  • Lynda Evans says:
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Would be grateful for any info with regard to above

    Reply to this comment >
  • jean austen says:
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    its about time man stopped terrifying animals in the so called name of sport. they are not men they are worse than murderers

    Reply to this comment >
    • Sarah says:
      Posted February 07, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Should credit not be given to those hunt who do follow trailsigns and exercise hounds without kills

      Reply to this comment >
  • Barbara Rowe says:
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Am horrified and sad that so called humans still are so barbaric.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Janine Webb says:
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Its cruel, barbaric and has no place in todays society

    Reply to this comment >
  • diane griffiths says:
    Posted August 25, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Really is not necessary in the 21st century, we have so many ways of amusing ourselves that goes for both sexes it is not just males who take pleasure in killing for so called sport ride horses by all means but will fight tooth and nail to prevent fox hunting being reintroduced under whatever title they the government of the day try and please all u police forces the law is at present no hunting so act in the correct way

    Reply to this comment >
  • Chris Curran says:
    Posted September 08, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I feel so angry at the moment. The Countryside Alliance that supports all these vile and cruel blood sports has openly attacked one of our best loved conservationists Chris Packham. This is utterly outrageous if the members of the CA truly believe that they have the right to attack such a highly qualified expert then there is something seriously wrong with their ethics. Appalling.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Beverly King says:
    Posted August 02, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Whether you believe it or not the Law of Karma is definate . So every time you harm another living being you create the cause to be harmed in the same way but worse when that karma ripens . It is inescapable . So even if you are a cold hearted cruel person and therefore do not care about others . I know you deeply care about yourself. So if you don’t want to be ripped to death over and over , please STOP causing this to be done to others .

    Reply to this comment >
  • John Rapley says:
    Posted August 08, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    This is appalling and should not be allowed to take place by these so called upper class yobs. how are we suppose to get help to stop these appalling hunts when some of these yobs are high profile positions.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Galen Ward says:
    Posted August 08, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    #keeptheban this is sickening

    Reply to this comment >
  • Shona Baillie says:
    Posted August 09, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Hunts are businesses, after all.
    Money: the root of all evil: cruelty being the worst possible!

    Reply to this comment >
    • Malcolm says:
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      I agree with you 100% it’s the rich with money that take pleasure in the hunt as I have said a problem fox shot dead with a bullet and dies instantly is ok but Cubs no no no

      Reply to this comment >
  • Lynda Evans says:
    Posted August 09, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Disgusting & barbaric & just shows how these people without a brain between them
    totally disregards the fact that they are causing immense suffering to these beautiful animals .
    They also disregard the feelings of the many & will continue with the attitude ,I will because I can .
    Just shameful

    Reply to this comment >
  • Hazel Cain says:
    Posted August 10, 2016 at 8:37 am

    ‘Hunts are business after all’
    Just that one comment is enough to condemn the hunt and all their ridiculous excuses.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Nemosis says:
    Posted August 10, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Can something be done with the idiots that keep releasing urban foxes into the countryside. These foxes are so tame they are not frightened enough to get away from danger. Trouble is everyone that wants foxes left alone don’t like them enough to leave them in their own back yard.

    Reply to this comment >
    • HoundsOff says:
      Posted August 10, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      This excuse for “accidents” whilst hunting is a new one on us.

      Reply to this comment >
    • Chris Bickerdike says:
      Posted August 03, 2017 at 6:11 am

      Nobody ‘releases urban foxes into the countryside ‘. Rather we encroach further into rural areas where foxes prefer to live. Who do you suggest releases them? It’s that we squeeze them out of their homes, chuck rubbish food all over the place, then demonise the foxes for making use of this Fast Food. It’s lazy humans again.

      Reply to this comment >
  • Brian John Mason says:
    Posted August 02, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    This ban must never be revoked and must continually be made stronger. How anyone could take a different view on this matter is totally beyond my understanding. When I was a land worker in my youth i once had a fox being chased come within a few feet of me and the fear in his eyes will stay with me forever.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Claire says:
    Posted October 22, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    I witnessed cubbing for the first time a couple of weeks ago..i shouted over to the hunters but response was they were trail hunting.. dogs were trained to come back on tea..howeber..i saw them chadibf the fox from the covert and no one was calling them back.. I rang the police ..bothing happened.. it haunts me. The chase went out of sight.. I felt helpless. I just hope that poor fox got away

    Reply to this comment >
  • Trudie Mitchell says:
    Posted March 03, 2018 at 11:04 pm

    What type of person does it take ,to want to watch an animal being ripped apart , l just can’t comprehend , is it a lust for blood, how sick and how can it be called a sport, pack of hounds, riders, people on foot , hip flask just for added excitement, and a terrified fox ! No chance , it’s a trophy hunt ,no different to hare coursing,,barbaric,

    Reply to this comment >
    • Lynda Evans says:
      Posted March 08, 2018 at 7:28 pm

      Totally agree with your sentiments .Bery well said

      Reply to this comment >
    • mark hamilton says:
      Posted August 01, 2019 at 6:02 pm

      I take no pleasure in saying this, but the blood-lust to which you refer, is one of the most loathesome characteristics of the patriarchal culture we are obliged to live in! We think we are ‘civilised’, yet life, animal and human is as cheap as it ever was!!

      Reply to this comment >
  • E11a says:
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    I have many friends who are hunters and anytime I try to tell them how cruel and awful it is, they look at me as if I have two heads and say “normally we don’t kill the fox” yeah but u chase it away from its den and its cubs and you scare the life out of it!

    Reply to this comment >
  • Phillip Parfitt says:
    Posted July 28, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    The fact that this medieval barbarity is still practiced in a civilised country in the 21st century is beyond belief. There is no way it is a sport, a tradition or anything other than an evil , sick pastime carried out by vile sadists who get some sort of perverted thrill by watching an innocent animal torn to shreds for their twisted amusement.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Alan Yates says:
    Posted August 01, 2019 at 8:54 pm

    If the hounds cannot Be trained because it is illegal to hunt what are they being trained for – does beg the question. The unspeakable in pursuit of the unbeatable – Oscar Wilde

    Reply to this comment >
  • Elaine Milbourn says:
    Posted September 18, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Every opinion poll taken on this issue shows that more than 80% of the population want this vile activity to end. There is meant to be a law in place that ends the vicious cruelty to our beautiful wildlife, so why the hell don’t the police uphold the law and prosecute these sick, depraved individuals.

    Reply to this comment >

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