As the fall leaves slowly begin to change colors here in Virginia, horsemen and women across the state know that means the beginning of the long awaited fox hunting season. Virginia fox hunting has a long history, but it continues to be an important cultural traditional and social event today.
The sport of fox hunting has existed in the United States since the Colonial days, imported of course by the British. The Brits had been indulging in the aristocratic activity since the sixteenth century and brought the fun with them into the Colonies. Early settlers brought hounds of various types from Britain, France and Ireland, and, by 1900, the American foxhound was a breed of it’s own.
Anywhere you go in Virginia, the territory of a historic hunt club is just a stone’s throw away. The oldest fox hunting club in the United States is the Piedmont Hunt, which is based in Middleburg, Virginia. It was founded in 1840.
Virginia Fox Hunting is About the Chase
While the original intention was to actually hunt a red fox, the modern sport is much more about enjoying a good horse, good company, and traveling across beautiful lands. The fun is had in the chase, not the kill. A successful fox hunt is defined by traversing several miles over a period of two to three hours, and the joy of following a good huntsman and a pack of hounds as they catch the scent of the prey.
The fox is, after all, generally rather smarter than a pack of hounds, and even smarter than the humans, and are well known for playing games with their pursuers. They are rarely captured, and the hunters would prefer that they escape, as their survival predicts another good day of chasing to be had in the future!
A good Virginia fox hunting horse in these areas is more priceless than gold, but not nearly as hard to find. A proper fox hunting horse understands the game, and loves it with more vigor than his rider. He must be sensible, sound of body, nimble and surefooted over varied terrain and jumps along the way, and both fast when necessary but relaxed as well. A good hunt horse takes care of his rider, and is brave across rivers, fields, and any obstacles that may come his way.
A Vital Part of Virginia Culture
The Virginia fox hunting community is a wonderful collection of horsemen and women of all ages, many with years of experience, and some who are just learning the sights and sounds of the countryside. They are always an incredibly welcoming bunch, united by their love of horses, hounds, and the land.
A hunt is always followed by a brunch, which is held in the field where all the trailers are parked, and organized by the members themselves. After several hours of good chase, the horses are cooled off, groomed, and put back in the trailer to eat hay and drink water. Meanwhile, the riders bring out a variety of home-cooked goods to share with the community, offering everything from filling stews to freshly baked cookies.
A vital part of the Virginia culture, our state boasts the highest number of fox hunting clubs for all of North America. We have twenty-five individual hunt clubs, spanning from Northern Virginia down to the southern border, and right along the Appalachian Mountains. It is a sight that you can’t miss, and with the fall weather right around the corner, the perfect time to experience it in person.