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17th May 2000
Dear Mr Caffarey
I write in response to your letter of 28th April to Mr A J Clark of Allen & Overy requesting information about the numbers of hounds involved in hunting on behalf of all the recognised hunts. The information provided has come from their Masters Associations and in particular the National Hunt Survey January 2000.1. How many hounds are owned by the Hunts?
1.1 The majority of the packs of hounds are owned by hunt trustees, but there are some packs which are the property of individuals, for instance the Duke of Beaufort’s hounds are his property, the Belvoir are owned by the Duke of Rutland and the Forest and District Beagles by their Master Mr Richard May.
|MFHA packs–||11,766 foxhounds.|
|AMHB packs–||3,600 beagles.|
|MBHA packs –||300 bassets.|
|MDHA packs –||220 deer hounds.|
|MMHA packs –||511 mink hounds.|
|CCFP packs –||420 fell hounds.|
Total entered hounds: 18,017. Note: An entered hound is one that has started hunting. It will be approximately 18 months old.
1.3 There are no figures available for Federation of Welsh Packs other than for those packs also recognised by the MFHA.
2. How many mature hounds are put down each year?
2.1 There is no record kept of the number of hounds put down each year, but packs maintain a consistent number of hounds each year unless they are cutting back on the number of days per week that they hunt. As a general rule the number of hounds entered each year by a hunt equates to the number of hounds that are removed from the pack for different reasons.
2.2 From the MFHA surveys there are 3,340 hounds to enter for the 00/01 season. This figure is exclusive of the 11,766 entered foxhounds shown in paragraph 1.2 above. It would be reasonable to expect that 10% of that total will be drafted after this summer’s puppy shows (shows for hounds born in 98/99) to drag hound packs, Ireland and other foreign hunts, thus leaving 3,000 young hounds to be entered and consequently 3,000 to be removed.
2.3 For the 185 MFHA packs this averages out at 16 per pack. This figure will always be speculative and will vary year to year and kennel to kennel. During any one year some losses will occur through injuries and ill health. Many hunts will operate more frequently during autumn hunting than in the actual "Season" (after opening meets) and they may keep some of the older hounds on specifically for autumn hunting as "tutors" for the young hounds. It is at the end of autumn hunting and the end of the actual season’s hunting that Masters and huntsmen will assess the numbers and the physical capabilities of their hounds and have to take the decision on putting down those that are no longer able to "run up" with the pack. Certain older hounds will be humanely dispatched.
2.4 The other Masters Associations’figures (as listed in paragraph 1.2 above) would be in line with the MFHA’s with replacements in the order of one to four or one to five each year. For instance, the turnover for foxhounds and deerhounds would be higher than for beagles and bassets.
3. What are the criteria for selection?
3.1 The hounds that are put down are those that are unable to keep up with the rest of the pack. The aim of hound breeders is to produce a pack that are level both physically and mentally and hunt together as one close unit. Hounds that have become too slow will not contribute to the efficacy of the pack and may risk the causing of avoidable accidents.
3.2 No hunt can afford to keep any hound that is prone to "riot" (hunting non-target quarry). Some toleration can be afforded to young hounds in their first year of autumn hunting. Persistent offenders have to be put down, but in practice they are extremely rare.
3.3 Hounds may be drafted to another pack because they are too fast or too slow for their "home" pack.
4. How many are re-homed?
4.1 There are very few instances of old hounds being re-homed on retirement. Where it has been tried it has failed because the hounds will not settle and will invariably return to their hunt kennel.4.2 There are instances of Fell hounds being returned to their "walkers" on retirement, but many of these will have spent their summer months in similar circumstances. The "walkers" of the Fell hounds generally have a favourable environment in which to walk hounds and are used to dealing with them.
4.3 There are some cases of beagles and bassets being re-homed, but these are rare and again these hounds used to a working/kennel life find it difficult to adjust.
5. How many puppies are born each year (is this the source of the figure of 3,000 given at 3.1 in the MFHA submission)?
5.1 No figures are kept on the number of puppies actually born. The figure of 3,000 is explained in paragraph 2.2 above (this is the figure of the number of hounds that are entered annually). Overall, the aim is to breed the number required to fill the vacancies and avoid creating an annual surplus.
5.2 A MFHA pack hunting two days a week might "put to" 4 or 5 bitches (to a stallion hound). Some bitches will not get in whelp. Those that whelp successfully may have any number of puppies from 3 to 10 or more. Those with big litters will frequently have the odd runt, or ones with abnormalities, which tend to be pushed out by the stronger whelps, or be rejected by the mother. One might expect a bitch to raise up to 6 or 7 puppies, but for many it will be less. Unless a foster mother is available any surplus of whelps, and it will be the weaker ones, will be put down.5.3 A pack hunting four days a week would "put to" twice as many bitches.
5.4 There are some packs that may not breed any hounds at all, or at least not every year, and rely on other hunt’s drafts.
6. Mortality at birth.
6.1 The most common cause of mortality at birth is through bitches lying on their puppies. As with any breed of dog mortality rates are naturally much higher in big litters than small litters. See also paragraph 5.2 above.
7. How many puppies are put down each year? (whether as unsuitable for the work or for whatever reason). What are the selection criteria?
7.1 Whelps may be put down as explained in paragraph 5.2 above, but beyond this virtually no puppies or young hounds are put down unless they develop some physical defect.
7.2 Very few young hounds that are entered fail to actually hunt. Some may totally understand the "job in hand" in their first weeks, whilst others may take longer. If an assessment is helpful maybe 1 hound in 30 does not take to hunting.7.3 As explained there is scope for drafting surplus hounds to other packs. Those that persist in hunting anything other than the target quarry are not suitable for other packs hunting the same quarry and will have to be put down.
8. How many puppies judged unsuitable for work are passed onto other packs or re-homed.
8.1 Hounds may be drafted to another pack because they are too fast or too slow for their "home" pack. Beyond that there is no reason to pass any "unsuitable for work" hound on to another pack unless it is to be tried with a drag pack. However there are instances of hounds that persistently hunt the scent of a deer being successfully drafted to packs that have no deer in their country.
If I can be of any further help please do not hesitate to contact me.
Director Campaign for Hunting
On behalf of the recognised Masters Associations.
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Date uploaded to website 17 May 2000