Etiquette and Conduct of the Hunt
Formal pack beagling is nothing if not a traditional field sport. A long heritage in both Great Britain and this country has led to certain quaint and, perhaps, anachronistic observances and usages of language. (See Glossary). Many believe that these customs add to the niceties and charm of the sport. Of course, the same may be said for the idiosyncrasies of foxhunting tradition.
Upon arrival at a meet (being on time is good form), it is customary to greet the Master(s). and the traditional greeting is "Good morning,", no matter what time of day it really is. Similarly, at the end of the day, it is custom to say "Good night."
Hounds are always referred to as such, and never generically as "dogs" unless one is actually referring to the sex of dog hounds. Male hounds are dogs, and female hounds are bitches. Both male and female are hounds, and the NTB usually hunts a mixed pack of dog and bitch hounds. Beagles are small hounds, the name being derived from the Celtic "beag," meaning small. Harriers are larger than beagles and, of course, foxhounds larger still. Bassets, whose name derives from the French "bas," meaning low, are the low-slung, down-to-earth hounds.
Courtesy to landowners is of prime importance. In general, one should stay off planted crops and report any damage to fences or walls to the Master(s). The hunt followers (the field) should follow the instructions of the Field Master(s). If uncertain who they are, simply inquire.
Gates are important to the safety of livestock and people and should be left open or closed as set by the landowner. If a gate is opened for the hunt, the last person through should always make sure it is securely closed again. Going through a gate, look to the field behind you and call "Gate, please." Whenever in doubt, it is better to close a gate than leave it open.
Fences should be climbed next to a post and, when possible, wire should be slid under or through to avoid stretching it.
Crowding the hounds and officials is to be avoided. Try to stay well back. Pressing causes the hounds to overrun the line. When hounds check during a run, stop at once, stay quiet, and give hounds and the huntsman plenty of room to cast and regain the line.
At the end of a day, and especially after enjoying a fine tea, it is just commonsense good manners to thank the hosts of the fixture for their hospitality and the huntsman for providing the day's sport.
-- Frederic B. Underwood, MB