Hundreds answer call of the hounds for traditional hunts

Allison Bray

Dozens of horses, hounds and riders took part in The Kingdom Hunt as they made their way through the streets of Killarney during the annual hunt around east Kerry.

They were among members of about 100 hunt clubs around Ireland that mark St Stephen's Day with an annual horses and hounds hunt.

Dick Power, a member of the Hunting Association of Ireland, said the traditional event drew hundreds of hunters and spectators despite heavy rains that left many fields and roads water-logged.

"The countryside was never as wet, but we're a hardy lot," he said.

In Co Tipperary, one of the youngest members of the Scarteen pony hunt club, Jonty Purcell, was smartly decked out in a tweed riding jacket for his club's annual hunt.

The toddler, aged two-and-a-half, is one of the youngest members of the club based in Emly, Co Tipperary.

He is no stranger to the sport, though, with his grandfather Philip Purcell and parents Melanie and Ken Purcell, who are from Emly, also taking part.

However, the annual post-Christmas tradition also has its naysayers.

The Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports is calling for a complete ban on live fox-hunting and hare coursing on the grounds that they subject animals to unnecessary cruelty.