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11th August 2016

They Love Their Hounds, Don’t They?

Cheshire Foxhound shot October 30th 1996

We are told that it’s common practice for foxhounds belonging to registered Hunts to be killed off after a working life of six or seven years. Indeed, the Countryside Alliance estimated that 3000 foxhounds are destroyed in this way every year (1). That’s a lot of dead dogs but we suggest this figure is a gross underestimate of the true numbers of hounds which are bred by Hunts but become surplus to requirements.


For starters, the Countryside Alliance estimate only accounted for retiring foxhounds. No mention is made of the hundreds-if-not-thousands of puppies produced by Hunts in their annual quest to improve the performance of foxhounds by selective breeding. We don’t have any statistics on how many bitches are used, on average, as breeding stock per Hunt each year, but we do know that a bitch may produce ten or more puppies. Apparently seven is considered enough for one bitch so from the start excess puppies may be put down at birth (2).


Conformation is crucial too. The Foxhound Kennel Stud Book stipulates the desirable shape and structure of a hound from aesthetic and performance perspectives. Many aesthetic features are condemned; including curly tails, upper or lower jaws which protrude noticeably, elbows which stick out or a narrow back (3).


For a foxhound, performance means having a sharp sense of smell, stamina, a good bark and the right temperament for working in a pack. This is all observed and finely tuned during late summer and autumn hound exercise (formerly called, more honestly, Cub Hunting). By the time of the Opening Meets and the full season proper, only the best hounds will have made the grade. For example, ‘babblers’ (hounds which bark when they smell an animal other than fox and so mislead the others) and ‘skirters’ (hounds that cut corners instead of sticking precisely to a scent) are disruptive and seldom tolerated. As former Horse & Hound editor Michael Clayton writes in his 1989 Modern Guide to Foxhunting, “It may well be necessary to eliminate from the pack hounds notably guilty of these misdemeanours.”


Now consider that the 2015/16 season Hunting Special edition of Horse & Hound detailed 293 registered Hunts in England, Wales and Scotland which are breeding, drafting and retiring hounds to maintain their ‘sport’ year in year out – 186 registered packs of foxhounds, 17 harrier packs (chasing foxes and/or hares), 60 beagle packs (hare), 8 basset packs (hare), 19 mink hunts and 3 stag hunts.

The Countryside Alliance estimate of 3000 hounds killed at the end of their working lives was only based on about 200 Hunts registered with the Masters of Fox Hounds Association. It took no account of the other hare, mink and deer hunts which have their own separate Associations. Neither did it account for those young hounds which look wrong or are not deemed good enough to make the cut. That’s why we believe that the Countryside Alliance figure was way below the real tally.


As a late Twentieth Century foxhunting and hound breeding legend, the 10th Duke of Beaufort, is quoted by Clayton in his Modern Guide:

“Lord Henry Bentinck … said that the secret of his success was to breed a great many hounds, and then to put down a great many.

“If you can follow his example so much the better for the future of your pack…”


A major claim made by those who lobbied against the Hunting Act was that up to 20 000 hounds would have to be destroyed if hunting was banned (4). We know that this threatened mass execution didn’t happen because Hunts tweaked their mode of operation to circumvent the law then carried on regardless.


However, in the eleven years since the Hunting Act came into force, based on that Countryside Alliance estimate, 33 000 foxhounds will have been killed for being too old. Even if you don’t count those overlooked foxhound puppies, the beagles, bassets, minkhounds and the staghounds, so-called ‘country sports’ are still responsible for one heck of a pile of dead dogs.

(1) & (4) Report of Committee of Enquiry into Hunting with Dogs in England & Wales (Lord Burns & Others), The Stationary Office, 2000. Point 6.79.
(2) The Chase – A Modern Guide to Foxhunting (Clayton), Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd, 1989. Page 50.
(3) The Chase – A Modern Guide to Foxhunting (Clayton), Stanley Paul & Co. Ltd, 1989. Page 45/46.

Read The Daily Mirror expose (14 July 2015); Thousands of healthy foxhounds – including pups – are clubbed to death or shot if they’re ‘unsuitable’, here.

© Joe Hashman

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36 Comments | Leave a comment

  • Neal Bedwell says:
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    How ironic that one of the hunting community’s arguments for continuing to hunt was that did would have to be destroyed if hunting was outlawed.

    I can’t honestly see any objective reason why anyone would believe a single word these people say based on the number of lies told over so many years.

    Reply to this comment >
    • Neal Bedwell says:
      Posted August 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      That should read DOGS would have to be destroyed’… apologies.

      Reply to this comment >
    • Graham Shepherd says:
      Posted August 11, 2016 at 10:29 pm

      The sheer cost of all this would pay for any loss of hens and lambs, (which I am skeptical of anyway) a hundred times over.
      And what about the cost of preserving and rearing the so-called vermin to provide entertainment for the privileged few.
      They must think we came down with the last fall of snow.

      Reply to this comment >
    • Judith Backlog says:
      Posted June 29, 2017 at 7:37 am

      If what I read is true all fox hounds should be neutered and then in six years there would be no hounds left .Which would mean a end to all hunts.

      Reply to this comment >
  • Chris Cuirran says:
    Posted August 12, 2016 at 8:02 am

    If it wasn’t so tragic it would be a joke. These callous people repeatedly criticise the RSPCA for putting down animals and yet year after year they are guilty of despatching thousands of good healthy dogs. There is no excuse for it. They display photos of packs of hounds with little children hugging and stroking them, brag how friendly the hounds are and how good they are with small children yet at the same time they try to tell us they cannot be ‘domesticated’. They are not only unnecessarily cruel but hypocrites and liars.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Alan Kirby says:
    Posted August 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    This is an issue I’ve felt for many years isn’t stressed nearly enough by the anti-hunt movement. See http://www.powa.org.uk/id82.html for further information.

    Reply to this comment >
  • yvonne lunde-andreassen says:
    Posted August 16, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Why do you think they got rid of dog licenses

    Reply to this comment >
  • Chris Cuirran says:
    Posted August 17, 2016 at 7:51 am

    I don’t think working dogs ever needed licences.

    Reply to this comment >
    • yvonne lunde-andreassen says:
      Posted August 20, 2016 at 10:51 am

      Of course working dogs needed licenses – check out the facts !

      Reply to this comment >
      • Neal says:
        Posted August 22, 2016 at 12:49 am

        I know that sheep/rescue/police dogs and so on did but I don’t think that included Fox hounds used for hunting did it?

        Not 100% sure but I don’t think it did.

        And microchipping (as the rest of us have to comply with now)? I can’t see them applying that ‘nuisance’ to themselves can you?

        As for checking facts, let’s be honest facts are not something the Fox hunting community are big providers of (‘bull’ yes but facts no).
        It’s obviously not in their interest to provide too many of those, so it’s not easy finding the truth.

        Do you have any sources for facts regarding the licencing of fox hounds used for hunting, specifically. I haven’t been able to find much.

        If not, they’re obviously conveniently not considered ‘working dogs’.

        Reply to this comment >
      • Chris Curran says:
        Posted August 22, 2016 at 10:17 am

        OK OK no need to get bolshie. We’re on the same side – this is not a competition. I did say I think they didn’t need licences That was based on what somebody said to me years ago.

        Reply to this comment >
        • yvonne lunde-andreassen says:
          Posted August 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm

          OK…I was actually around all those years ago and the cry (from the hunt lobby) was the usual about…”poor old ladies not being able to afford dog licenses..”

          Reply to this comment >
          • Chris Cuirran says:
            Posted September 03, 2016 at 7:10 pm

            So was I around then. Everybody needed licences for their dogs but I have a vague recollection that certain working dogs were exempt. Needs checking in archives of gov.uk

  • Anne Balderston says:
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:22 am

    STOP killing dogs, foxes and other wildlife.
    Leave these poor animals alone. Does no one see or recognize that this cruelty to
    innocent animals is wrong and truly evil?
    You need to change your way of thinking
    and develop some kindness and compassion for all living things.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Neal Bedwell says:
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Yes. Sadly, we must always remember as well that fox hunting and many other cruel practices are popular with many of those who make and enforce our laws.
    There are many exceptions to this of course but even if a fair percentage of law makers and enforcers are pro-cruelty they will make pro-cruelty laws and enforce them with pro-cruelty bias.

    Not needing a dog licence when it’s convenient to not need one is just a tiny example.

    What’s even more worrying is what this says for the broader society which must be subject to the (non) care of people who enjoy cruelty, suffering and violence as these are not good characteristics for people who influence and control society (by law making/enforcing) to have if we ever want to move forward to a more moral society in Britain.

    Welcome to The Establishment! Moral progresses biggest enemy, be it for foxes, dogs or indeed humans.

    Reply to this comment >
  • Neal Bedwell says:
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    …to use Philip Larkin’s words “a cast of crooks and tarts”….

    But personally, as a vegan, I think an important, often overlooked point is that the underlying attitude we see being enacted towards these animals is also (apart from being a great tragedy in itself) a more grotesque and physically extreme version of what is being done to (and by) all of us.
    Stronger abusing weaker for the satisfaction of their cruel, selfishly motivated, preferences and for their aggrandizement.

    In that sense it is a global problem but what we’re seeing in fox hunting is simply that global attitude at a local level. Bull fighting, dog fiighting, cock fighting, hare coarsing, factory farming, heck ANY livestock farming,, racism, sexism human/nonhuman slavery etc are other ‘local’ parts of the whole. The list is endless but the definition is the same…

    “a dominant element in a relationship enforcing it’s values on a victim for selfish preference, no matter how trivial the dominant party’s reasons may be when compared to the often incredible suffering of their victim (usually loss of life in many of the above cases), but still thinking themselves superior enough that their trivial interest outweighs the very life of another”.

    … until that fundamental attitude changes there’s probably not much hope.

    For as long as we treat foxes like ‘vermin’ there will always be the potential to treat other humans like ‘vermin’ too, and for as long as we treat pigs like ‘pigs’ there will always be the potential to treat other humans like ‘pigs’.

    It’s perhaps getting off the topic for some, but the connection between fox-hunting, and all the other things mentioned is more profound than ‘just’ a few sick individuals killing innocent foxes for a thrill. It’s about how we all (all of us!) define our relationship with everyone (everyone!) around us.

    It can sound like vegan rhetoric to say that “peace begins on your plate” but if we really think that the more obvious abuse by ‘them’ is somehow different, in anything more than EXTENT, from the abuses we all need to stop indulging in, yet rarely even realise are abuses (like ‘them’ with their foxes), we’re missing the point I think.

    Thanks for reading these posts. My apologies that they’re a bit longer than I intended.

    Reply to this comment >
    • Sally says:
      Posted September 01, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      To quote Harry Potter; “If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

      Reply to this comment >
      • MARTA Falco Ainley says:
        Posted January 23, 2017 at 8:46 am

        and I would add, watch how he treats animals. you can immediately spot the bully, the control freak and sadly often, the sadist.

        Reply to this comment >
  • andy hamilton says:
    Posted August 20, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    It’s not only surplus hound puppies which are disposed of. It’s the many which don’t make the grade as hounds. Someone I knew well used to take hound puppies to rear them for a few months before they returned to the Cotley Hunt. He told me that’s what would happen to the ones which weren’t good enough

    Reply to this comment >
  • MARTA Falco Ainley says:
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 8:28 am

    the entire business of fox Hunts must be stopped entirely. Its involves such huge amounts of horrific cruelty. Not just to the fox cubs during cubbing but the adult foxes chase to exhaustion then torn apart. If they go to ground the vile terrier men dig them out and in so doing often injure their terriers. the fox is then either bagged up or given to the hounds to rip apart. the hounds are treated as objects and last about 6 yrs if that before being shot in the head. Hunters truly are just pond life and appear unable to actually think about what they are doing.

    Reply to this comment >
  • yvonne lunde-andreassen says:
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    WHY DO YOU THINK DOG LICENSES WERE STOPPED, Noooo it wasn’t to help out poor old ladies as was asserted at the time !

    Reply to this comment >
  • Lea says:
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 12:20 am

    These hounds do not make good pets, even before there working life, they are not pets they are working animals, they have a job!!! Which to be honest is more than the anti hunt protesters do
    I have hunted and follow hunts,
    I have seen says luring hounds on to main roads and train tracks to kill them.
    I believe that for one the hunt will never kill a healthy Fox as they can’t be caught only the lame will get took by a hawk
    And two a fox is not a pretty cute animal it is a pest I have had 3 cats killed by foxes (they where PETS) numerous chickens and lambs (hand reared aswell)
    Now please get off your soap boxes these hounds can not be re homed it would be like re homing a police or military dog after its service has finnished

    Reply to this comment >
    • Neal says:
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 1:31 am

      I feel a couple of points in your post need clarification to ensure that members of the public who may not be fully informed of the situation are given objective facts. …

      1. It’s both iironic and misleading that you choose police dogs as an analogy. They are not only able to be rehomed butt make excellent pets and, are often taken home by their former handlers who wouldn’t dream of killing them once they have turned from a ‘tool’ to a ‘nuisance’.
      Somehow or other they seem to be able to produce dogs ‘who have a job’ without making them so poorly socialised that rehoming as pets is not an option.
      Perhaps you could explain why the hunt masters are failing where your own false analogy of police dogs succeeds?

      2. With respect to the issue of which foxes are killed as a result of hunting activities. It is disingenuous to give the impression that only sick/weak foxes end up as victims. It is well documented that foxes are even bred specifically to release and hunt. With hunts often chasing a specifically released fox in cases where free roaming ones are a bit thin on the ground when a hunt is desired.

      Consequently, unless such foxes are having their legs broken or some other suitable injury inflicted upon them prior to release (possible of course) it is almost certain that healthy foxes are being bred, released, chased, caught (or dug up) then torn apart by frenzied hounds for the satisfaction of those involved.
      Not to mention the sickening activity of throwing cubs’ which are also healthy’ to the dogs as part of their training/practice.

      This is just a fact. The ‘only the injured ones get it’ claim simply doesn’t wash. We all know this, including you I suspect.

      3. More then 80 plus % of tthe British public disagree with hunting foxes with hounds. I mention this in reference to your ‘soap box’ comment. My point is that if those with an anti hunt sentiment where standing on soap boxes there would only be the tiny minority of pro hunt individuals left on the ground. We are not standing on soap boxes preaching to the crowd. We are the crowd. Just check the stats.

      The main point of this thread is that the hunting fraternity like to spin the public with how much they love their dogs yet in the end they train them in such a way that they are beyond being able to fit in with normal society and so must be routinely killed by those same people who claim to think the world of them.
      The thread is accurate and relevant on that basis alone.
      Again I think we all know this to be true.

      Reply to this comment >
      • Chris Curran says:
        Posted January 28, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        The difference between police dogs and hunting hounds becoming domestic pets is that police dogs as you say are treated as sentient beings by their trainers and delight in working with them as ‘partners’ while hunting dogs are ill-treated, shouted at, kicked, and have their food in the form of carcesses thrown into their compound for the dogs to squabble over. They are treated dispassionately as a ‘tool’. During Boxing Day Meets and when sabs call them to them, it is clearly observed that these poor unloved dogs take enormous pleasure in being stroked and patted. It’s very sad that these wonderful dogs so rarely are treated with love will never know the comfort of a loving family.

        Reply to this comment >
    • MARTA Falco Ainley says:
      Posted January 23, 2017 at 8:44 am

      the hounds would , if not used for hunting, be fine as pets. they are just dogs. all site hounds are killers ( lurchers, greyhounds etc) but they can be trained as fox hounds can be. so that puts pay to your firs wrong assumption.
      To suggest that those of us against fox hunting cannot get or do not have jobs is ridiculous. shan’t bother to say more.

      Having watched Hunts out who are breaking the Anti Hunting Law and who spend the first few weeks in the late summer, cub hunting, how can you sugget that the Hunts only chase to exhaustion unhealthy foxes. Another statement of the stupid.
      I have seen many videos of foxes and cats and badgers all together in gardens when wildlife lovers put food out. Foxes are not aggressive animals , they do not kill cats. The kill rabbits which is a great money saver for the country as their predation of rabbits helps arable farmers to the tune of thousands every yr.
      yes they will kill chickens and if not frightenend off , they will return to cache them. Foxes are , after all, wild animals and its the responsibility of us with chickens to make sure they are safe.
      So carry on with your bull if you want but everything you have said is pure rubbish, falsehood and I suggest that you study proper research done on foxes. Are you perhaps a terrier man who enjoys sadistic digging out of foxes gone to ground and who then enjoy offering the fox to the hounds?

      Reply to this comment >
      • Chris Curran says:
        Posted January 28, 2017 at 2:29 pm

        Just to add to your comment about greyhounds, I have worked helping to fund raise for retired greyhounds and have friends and acquaintances that actually own these wonderful dogs. They are the loveliest of pets, extremely affectionate, docile, and believe it or not true couch potatoes. When you stand next to them they lean on you for closeness to you. I have never experienced or heard of a greyhound ever being aggressive towards humans and would make excellent pets not just for responsible children but also for the elderly because they requite such little exercise. Further to that the RSPCA has aleady stated some years ago that hunting hounds can be ‘domesticated’. The garbage that ‘Lea’ pleases to publish is typical of the pro-hunt propaganda in defence of the whole spectrum of the barbaric and wicked bloodsport of hunting with dogs and is best ignored..

        Reply to this comment >
        • MARTA Falco Ainley says:
          Posted January 30, 2017 at 9:23 am

          thanks for your words re greyhounds. I have my own greyhound Jim. He is now 13 yrs old. My lurcher Ruby died last yr after us bieng together for many yrs. Jim came from Greyhound rescue Wales and Ruby from RSPCA, When I say that sight hounds are killers , they are as opposed to sheep dogs who are not but are constantly searching for something to round up. I am pointing out the differences between breeds. Thats all and certainly not saying that sight hounds are nasty. not at all. its humans that are nasty, cruel without compassion and use animals for their own purposes.

          Reply to this comment >
    • Tina Price says:
      Posted July 02, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Surely you are not for real; fortunately, facts, footage and real evidence exist to expose your daft and outdated ideas. I certainly dispute your assertion to having lost 3 cats to foxes, this happens only very rarely (far outweighed by dogs killing cats) they generally have a healthy respect for each other. I have seen a photo of a ‘fox’ taking a cat – posted by a hunt supporter in North Yorkshire which was actually a photo of a coyote in North America. That kind of ridiculous scare-mongering undermines the whole argument. Extreme cruelty to animals takes many forms and current hunting practice can be equalled to dog fighting, badger baiting and lamping, it’s all about sadistic pleasure, not the ‘control’ of ‘vermin’ as you and others state.

      Ps re dogs which are ‘bred and trained’ to pursue and kill, my ex-racing greyhound was the gentlest dog I ever had, lived with cats and poultry. Let’s not make sweeping and condemning statements about dogs or any other animals.

      Reply to this comment >
    • Lisa Cocker says:
      Posted March 23, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Military and ex police dogs are rehomed actually…these hounds lead miserable lives put at risk by illegal activities led pm roads motorways and train tracks Many carry Bovine tuberculosis as fed cheap infected carcasses .

      Reply to this comment >
      • mrs Marta Falco Ainley says:
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 9:14 am

        hounds could anc can make good pets. the Hunt fraternity do say some negative things, lies which are to make others believe that what they do when hunting our small iconic harmless fox is acceptable.
        Nothing Hunts do is acceptable and no animals involved are treated well at all.

        Reply to this comment >
  • John Peel says:
    Posted August 05, 2018 at 7:41 am

    The level of bias, bigotry and distorted facts promoted by those with no experience, what so ever, really is astonishing.
    Correcting disingenuous comments which are surely in place for no other reason than to prevent the evolution which has brought us to the sate where we are, seems pointless.
    Those who make ridiculous assumptions do so from a place of ignorance.

    Reply to this comment >
    • HoundsOff says:
      Posted August 05, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      The figures are from the Countryside Alliance themselves. Piece fully referenced. Check your facts.

      Reply to this comment >
  • yvonne andreassen says:
    Posted August 05, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Thats why dodg licenses were introduced

    Reply to this comment >

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