Leveret Hunting: Beagling’s Dirty Secret

Background to Beagling

There are around 60 packs of beagles in the UK that hunt the brown hare for ‘sport’. Beagles hunt the scent of the hare and kill the poor animal by wearing it down over time. The beagles are followed on foot, so there are no horses involved.

Beagling should not be confused with hare coursing where lurchers or greyhounds are used to pursue hares by sight.  

Hunt sabs stop a beagle pack from killing.
Hunt sabs stop a beagle pack from killing.

But why hunt leverets?

As with fox hunting, beagles must be trained to hunt and kill their quarry. Leverets – young hares – present an easy target for the new and inexperienced hounds. The pack of beagles are taken to open fields and encouraged to search for hares and leverets. Unlike in main season hunting, the hunters do not want a long chase. They will even turn escaping leverets back towards the hounds to ensure a quick kill.

Running for her life.
Running for her life.

What does it look like?

Leveret hunting takes place in September and early October. They meet early in the morning – from 6am onwards – because that is when the scent is best for new hounds and because they are unlikely to be interrupted.

Obviously, a pack of small beagle hounds in the middle of a field is a give-away. There will be few people present as only the most trusted supporters are invited to attend these secret hunts. Don’t expect the hunters to be in uniform – they don’t usually wear this until the main season.

Beaglers assemble for an early-morning leveret hunt.
Beaglers assemble for an early-morning leveret hunt.

Deny, deny, deny

Hunters use a variety of tactics to try to conceal their crimes. So-called ‘trail hunting’ was invented as a smokescreen for illegal hunting. Fox hunters have rebranded cub hunting as ’autumn’ hunting. Leveret hunting is so horrendous that the hunters simply deny it exists, however a look at hunting literature reveals otherwise:

“…young hounds should be allowed to get away on a well-grown leveret rather than an old, experienced hare.”

‘Early Hunting Lessons’ chapter in ‘Beagling’ by J.C. Jeremy Hobson.

“…hounds are taken out in the early morning or late afternoon. This is for the hare hunters equivalent of cub hunting; some masters, in fact, call the period “leveret hunting.”

‘Hunts and Countries’ chapter in ‘Beaglers’ by Jack Ivester Lloyd

“There was a good showing of hares at the Heigh, Hexhamshire, and two leverets paid the penalty after short hunts on a screaming scent.”

Report in HOUNDS magazine, Feb/March 1986

Typical beagle pack.
Typical beagle pack.

What should I do if I see a suspected leveret hunt? 

If it is safe to do so, filming the hunters will often be enough to stop them in their tracks. Try to film key individuals and their vehicles. Please then pass this information to the Hunt Saboteurs Association tip-off line on: 07443 148426.

Hunting leverets with dogs is illegal so, if you believe a crime is in progress, call the police straight away.

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