Hunting was banned in Scotland in 2002 and England and Wales in 2004. However, these bans have not been properly enforced, the attempts to eliminate or weaken them continue, and hunting is still legal in Northern Ireland.

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What is cub hunting?

Cub hunting, as the name suggests, is the practice of hunting fox cubs and training young hounds to hunt. It is a type of hunting hardly ever spoken about publicly by the hunters as besides from being illegal, it is something we believe most people would find abhorrent. If hunts are going cub hunting as often as they were before the ban, as many as 10,000 fox cubs may be illegally killed every year during cub hunting.

Fox cub hunting, also known as cubbing – or in hunt circles, Autumn hunting - remains a dirty secret of the hunting world, and despite the ban on hunting wild mammals with dogs the practice remains a very important, and widely practiced, part of hunting.

Watch this video if you want to see how it works (no graphic content):

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Why do fox hunts go cub hunting?

  1. To teach new hounds how to hunt - contrary to what the hunters say, hunting a live animal does not come naturally to a fox hound. As such the young dogs have to be taught how to hunt ready for the main season. This is done by hunting fox cubs over a much reduced area which pushes the fox cubs into the pack, rather than involving a long chase.
  2. To disperse foxes – the practice of hunting fox cubs means the family of foxes in an area are more likely to be separated and take up residence elsewhere, especially if only some of the family are killed. This provides for better ‘sport’ later in the season. 
  3. To kill foxes – The new hounds cannot be trained without learning about the kill. The killing of fox cubs will also be a key reason why farmers and other landowners give the hunt permission to cross their land, under the misguided notion that foxes need controlling, or that killing them is the best way to control numbers.

Two Fox Cubs surrounded by grass and plants

What does cubbing look like?

Cub hunting , which normally takes place in August, September and October, looks very different from main season hunting, which begins in November. The hunt staff normally do not wear the traditional red coats, but rather wear tweeds. The activity is very static compared to the usual practice of getting the fox to run for a good chase, and contrary to normal hunting it takes place very early in the morning or late in the evening.

Small woods, (known as ‘coverts’), are surrounded by key hunt followers to ensure that if any foxes try to escape (‘flushed out’) they are scared back in towards the pack of hounds. 

The hounds are put in at one side of the wood, and the Huntsman will call them through as a means of flushing out any foxes inside the area. Prior to the hunt meet it is likely that terrier men attached to the hunt will have blocked up any underground holes, such as known fox earths or badger setts, to ensure any foxes found do not have a safe place to hide once they are set running. Fields of crops, prior to harvest, are also used in the same way during the early part of the cub hunting season.

Who takes part?

Hunt staff, including Huntsman, Whipper-In(s) and Hunt Masters will be present, plus hunt followers, often referred to as ‘the field’. The local Pony Club will often be attached in some way to the hunt, and it is not uncommon to see children riding with the hunt even during this early part of the season.

As with traditional hunting, there will also be hunt supporters on foot who may be in the field and on the road to watch the activity, and also hunt followers in cars who will park up and watch from the roadside. Finally, the terrier men will be present, often moving around on a quad bike which will have a terrier carried with them in a box attached to the back of the quad. They will carry spades and other digging apparatus so as to be ready to dig out a fox if it does manage to go to ground.

Isn’t this illegal?

Despite the fact that hunts may claim that they are legally trail hunting when caught hunting early in the morning or late in the evening during the Autumn months, actual cub hunting in itself is illegal as it involves hunting a wild mammal with a dog and is therefore banned under the Hunting Act. Cub hunting is a hidden horror of fox hunting and the League will continue to do what we can to expose it.

A fox cub pokes his head

How can I help ending cub hunting?

  • Contact your MP and ask them to urge their party to keep and strengthen the foxhunting ban
  • Report any information that you have about cub hunting to the police and to our Animal Crimewatch service
  • Send an Animal Crimewatch e-card to family and friends to show them the signs of cub hunting
  • Share this page on your social media


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