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UK Fox Hunting Rules: Legal or Illegal?

Is fox hunting legal in the UK and can you hunt in the UK? The answer is not a simple 'Yes or No'. UK fox hunting law actually depends on where you hunt for foxes in the United Kingdom.

RULES OF FOX HUNTING IN THE UK: For Example: In Northern Ireland there is no ban at all.

In 2002, Scotland’s Parliament passed the ‘Protection of Wild Mammals act’. This effectively banned the hunting of foxes with more than two dogs.

The permitted exemption is allowing hunts to use packs of hounds to flush foxes to guns.

In England and Wales the Parliament passed the Hunting Act 2004 as the Parliament Act became invoked. It came into force on 18 February 2005.

The act bans hunting of most wild mammals using a pack of dogs. A pack of dogs, in this case, would be a group of more than two hounds.

There are exceptions to fox hunting rules, as shown by the Scottish Act. The difference is using birds of prey for hunting foxes, instead of guns.

The act requires the intention must be for the purpose of ‘enabling a bird of prey to hunt the wild mammal’. It means a pack of hounds flush out or stalk a fox out of hiding for the bird of prey to hunt.

While ‘birds of prey’ include all hunting birds, it would be impractical to use a bird such as a Kestrel. Registered fox hunts use large birds. Some have even imported the American Bald Eagle.

Is Fox Hunting Illegal in the United Kingdom?

In the first ten years of the act, there were 378 prosecutions and convictions. But in fact, only 24 of those were actually registered to an illegal hunt. In fact, the majority of the prosecutions were for the poaching and hunting of other mammals.

The fox hunting law allows you to use up to two (2) dogs to chase foxes out of hiding. But, ‘flushing’ or ‘stalking’ foxes should only take place if the animals are causing damage to your property or to the environment.

As a rule, the dogs must not go underground to find the foxes. An exception occurs if they are threatening wild or game birds kept in captivity for shooting. Note that only one (1) dog can go underground at any time. You must also:

  • Shoot foxes as ‘quickly’ and ‘humanely’ as possible after you find them.
  • Carry some proof that you own the land that you are shooting on (or have written permission from the landowner).

There are several other legal ways to use fox control methods if they are causing damage to property or to the environment.

Note: Breaking the law can result in a fine and you could have your hunting equipment, or dogs, taken away. But, despite being illegal to hunt foxes with a pack of dogs, you can use the dogs to simulate hunting (e.g. for ‘drag’ or ‘trail’ hunting).

Can You Shoot a Fox?

Fox Hunting Rules in England and the United Kingdom You can legally shoot any animal that poses a threat to your livestock. But, if you shoot foxes the kill must be as humane as possible.

UK fox hunting rules state that you must not shoot within 50 yards of a public right of way.

Council policy varies on their advice on urban shooting of foxes. Tooting council say “Shooting is not usually appropriate in urban areas”.

But where it gets carried out, due care must ensure the safety of the public and other wildlife.

Wandsworth council say ‘the most humane and natural way’ is to ‘limit their [foxes] food supply’. That effectively means starving them to death or moving them to a different urban area.

Brief History of Hunting with Hounds

Before the rules of fox hunting in England came to force hunters used primitive weapons to hunt for foxes and other mammals.

What is a Primitive Weapon?

As a rule they are weapons used by primitive cultures. Examples include clubs, spears, and a bow with arrows. Primitive weapons also refers to some firearms such as muzzle-loaded shotguns.

The use of hounds for hunting dates back to Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian times.

In pre-Roman Celtic Britain, hunting with dogs was already popular. The Romans and Normans then introduced their own breeds of hounds for hunting wild animals. The hunts for wild mammals, such as deer and wild boar, were for food and not for pest control.

The earliest recorded use of hounds to hunt foxes, occurred in Norfolk 1534. The oldest hunt of bred hounds used to hunt foxes is most likely in Bilsdale, Yorkshire. Records show this event taking place in the late seventeenth century.

Hugo Meynell bred horses and hounds to hunt the rural countryside. People called him ‘the father of modern fox hunting’. But in fact he was the Master of Foxhounds for the Leicestershire Quorn Hunt 1753-1800.


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Fox Hunting Rules and Regulations in the United Kingdom