Release the Hounds!

...and on the third day, God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

Continuing our discussion on Drag Hunting, let’s look at some of the terminology used by participants of the sport. (1)

The Drag is the scent that is laid for the foxhounds and it must be strong enough for them to follow. The scent is renewed at intervals along the Drag to ensure that the hounds continue to follow it.

Foxhounds are usually white, with black and tan markings on the head and body.

Heads Up describes the hounds when they are not searching for the scent, and the Draw is known as the area chosen for a day’s hunting.

A Covert is any type of woods, although not large in size.

Recall the line men who prepare the line of scent on the ground. The MFH is the Master of Foxhounds, and the Huntsman is the chief assistant to the MFH. He manages the hounds out in the hunting field and must spend a lot of time with them and get to know them. They would, in turn, get to know him, his voice and his looks, so as to be familiar with him. (2)

The Whipper-in helps the Huntsman to control the hounds, and there is usually more than one Whipper-in out on the hunt. The Field is all the horses and riders who follow the hounds.

The Master or Joint Masters act as leader or leaders of the Drag Hunt, while the Hunt Secretary does much of the routine work, such as organizing meetings and acting as a liaison between the hunt itself, and the farmers and land owners.

The Cap is the fee paid to the hunt by strangers who have been given permission to ride for a day.

The Field Master looks after the Field, and must be a bold horseman, exerting authority, knowing the country well. (3)

All On means that every hound in the pack is present and ready to go.

Carrying the Scent is when a hound actually smells the line when the pack is running, and Cast is when the Huntsman directs the hounds to search out the line of scent.

A Couple means two hounds, and a pack of hounds is counted in Couples. Music is the cry of the hounds when they are hunting, and Speak, not bark, is the word used to describe the noise that a hound makes.

A Babbler is a hound which speaks, but is not on the line following the scent, and Full Cry is when most of the hounds are onto the scent and speaking, making noise. (4)

Should the hounds pick up the scent of a real fox, rabbit or other creature, it is the job of the Whippers-in to bring them back to the drag scent.

Generally, there are 30 hounds on a Drag Hunt, 34 on a real Fox Hunt.

Foil is when sheep or other animals cross over the line of scent, thus covering it up.

Blind means that hedge rows are in full-leaf and ditches are ill-defined, and “Ware Wire, Ware Hol, or Ware Oss” means beware of wires, holes or horses.

Horses can possible be rented for a day from riding schools, but most Hunters own their horses.

Red bows are tagged on horses’ tails who kick, and green ones are tied to those horses who are novice to the field, with the rider not knowing how it will react to all the galloping, jumping and crying of the hounds.

A Bang Tail is tail with the hair squared off close to the dock of the tail, the Bascule refers to the curved shape made by a horse’s body whin in flight over a jump.

Should you have the opportunity to be invited on a hunt, ride polite.

Always stay behind the Field Master; overtaking him is considered a grave offense and it could put the hounds in danger.

If your horse refuses a fence, get out of the way and let the field pass.

With permission, you may opt out of a fence, but don’t do this all day; it defeats the purpose and joy of the hunt.

Cost for an English Drag Hunt comes in around L40, or $75 dollars per day. A full year’s worth is approximately L360 for weekends only, with a L5 fee for maintaining fences, and an occasional mid-week jaunt.

Full-blown English Fox Hunting comes in at L1,000, or around $2,750 per year. (5)

For more information, see the websites on the subject matter: The Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association @ or

There, now you are ready to take the Field on your fine English Thoroughbred.

Kiss all the hounds, watch out for “Wires, Hols and Oss’s,” and do it all in the Queen’s English to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1-4: “The Usborne Dictionary of Horses and Ponies, a Complete Guide to Riding and Ponycare,”

by Struan Reid, Karen Bush

5: Fox and Hound Magazine