With the recent passing yesterday of Patrick Broughton, co-founder of the Cranwell Bloodhounds, I’ve been wondering why is it that so many hunters insist on chasing foxes instead of switching to a non-lethal alternative?

Before I ponder this, I guess I should explain what clean boot, or blood hound, hunting is. And drag hunting. Why it is a non-lethal form of hunting and how it is most definitely NOT to be confused with ‘trail’ hunting.

Clean Boot, or Bloodhound, Hunts are the easiest to distinguish. The clue is in the name. Bloodhounds. A clean boot hunt uses bloodhounds, as opposed to foxhounds, to chase a human quarry. The bloodhounds search for the scent of running people (one or more runners) who will reward them at the end with praise or treats. This type of hunting is also known as “hunting the clean boot”, and it had already been in existence for many years prior to the hunting ban.

In this regard, it is not too dissimilar to drag hunting. During a drag hunt, hounds hunt an artificial non-animal scent (mostly aniseed) pulled by a drag, laid down over a predetermined route. Because the route is predetermined the hounds can be kept safely away from livestock, vulnerable crops, roads and railway lines. The route can also be organised so that the risk to sensitive and fragile habitats can be minimised and the drag hunts kept away from areas where they are unwelcome and/or can pose a threat to other domestic and farmed animals.

However, it is vital that these two activities are not confused with ‘trail’ hunting.

Trail hunting is NOT drag hunting.

Trail hunting is NOT clean boot hunting.

Trail hunting IS a cover for illegal hunting.

Most registered fox and hare hunts claim to now be trail hunting – an activity that was not in existence or envisaged when the Hunting Act 2004 was drafted. It is an entirely new invention which purports to mimic traditional hunting by following an artificial animal scent. However the hunt takes place in areas where foxes naturally occur. The hounds are trained as young dogs to follow fox scent. Inevitably, during trail hunting, many foxes and hares are chased and killed.

The League believes there is no such sport as trail hunting and it is simply a false deceit to cover for illegal hunting. When a wild mammal is chased and/or killed during a trail hunt, it is passed off as an accident. But these accidents happen all too often.

So why don’t fox hunters switch to a non-lethal form of hunting? It is clear that they can run across and enjoy the countryside without having to needlessly slaughter an animal at the end of it. Or perhaps that’s it? Maybe it’s nothing to do with the countryside, nothing to do with tradition. Perhaps it’s simply that some people can’t curtail their bloodlust, and are willing to do anything to satisfy it.

To learn more about the important differences between clean boot, drag and trail hunting, download our guide here.