Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Foxhunting is an old sport replete with arcane terms and baffling expressions. Here are definitions for many. Foxhunting Life welcomes your comments and any suggested improvements or additions:

  • accounting for the quarry
    Catching it or marking it to ground
  • all on
    All hounds are present
  • as hounds ran
    The total distance covered by hounds from the find (where the fox is found) to where the chase ends (not to be confused with the point)
  • babbler
    A foxhound that speaks to a nonexistent line out of sheer excitement
  • bay
    The quarry is said to be at bay when it ceases to run and turns to face the pack.
  • biddable
    A hound that honors the commands of the huntsman and staff
  • billet
    Fox droppings (also scat)
  • bitch
    A female canine
  • blank
    When a fox is not found in covert
  • brace of foxes
    Two foxes
  • brush
    Fox’s tail
  • burst
    A short, fast run
  • bye day
    An extra, unscheduled hunting day
  • cap or capping fee
    A contribution to the upkeep of hounds paid by visitors and nonmembers for a day’s hunting (originally dropped into the outstretched cap of the field secretary)
  • carrying a good head
    When front runners in the pack run tightly abreast to pick up changes in the fox’s direction (also running with a good head)
  • cast
    A deployment of hounds trying to recover a lost line
  • cat foot
    The round shape of the foot of the English-type foxhound as compared to the hare foot (elongated shaped foot) of the American-type foxhound
  • check
    When hounds lose the line of the fox
  • chop
    Hounds catch the fox quickly before it has a chance to run
  • clicketing
    When foxes mate or pair up
  • closed season
    Non-hunting season: late March through early August
  • coffee house
    When members of the field chatter amongst themselves rather than pay attention to hounds
  • cold line
    An old, faint scent from line of the fox
  • cold nose
    Ability to detect very low levels of scent
  • couples
    Two leather collars joined by a chain
  • course
    When the hounds switch from hunting by scent to hunting by sight they are said to course (or to be coursing) the quarry.
  • covert
    An area of scrub, brush, or woods where wild animals find protection
  • cry
    The voice of hounds giving tongue (speaking) to the line of the quarry
  • cub
    Young fox
  • cur dog
    Any canine that is not a hound
  • draft
    A hound that is cut from the pack
  • drag
    The line the fox has traveled and left its scent during its perambulations
  • draw
    Deployment of hounds when searching for a fox
  • dwell
    An unwanted trait in a hound that is so enamored of the scent that it slows down to savor it, rather than driving forward after the quarry. Such a hound, as it speaks to the line, tends to pull the other hounds back to it, and hurts the progress of the hunt.
  • earth
    Underground hole (den or burrow) where foxes lie for protection
  • earthstopping
    Blocking entrances to fox earths at night while foxes are out hunting, so they cannot take refuge the next day. This practice is not followed in North America, where foxes are not so numerous as to require culling.
  • enter
    When a young hound is added to the pack. The hound is said to be entered when the cubhunting season is finished.
  • fault
    Foxhounds are said to be at fault when they lose the scent and check.
  • feather
    When a hound finds scent and begins to wag its stern (tail)
  • flags
    Hounds are displayed on the flags (flat pieces of flagstone) at hound shows (or in kennels) so as to stand squarely, evenly, and completely visibly for the judges (or visitors).
  • flesh
    The carcass of domestic animals (cattle, horses, sheep, fowl) used to feed hounds in kennel
  • foil
    Any scent that masks the line of the quarry, such as manure, cattle, sheep, fertilizer, or vehicle fumes
  • full cry
    When the entire pack is speaking on the line of the fox
  • give tongue
    When hounds speak to the line of the quarry
  • gone away
    Hounds have left the covert and are running the line as a pack
  • gossamer
    Filmy cobwebs on the grass or bushes; more noticeable when there is a dew
  • hack
    A relaxed ride to or from the meet
  • hare foot
    The elongated shape of the foot of the American-type foxhound as compared to the cat foot (round shaped foot) of the English-type foxhound
  • hark
    When from the huntsman (usually pronounced, “hike”) it is a command to hounds to honor (go and help) another hound that has found the line. When from the Field Master, it is a command to field members to be quiet and listen.
  • headed
    When the been fox has turned from its direction of travel by a car, person, or cur dog
  • headland
    Usually a command from the Field Master (Headland, please!) to stay to the edges of the field and off the crops or grass.
  • heavy vixen
    A female fox with cubs before whelping
  • heel line
    The line of the fox opposite to the direction it is traveling
  • hill toppers
    A group of field members that follow behind the first field, using the gates instead of jumping the fences
  • hireling
    A rented horse for hunting
  • hold hard
    The command to stop and stand still
  • holloa
    Loud voice signal to huntsman and hounds that a fox has been viewed (pronounced holler)
  • honor
    When hounds respect another hound’s find and rush to its assistance
  • hunting box
    A small house or cottage used for lodging during the hunting season
  • hunt livery
    The unique attire proscribed by the Master(s) for their hunt, including the color of the collar of the hunt coat, the color of the collar and facings of the formal tails, and the distinctive hunt buttons
  • in whelp
    Pregnant
  • kennel huntsman
    The hunt staff member responsible for the care of hounds in kennel and who whips-in to an amateur huntsman
  • lark
    To gallop and jump for pleasure or diversion even though hounds are not running
  • leash of foxes
    Three foxes
  • lieu in
    Huntsman’s command to hounds to enter the covert and search for the fox
  • lifting hounds
    When the huntsman calls hounds away from the line they are hunting and brings them forward to a view holloa or to where he believes the quarry to have gone
  • loss
    Hounds are at a loss when they have lost the scent they were following
  • low scenting
    Describes a hound that can detect very low levels of scent
  • marking
    When hounds speak, dig, and/or scratch at the earth where the fox has gone to ground
  • mask
    Fox’s head
  • mute
    When a hound runs the line of the quarry silently, without giving tongue—an undesirable characteristic
  • nose
    The ability to detect and follow the scent of the hunted quarry
  • open
    When a hound utters its initial cry upon finding (detecting) the scent of the quarry, he is said to have opened.
  • own
    When hounds are together and running the line well and easily, they are said to own the line.
  • pad
    Fox’s foot
  • point
    (As in a five-mile-point) is the straight line distance between the find (where the fox is found) and the end of the chase (not to be confused with as hounds ran).
    Also, when a whipper-in stands watching the covert while the hounds are drawing, he or she is said to be on point.
  • pure
    hound excrement
  • quarry
    The hunted animal: legitimately fox, coyote, bobcat, and sometimes wild pig or boar in North America
  • ratcatcher
    Informal hunting attire: customarily shirt, tie, tweed coat, and field boots
  • rate
    When the huntsman or whipper-in scolds a hound
  • riot
    When foxhounds hunt anything but acceptable quarry
  • roading
    Exercising hounds on the road
  • running with a good head
    When front runners in the pack spread out to pick up changes in the fox’s direction (also carrying a good head)
  • scat
    Fox droppings (also billet)
  • sing
    When hounds hold their heads up and make a wonderful noise, often when they are happy. They should never be stopped from singing and should be allowed to finish their anthem.
  • sink the wind
    Heading downwind
  • skirting
    When a hound cuts corners to get ahead, rather than follow the line of the fox, it is said to skirt or to be a skirter—an undesirable trait.
  • smeus
    A path through a fence that may be used by fox, hare, rabbit, or other small animals
  • speak
    When hounds give tongue to the line of the quarry
  • spinney
    A small covert
  • steady
    Refers to a hound that hunts acceptable quarry only, does not speak to or follow the line of riot, and ignores distractions and commotion
  • stern
    Hound’s tail
  • strike hound
    A hound that is often the first to find
  • stub-bred
    Foxes born above ground
  • tail hounds
    Refers to hounds running behind the main pack
  • tally-ho
    A phrase indicating the quarry has been viewed
  • tally-ho, back
    A phrase used when the quarry has been viewed going back into covert (pronounced tall-ho, bike)
  • tally-ho, over
    A phrase used when the quarry is viewed crossing a trail or ride
  • thrown out
    When the rider has missed the run due to any number of reasons, such as falling, getting lost, being unable to jump a fence, or coming across a locked gate
  • thruster
    A member of the mounted field who is constantly crowding the Field Master and the hounds
  • trace
    A track or path that deer use
  • un-kenneled
    When the quarry is roused from where it is lying
  • view holloa
    The screech shouted when the quarry is viewed to let the huntsman know the quarry is afoot and to provide an audible beacon to which hounds may hark
  • visiting fox
    Refers to a dog fox (male) that has traveled away from its home country during the mating season in search of a vixen. If found by hounds, the visitor will often make for its familiar country which can result in one of the longest runs of the season.
  • vixen
    Female fox
  • walk
    In spring and summer, hound puppies sent out of the kennels to live at members’ and supporters’ farms for socializing are said to be at walk. When destruction to yard, garden, and shrubs stretches the limits of the good puppy walkers’ tolerance, the hounds are returned to the kennels.
  • ' ware
    A contraction of “beware,” used to alert riders to potential hazards, as in “’Ware hole!” (Pronounced war)
  • whelp
    (noun) A hound puppy
    (verb) To give birth
  • whipper-in
    Assists the huntsman (extra eyes and ears) with hounds during the hunting day by going on point, viewing the quarry away, watching and correcting (if necessary) hounds, bringing on the tail hounds. If an amateur, he or she is referred to as an honorary whipper-in.

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