Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Watch Now for Fox Cubs On the Move

Watch for a glimpses of red fox cubs hunting with their parents at about this time of year, suggests, a PBS-affiliate in Missouri.

As in much of this country, there are two species of foxes in Missouri—the red and the gray fox. Red foxes prefer the borders of forested areas and adjacent open lands while gray foxes live in denser wooded areas and fairly open brush land.

Though primarily nocturnal, foxes can often be seen during daylight hours this time of year. Since around March, the dog fox has been hunting overtime to feed himself and the vixen since the cubs were whelped. More recently, both he and the vixen have been hunting to feed themselves during the weaning process and to bring back to the den bones, scraps, and dead game for the cubs to taste and play with.

At birth, the pups are blind and helpless and weigh about three-and-a-half ounces. At about a month old, the pups begin to come out of the den and play in front of it with bones and left-over food items. They are fed here, too, by the adults. Although the parents carry away the droppings and foods that spoil, the outside of a fox den has an untidy appearance, like that of a quickly abandoned playground. Foxes also show the dog-like trait of rolling on strong-smelling objects. If the young are moved to another den, the parents frequently take play things along.

Sometime around Memorial Day or at about the age of ten weeks, the young begin to leave the den vicinity for the first time and accompany their parents on hunting trips. Starting now we should see the developing cubs on the move at times with their parents. Come September, the family will tend to break up with dog fox, vixen, and the developed cubs going their independent ways.

Because they often travel over the same routes, worn and well-marked trails develop. Foxes can run about twenty-six miles per hour at top speed but slow down after the initial spurt.

To keep track of current natural events, like when to watch for young fox kits on their first hunting expedition, you can get your own Natural Events Calendar from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Click for photos and details in Candice Davis’s article and links to other timely nature content.

Posted May 30, 2016

RSPCA Intrusions Reach a New Low in England

Police Chiefs in the UK have called for an end to prosecutions of animal abuse cases by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Recently, some RSPCA employees with extreme views on animal rights have brought the once reputable organization to a new low.

Employees of the society took the Byrnes Family cat without legal authority to do so. They put the cat down, prosecuted the family for animal abuse, but the evidence presented was insufficient to convince the court. The Byrnes Family won their case, but lost their cat. The children never had a chance to say goodbye to their pet.

Foxhunting Life has reported on prosecutions of foxhunts brought by the RSPCA. The society brings to the courts eighty percent of all prosecutions under the Hunting Act, spends enormous amounts of donors’ monies to prosecute the cases, and loses seventy-eight percent of the prosecutions due to insufficient evidence.

In 2013 the RSPCA was estimated to have spent at least a half million pounds of charitable funds on prosecutions against hunts. The charity was criticized by judges of the court after spending more than three hundred thousand pounds prosecuting the Heythrop hunt. Income from donations to the RSPCA have since cratered by seven million pounds in one year, prompting the charity to cut jobs and restructure.

According to The Telegraph, the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says: “For some considerable time the RSPCA have assumed the default role of prosecutor for offences under the Act and have done so outside of a statutory framework with no powers.

“Their long standing good work and expertise in this area should of course be recognised but it ought to be right that the primary enforcer with responsibility for this area should be a single agency, preferably a statutory body funded by Government.

“With this would come greater governance and accountability along with a right to review prosecution decisions in with all other criminal offences.”

Simon Hart, a Tory member of the committee and former chief executive of the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, is reported as saying, “There is increasing recognition that trying to be a political movement, tireless fund raiser and voracious prosecutor has resulted in a conflict that we would not accept in any other walk of life.

“There are numerous examples of other countries and wild life charities that do good work, but who rely on the police and criminal justice system to implement the law.

“If the RSPCA were to hand over its prosecuting role to the police and CPS it would begin to repair its tattered reputation.”

The RSPCA continues to argue against the NPCC recommendations. Click for more.

Posted April 30, 2016

Nyquist Is Strong Kentucky Derby Favorite

Last week’s Florida Derby was a good shakeout for potential Kentucky Derby favorites. Nyquist and Mohemen, both undefeated, met to see who would get the short odds on the first Saturday in May. Nyquist won decisively and looks to go to Churchill Downs as the favorite. Seattle Slew was the last undefeated champion two-year-old to run as a Kentucky Derby favorite.

From the Florida Derby, Nyquist was shipped to Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, where he will train in the weeks leading up to May. His record stands at seven wins in as many races, four of them Grade I races. In his short career, the Doug O’Neill-trained colt has won $2,322,600 for owners Paul and Zillah Reddam. Jockey Mike Guttierrez, who rode Nyquist home for his Florida Derby win, is scheduled to be in the irons at Churchill Downs. This same owner-trainer-jockey team won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes with I’ll Have Another in 2012.

Two potential issues with the horse could keep the team awake nights. Charlie Fenwick noted that Nyquist finished his winning stretch run on his left lead, which, Fenwick says, could simply be a green mistake or a sign of a future injury. And, after arriving at Keeneland, a blood test revealed an elevated white blood cell count. Heeding the blood test results, Nyquist’s return to training has been delayed a day or two.

Posted April 9, 2016

MFHA Seeks Executive Director

The Masters of Foxhounds Association, soon to be headquartered in Middleburg, Virginia, seeks an executive director to succeed Lt. Col. Dennis Foster, who will retire next year. Foster is just the third person in the 109-year history of the MFHA to manage the venerable association.

The MFHA is the umbrella organization of mounted foxhunting in North America. It sets and maintains standards, requirements, and sporting guidelines for all registered hunts. It maintains registration and pedigree records for all hounds hunted by registered hunts and all that are shown in MFHA-sanctioned hound shows. The association also registers the hunting territories for all registered hunts and mediates territorial disputes.

The executive director works closely with a board of directors and reports to the president. He or she manages the association and its budget, finances, and fund raising. Other activities include planning events, seminars, and board meetings; marketing, promotion, and public relations for the sport of mounted hunting with hounds; and working with local and federal legislative activities. The executive director will engage with 154 member clubs, as well as other hunting-related organizations. Salary and benefits, commensurate with experience.

Candidates are invited to submit resume and salary expectations to immediately. Selection will be made on or before the fall of this year.

Posted March 25, 2016

Gold Medal Cyclist Switches Mounts; Rides at Cheltenham

victoria pendleton.cyclistThen: Pendleton, winning World ChampionshipScarcely one year after sitting on a horse for the first time, Olympic cycling gold medalist Victoria Pendleton raced over fences in the highly competitive Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival (UK) on March 18, 2016. She rode Pacha Du Polder to a respectable fifth place finish, despite the misgivings of some of the experienced jockeys.

At Cheltenham, Pendleton, who has been riding in point-to-points, went up against some of the best amateur jockeys in Britain and Ireland with fewer than twenty rides over jumps under her belt.

The Foxhunter Chase for amateur riders follows the running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup over the same three-mile, two-and-a-half furlong distance. Pendleton received the go-ahead to ride after winning her first race at Wincanton Racecourse on Pacha Du Polder the week before. The win helped erase doubts about her readiness for Cheltenham that arose after she was unseated in a race just two weeks earlier. Prior to her winning start at Wincanton, thirty-five-year-old Pendleton had a total of eighteen starts in point-to-points and four falls.
Pendleton said achieving her goal of riding at the meeting had required her to take her athletic performance “to a new level.” The decision to let her ride was a gamble and one about which her team felt increasingly nervous as the Foxhunters Chase approached. Nevertheless, she produced a stunning ride according to reports. She stayed toward the back of the field early on, jumping safely before easing her way forward through the field.

"It's such a rush, such a thrill, riding a Thoroughbred over jumps," said Pendleton.

Posted March 19, 2016

victoria pendleton.jock.wincantonNow: Pendleton heading to the paddock at Wincanton Racecourse prior to her first win over fences.