The early days of Fox hunting:
The traditional english Fox hunt has a long history, with the earliest know attempt to hunt a fox with hounds, in 1534 in Norfolk, England. The english farmers started chasing down foxes with their dogs for the purpose of pest control.
In the late 1600’s, people started to use packs of hounds, specially trained to hunt foxes, with the oldest fox hunt, probably, being the Bilsdale in Yorkshire.
Introduction of Foxes in Australia:
In 1855, the european Red Fox was introduced into Australia, purely for the purpose of fox hunting.
The introduction left native animals badly affected, with the extinction of at least 10 species through the spread of foxes. The Fox hunt with hounds is mainly practiced in the eastern states of Australia. The state of Victoria counts thirteen hunts with over a 1000 members between them.
In 2011, the victorian state government introduced a bounty scheme, paying eligible victorian hunters a $10 bounty reward.
The hunt with hounds results in around 650 foxes being killed annually in Victoria, compared to 90.000 shot over a similar period of time, in response to the state government bounty.
As a german born photographer, I always had the traditional english fox hunt on my list of things i wanted to shoot. In early 2014 than i got in contact with one of the biggest and oldest Hunt Clubs in Victoria. The club welcomed me to the opening hunt in may 2014. I was amazed by the beautifully decorated and well presented horses. But the hounds especially impressed me. One blow in the hunting horn by the master of the hounds and the hounds lined up behind him. The hunt was ready to be opened by the Hunt master. After a short speech the hunting season was officially opened.
The Hunt master, who in this case was also the master of the hounds led, with the help of a whip-man the hounds into the wide grasslands of Gippsland. Trying to find a fox scent the hounds roamed the fields for a little while, always followed by the riders. Once the hounds picked up a scent they tracked it for as long as they were able to. The riders followed the hounds on the most direct route possible, which involved very athletic skill of horse and riders alike. Over fences, rocks, fallen branches and little creeks the riders and hounds chased the fox. This usually ends in either the fox evades the hounds, or is overtaken and usually killed by the hounds. To that I have to say that, the two times i came along to a hunt, all of the foxes got away. Foxes are very clever and agile and often escape.
I experienced the whole hunt as a great social ritual with a rich european tradition. I was in awe by the skill of the horses and riders and by the amazingly well trained hounds.