The Masters of Fox Hounds Association and Foundation (MFHA) expresses aptly the essence of being in the moment of the sport. “It is a union of humans and animals in the beauty of nature’s setting. Man is an observer mounted on a horse, the vehicle that allows him to follow and observe the hounds as they hunt the fox. The scenario unwinds before the fox hunters’ eyes and ears with the sound of the huntsman’s hunting horn as hounds give chase.”
The first record of fox hounds and hunting in America occurred in 1650, only 43 years following the founding of Jamestown. George Washington kept a pack of hunting hounds at Mount Vernon and was frequently joined in the sport by Thomas Jefferson. Hunting parties at Mount Vernon are said to have lasted for weeks on end. The popularity of fox hunting quickly spread throughout the continent. In 2007, 400 years subsequent to the Jamestown Settlement Colony, the MFHA, the governing body of fox hunting in North America, listed 171 registered packs in the U.S. and Canada that extend from Washington State to Nova Scotia, and from British Columbia to the southern tip of Florida. There are, in addition, many unregistered, informal packs spread across the continent.
In America, fox hunting is also called ‘fox chasing,’ as the purpose is not to actually kill the animal but to enjoy the thrill of the chase. A hunt may go without a kill for several years, despite chasing two or more foxes in a single day’s hunting. As a rule, foxes are not pursued once they have ‘gone to ground.’ Contrary to many of forms of hunting, American fox hunters undertake stewardship of the land, and endeavor to maintain fox populations and habitats.
Hounds are used to hunt many different animals. In various parts of the United States, where foxes are more difficult to locate, hunts track coyotes, rabbits, bear, and, in some cases, bobcats.