My First Fox Hunt

It was Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, and we joined in on a centuries-old tradition in England: Fox hunting.

Though the fox hunting of yesteryear was outlawed in 2004, people still get dressed up and go through the other motions of preparing for a big hunt. My sister-in-law and her family live in a small English town, where there is a “fox hunt” and I was stoked to take part.

Gathering in the square to see off the hunters.

Gathering in the square to see off the hunters.

In packing for our trip to England, I asked her what one wore to a fox hunt, hoping she’d give me a good excuse to buy some new camel colored boots that I could pass off as “riding boots.” Or even a natty tweed blazer. But no, she told me we as spectators are pretty casual, wearing whatever we want.

I went to take a picture by the horse, maybe my bright blue leggings scared him because he became agitated and I was kinda scared to look behind me, hence the side eye.

I went to take a picture by the horse, maybe my bright blue leggings scared him because he became agitated and I was kinda scared to look behind me, hence the side eye. Behind us is the Church of St. John the Baptist.

It was late morning on Boxing Day, when our two families bumbled out the door and walked along a perfectly snaking, narrow English road. The even narrower sidewalks were choked with people headed to the square. Occasionally we’d hear the clop, clop, clop of beautifully groomed horses that were also on their way to the “hunt.”

When we arrived at the square, I felt a little like I was in Hogsmeade, but surrounded by fellow muggles. The buildings are well-kept, but everything, like much of England, appears very old to my American eyes. There’s a three-story Tudor building that dates back to 1460 and is called King John’s Hunting Lodge and across the square, overlooking the town is this ornate and stately Church of St. John the Baptist. This towering structure has a foundation that dates back to about 1230, but the work on the existing building began in the early 15th century.

As someone who loves, loves, loves history, I get overly excited about all of the layers upon layers of history around every cobblestone. I’m sure I look like a crazy person petting these old buildings, but that’s a story for another blog post. Back to Boxing Day.

What really cracked me up was the hunting dogs. I’d never before seen a pack of hunting dogs, so it struck me how spot-on the cartoons from my childhood were. You remember the ones, where the dogs where just a rolling ball of barking legs, tails and snouts? Though these dogs were more mild than that (probably because it was pre-hunt,) it was fascinating to watch them plod aimless through the crowd, sniffing, curious of everything, excited, but aloof to the kids who were wrapping their arms around their muscled necks.

Getting ready for the fox hunt. I like the dog that's looking at me.

Getting ready for the fox hunt. I like the dog that’s looking at me.

Soon one of the men atop a horse blew his horn a few times and shouted a few words out to the crowd. I couldn’t tell you what was said, I was busy meeting my sister-in-laws friends and taking in the sights, specifically the full pints of beer people were carrying in glass mugs.

Then the man with the horn blew it again and the horses formed a line that trotted out of the square with the dozens of hunting dogs alongside them. We all waved them goodbye, some people popped open bottles of champagne and our crew took part in another centuries old tradition: We went to the pub.

My brother-in-law tells me this pub, called the Crown Inn, dates back to the 1300s. It apparently underwent a few renovations recently and it’s very cozy, like you’re visiting a cousin’s house, not an eating and drinking establishment. Furthering that family vibe, people are allowed to bring their dogs in. I admittedly was startled to see this, but it made perfect sense.

We all had a round of drinks, laughs and then soon went home.  All in all, a great Boxing Day.

 

 

Logan loving hanging at the pub with da ladies.

Logan loving hanging at the pub with da ladies.

 

 

 

As a side note to my American friends, it was funny that evening to turn on the news to watch how people were lined up at stores for hours before they opened to snap up doorbusting deals. I smiled because it was good seeing how Americans weren’t the only ones willing to risk a stampede for a good sale!

 

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5 Responses to My First Fox Hunt

  1. Lynn says:

    I didn’t know the hunts had been outlawed. Quirky little tradition, but I guess you can’t completely remove an excuse to go to a pub! The hashtag made me laugh.

    • sheswrite says:

      Yeah I didn’t know it had been outlawed either until I began asking questions about the fox hunt, and my SIL was so very adamant about it not being a real fox, so I knew there had been quite the dust-up over it.

  2. So, when I first saw the title of this, I was like, “Nuh, uh.” I’m glad it wasn’t a REAL fox hunt. :) And I’m jealous–what a fun experience.

    • sheswrite says:

      It was a great experience, one I’ll never forget it that’s for sure. Hopefully some day you will get to go to a fox hunt, or even better, we can go together! :)

  3. Jenni says:

    Looks like such fun!
    I love the the pictures. The horse was so agitated by your pants, he pooped! LOL Also, I love the expression on his rider’s face.
    Love the dog looking like “What you talking about Willis?!”

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