Foxhunting is an equestrian sport where a group of riders on horseback follow a pack of hounds as they track a fox through varied terrain and wilderness. The sport originated in England in the 16th century and has been practiced in the United States since the 17th century.
A typical foxhunt begins with the huntsman and his pack of hounds assembling at a meet, which is usually a crossroads or field. The hounds are then released to follow the scent of a fox, which has been laid by the huntsman or another member of the hunt. The riders then follow the hounds, trying to keep up with them as they gallop through fields, woods, and over fences.
The goal of the hunt is to kill the fox, but this is not always achieved. Sometimes the fox will escape, and other times the hounds will lose the scent. In either case, the hunt ends when the hounds are called off by the huntsman.
Fox hunting originated in the 16th century in the form which was practiced legally until 2005 in Great Britain, but it also takes place all over the world, including in Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, and the United States. In Australia, the term also refers to the hunting of foxes with firearms, similar to spotlighting or deer hunting. In much of the world hunting in general is understood to relate to any game animals or weapons (e.g., deer hunting with bow and arrow); in Britain and Ireland, "hunting" without qualification implies fox hunting (or other forms of hunting with hounds-beagling, stag hunting, mink hunting, drag hunting, or hunting the clean boot) as described here. The sport is controversial, particularly in the UK, where its traditional form was banned in Scotland in 2002, and in England and Wales in November 2004 (law enforced from February 2005), although certain modified forms of hunting foxes with hounds are still within the law, and shooting foxes as vermin also remains lawful.
- Horses: Foxhunters typically ride sturdy, athletic horses that are able to gallop over varied terrain.
- Hounds: The hounds used in foxhunting are a type of scent hound called foxhounds. They are bred to track the scent of foxes and to bay (bark) when they have found one.
- Huntsmen: The huntsman is the leader of the hunt. He is responsible for keeping the hounds in line and for calling them off when the fox is killed.
- Field: The field is the group of riders who follow the hounds. They are responsible for staying safe and for following the rules of the hunt.