Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 18 February 2019

Swot up on hunting

Charlie's book enables members – old and new to the sport of hunting – to understand the ways and traditions of a hunt
Charlie's book enables members – old and new to the sport of hunting – to understand the ways and traditions of a hunt

Caitriona Murphy

Hunting is the biggest equestrian activity in Ireland with more than 2,500 meets a year, involving in excess of 150,000 caps.

The popularity of horses has exploded in recent years and many of those 150,000 riders are new to both horses and hunting.

Well-known hunting enthusiast and journalist Charlie Ripman has launched a handy booklet that explains both the reasons for and the mechanics of hunting with hounds.

"Many people, mostly the young, have taken up hunting, predominantly as riders but also as foot followers.

"This is great but, because many are from non-hunting families, the reasons for hunting are not endemic to them and this is why I have written this booklet," he said.

Why Do We Hunt With Hounds? is a 36-page explanation of hunting and encourages readers to understand that hunting is more than simply galloping and jumping.

Charlie explains in detail how hunts are involved in the selective culling of weak, injured and disease-ridden foxes. The foxes that are left behind are the strongest and fittest and will breed a healthy population, preserving the balance in nature.

He also highlights theory and practice of hunting red deer, hares, carted deer and mink.

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The booklet is an invaluable guide to the history and reasons for hunting and should be an invaluable resource for hunt clubs across the country. Not only does it explain in detail how hounds work, but also how the hunt's staff work and also how followers can best experience the hunt.

Etiquette

Of course, etiquette is an integral part of hunting and Charlie has outlined in detail who everybody is in the hunt, their jobs and how each member of the hunt should behave.

Even if you have been hunting for years, this booklet should be on your reading list as a way of boosting your knowledge.

In the section explaining who is affected by hunting, Charlie recounts the story of one stud owner who said it cost him €2,000 every time the hunt met in his area. The cost was made up of housing all the horses, bedding them down, feeding them and workers' overtime.

"It is very generous of people like this to allow hunting on their land because they could simply say 'no'," Charlie says.

Outlining the role of a member of the field, he stresses that without members to pay the bills, there could be no hounds, huntsmen or fence menders.

"We, in the field, go hunting to follow the hounds across the country, but without the hounds doing a good job for farmers and the countryside, those farmers would not invite us onto their land," he says.

"With this privilege comes responsibility. Firstly you are a guest of the farmer and it is important both you and your horse are clean and tidy.

"Listen to what is going on, keep your eyes open and you might see a fox. One of the great things about hunting is that it teaches us all to respect the countryside and all that lives there -- don't spoil it all by behaving thoughtlessly," he adds.

The booklet has a useful glossary of hunting terms that explains the meaning of everything from what to do when you are told to 'hold hard' to what 'heading a fox' means.

It explains what 'drawing a covert' and 'casting hounds' means, what a 'holloa' is and who should do it and when.

There is also an explanation of people involved in the hunt's management from the chairman, master and huntsman to whipper-in and field master.

Why Do We Hunt With Hounds? is available from Charlie Ripman for just €10 and can be ordered by email from charlieripman@eircom.net or by phone on 0504 54911.

Several British titles have also been published on the art.

The Unwritten Laws of Foxhunting -- With Notes on The Use of Horn And Whistle And A List of Five Thousand Names of Hounds was written by C F P McNeill (M.F.H) in the 1800s but has been re-printed by Read Country Books.

Foxhunting: A Celebration in Photographs is a coffee table book that combines beautiful photographs by Horse and Hound photographer Trevor Meeks with the words of hunting editor Kate Green.

Foxhunting: How to Watch and Listen was written by internationally renowned master and huntsman, Hugh J Robards.

In it, the author informs foxhunters, new or experienced, how to fully absorb the drama of the hunt. The aim of the book is to understand and interpret what happens on a hunt.

Michael Clayton's Ronnie Wallace: A Manual of Foxhunting is a collection of interviews given by the master of foxhounds, Ronnie Wallace, over decades of hound hunting.