So, what is beagling?
While there is much attention on fox hunting, it is less well known that there are around 60 packs of beagles in the UK who hunt the brown hare for ‘sport’.
Beagling involves hunting the hare’s scent and should not be confused with hare coursing, where lurchers or greyhounds pursue the animal by sight. However, as with coursing, there are no horses involved.
In a typical hunt, the hare will initially be much faster than the hounds but, as the chase goes on, the hounds greater stamina will wear her down.
But why hunt leverets?
Fox hunters train their hounds to kill foxes by targeting cubs between August and October. The same is true of beagling: these hounds must also be trained to hunt and kill their quarry. To this end, packs of beagles – including new, inexperienced hounds – are taken to open fields and encouraged to search for hares and leverets.
Unlike in the main season hunting, the hunters do not want a long chase. They will sometimes turn escaping leverets back towards the hounds to ensure a quick kill.
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 the countryside is very quiet.
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 – this wouldn’t be worn till the main part of the season.
Fox hunters have tried to rebrand their cub hunting as ’autumn’ hunting. However, beaglers recognise that hunting young hares is so horrendous they simply deny it exists!
A brief look at their 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 by in HOUNDS magazine, Feb/March 1986
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. Please also call the Hunt Saboteurs Association on: 07443 148426
Hunting leverets with dogs is illegal so, if you believe a crime is in progress, call the police straight away.