Saturday, February 18, 2012

Horses, Hounds, and Horns

As soon as Jon and I arrived in Suffolk this morning, we were whisked off to watch the gathering of the hunt.  If there hadn't been cars trying to maneuver around the horses, I would have thought I had been transported to Downton Abbey in 1912:

Regardless of what you may think about the morality of the sport of hunting, you have to admit that it's a beautifully stylized activity.  The horses were calm and powerful, their manes knotted and their coats gleaming.  All of the participants were wearing gorgeous blazers and fitted coats with cravats and, as you can see, the woman above was dressed in a splendid suit while riding sidesaddle.  Actually, I was surprised to see that there were as many women as men participating - and that the Master of the Hunt was a woman.

Hunting is technically illegal in the UK, so this hunt was not explicitly chasing hares or foxes; instead, an artificial scent was laid down for the hounds to follow and this was tracked rather than any live animal.

Interestingly, most people who live in the countryside think that hunting should be legal and, also interestingly, I have seen more foxes in London than I ever have outside the M25.  The ban on hunting was enacted for many reasons - morality was in play, certainly, but so were political considerations and issues with class.  Hunting provokes a very visceral debate, I know, as it should.  But as long as no laws are being broken, I think we should be able to enjoy this classic English tradition.  What do you think?


  1. I'm torn.

    I'm against 'bans' due to libertarian principles but definitely not a fan of animal cruelty. In a nutshell I think people should be free to do what they want but if they are a fan of hunting then they have different morality to me.

    As for the ritual and drama, I can take it or leave it. It's a bit 'different' and novel but seems a bit absurd when you look upon it with fresh eyes. I have little respect for 'tradition'.

    Feel free to delete this comment, I just wanted to vent.

  2. I'm sure it was a very interesting thing to see, and I agree that the 'style' is enjoyable for being just so darn...ENGLISH! But that to me is nothing when balanced against killing a living creature for fun. I could never get behind hunting or shooting in any way, shape, or form. Now, I think what they did here - chasing a fake scent - sounds like a 100% cruelty-free way to enjoy the "sporting" aspect of it! I hadn't heard of that before!

  3. I no me gusta "hunts." I don't mind the kind with a false scent laid down, but I am morally opposed to hunting an animal solely for the purpose of killing it. (Be it any variety of animal!) I think the ban should stay and I think harsher punishments should be given to those continuous violaters instead of the police generally turning a blind eye.

  4. Please allow me to ask you a question regarding an english term as I am not a native English speaker.
    What does "horn" mean here? Does it mean the "horn" that some animals have on their head or is there any other meaning related to this classic English tradition?

    1. Ah,I see. Thank you very much for the answer!


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