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Fox Hunting


Fox hunting or fox chasing is common throughout most of West Virginia. As a true sport, no hunting or actual killing of a fox takes place and the thrill of the chase is the desired end unto itself. The activity consists of training and running hounds in packs of up to 30 dogs in wooded areas. It is a nighttime activity, and listening on a nearby hill becomes a social setting for men to brag and boast about their hounds, while jeering those whose dogs are far from ‘‘taking the lead’’ or not ‘‘hot on the trail.’’ In this way, the chasers live vicariously through their dogs. They can make out the events while listening at a distance, distinguish one dog from another by its voice, and often describe in detail the actual chase, or ‘‘race,’’ as it develops. It is common for fox chases to last until morning light.

Mountain fox chasing is related to the better known ‘‘club’’ sport where men and women ride to the hounds on horseback, in daylight, and in less formidable terrain. While the clubs favor Maryland hounds, mountain state fox chasers prefer Walkers, a lineage developed in Kentucky, as well as some lesser-known breeds. Red foxes are preferred and are considered to have a more sporting attitude than gray foxes. Many in the state belong to the West Virginia Fox Chasers Association and attend annual meets where dogs are numbered and judged as to their trailing abilities. The season runs from mid-August through the end of April.

Written by Gerald Milnes

Sources

  1. Cone, Carl B., ed. Hounds in the Morning: Sundry Sports of Merry England. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1981.

  2. Hufford, Mary T. Chaseworld. Philadelphia: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992.

  3. Longrigg, Roger. The History of Foxhunting. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975.

  4. Watson, J.N.P. The Book of Foxhunting. New York: Arco Pub., 1977.

  5. Milnes, Gerald C. Listen to that Beautiful Music: Fox Chasing in the Mountain State. Goldenseal, (Summer 1996).