Fox Hunting in Ireland

What can be better than a day's fox hunting in Ireland?

The ‘voice’ of the hounds, the call of the hunting horn, the thrill of jumping  natural fences, and the sheer style of everything about this traditional Irish sport.

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Many Greek- and Roman-influenced countries have long traditions of hunting with hounds. Hunting with Agassaei hounds was popular in Celtic Britain, even before the Romans arrived, with their Castorian and Fulpine hound breeds which they used to hunt.

Ireland is known the world over for its hunting. There are 38 recognised packs of hounds. The hunting country is as varied and challenging than will be found anywhere else in the world. In some areas the land is criss-crossed by stone walls, in other parts of the country the obstacles can be big ditches or banks.

The Irish Sport Horse is as unique as the country itself. They are bred from the native Irish Draught crossed with a Thoroughbred stallion, producing an animal that is hard to match in its courage, tremendous jumping ability and kind temperament.

Of Ireland’s many famous hunt clubs, one of the more colourful would have to be the ‘Galway Blazers’.

 County Galway was hunted for several years prior to 1840 by the hounds of Robert Parsons Persse of Castleboy. For a fortnight each year the Galway hounds were invited by the Ormond Hunt to hunt their country. At the end of the visit the Galway men entertained the Ormond Hunt at Dooley’s Hotel in the town of Birr. On one occasion the festivities resulted in the hotel being set on fire. This was the origin of the name ‘Blazers’.

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Dooly's Hotel at Emmet Square in Birr

Burton Robert Parsons Persse of Moyode Castle was born on the 4th of November 1828. His grandfather, who was also a Burton Persse, familiarly known as ‘Old Burton,’ established a pack of hounds at Moyode as far back as 1770, and they were carried on without interruption there until about 1896. He was one of the greatest fox hunters of the day and held the mastership of the ‘Galway Blazers’ for 66 years. He hunted the pack the greater part of the time himself and rode out with them a fortnight before he died in 1836 at the age of 85.

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Burton Robert Parsons Persse of Moyode Castle

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Moyode Castle.

In 1803 the first Hunt Club was established in Galway, called the ‘Castle Boy Hunt’ with Robert Parsons Persse of Castle Boy as master. He was a nephew of ‘Old Burton’ and the two of them hunted the county; ‘Old Burton’ the southern part and his nephew the northern.

Robert Parsons Persse died in 1829 and the northern end of the county was hunted by a committee until 1840, when the title of the pack was changed to that of the ‘County Galway Hunt’, and the celebrated John Dennis became master until 1850.

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Hunting takes place throughout the autumn and winter months  on Tuesdays, Thursdays  and Saturdays.  The ‘Blazers’ hunt country covers about 30 miles square of limestone pasture with dry stone walls, good light going.

We welcome some visitors each day, but as numbers are limited we ask you to book in with our Hon. Secretary Dorthe Ffrench who can also provide phone numbers of hireling stables, we do not allow visiting horses.

Tel:  Ireland 09096 88823 or 087-9822163.

The most important team members in County Galway

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The County Galway hunt kennels are at Ballymore House, Craughwell, in the centre of the Galway hunting country.   Up to sixty couple of hounds have been kept here since 1895.

The Hunt has a long tradition of Hunting in a large geographical area of County Galway.The hunt dates from the beginning of the 19th century and has established itself as one of the famous Irish Hunts due to the goodwill and generosity of farmers and landowners throughout the county.

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To the Fox

Off to the hunting field though ‘tis September.
The wind’s in the South; but a word ere we start.
Though keenly excited, I bid you remember
That hunting’ s a science, and riding an art.

The order of march and the due regulation
That guides us in warfare, we need in a chase
Huntsman and Whip, each in his station,
Horse, hound, and fox, each his own proper place.

The fox, paramount, precedes all from the cover
The horse is an animal purposely bred
After the pack to be ridden, not over'
Good hounds are not rear’d to be knocked on the head.’

The County Galway Hunt - Code of Conduct

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Foxhunting is a highly regulated and organised sport that depends entirely upon the goodwill of the farmers over whose land we hunt. There are 41 packs of hounds fully registered with the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association (IMFHA). Each registered pack of foxhounds has its own defined territory or hunt country and the hunt kennels are usually situated in the heart of that country.

Organised foxhunting plays an important part in rural life not only as a recreation but it also plays a critical role in habitat management and preservation. Through foxhunting may small bogs, coverts and hedgerows, which provide habitats for foxes, small mammals, birds and insects, are protected and preserved. This voluntary conservation role goes largely unrecognised as most of the coverts, bogs and hedgerows that are preserved belong to farmers and supporters of the hunt.

Foxhunting also contributes enormously to the local economy. Amongst the many trades and professions that earn some of their income through hunting are the farmers and feed merchants who sell hay, straw, haylage and oats to local horse owners, equestrian centres who provide hirelings, livery or who sell horses, farriers, saddlers, vets, hoteliers and publicans. To some degree each of these trades depend upon the activities of the Hunt Club as part of their income.

Masters of Foxhounds or their appointed agents are solely responsible for conducting the day's hunting and are bound by the strict rules and instructions of the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association. Their authority and responsibility is absolute and their instructions must always be cheerfully obeyed.

The field should remember that the hunt staff is accountable only to the Master on the day or his appointee.

At no time should a member of the Field instruct or interfere with the job of either a Professional or Honorary member of the Hunt Staff in the hunting field, in kennels or in the hunt country.

Prior to each hunting day the farmers or landowners within the area to be hunted will be notified. Such canvassing ensures the minimum of disruption to farm livestock or the normal activities on a farm.

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The Duties of the Field

Because the hunt meets by arrangement and is recognisable and therefore accountable, mounted followers enjoy access to large areas of countryside denied to other people. When following hounds mounted, you must:

(a) Conform to local standards of behaviour. Make yourself familiar with whatever local conventions or traditions need to be observed by hunt followers.
(b) Have a brush and shovel in your horsebox to tidy up any dung or straw when unboxing.

(c) Ensure that your personal turnout is neat, clean and safe and that your tack and horse are clean and presentable.

(d) Have your subscription paid before you go hunting. "Cap" must also be paid on each hunting day. Have the correct "cap" ready for the Hunt Secretary.

(e) Ensure that you are not causing an obstruction to roads, gateways or public amenity areas. When parking your horsebox, ensure that you have permission to park there. Be sensitive to the fact that not everyone enjoys the presence of a hunt nor the evidence it may leave behind.

(f) It is important to be punctual at the meet. If you are late, under no circumstances try and follow hounds across country and join the hunt on the road at the next available opportunity.

(g) Make a sincere attempt not to cause damage to farm boundaries or hunt fences. If you break a fence or cause or notice damage of any kind, report it immediately to the Master on the day or the Hunt repair crew.

(h) Leave gates the way you find them. If in doubt close any and all gates behind you. If there is any doubt contact the farmer or farm manager to find out the correct disposition.

(i) Go slowly through or around livestock to prevent disturbing them. Never cross a planted field. Go around the headland.

(j) Above all, obey the Master and the Field Master.

(k) Keep QUIET when hounds are drawing a covert or hunting. Learn to watch and listen so that you can understand what is going on.

(l) Exercise due care and courtesy to all road users. When on the road keep to the left and do not hold up traffic.

(m) Always turn your horse's head towards hounds and in this way your horse is less likely to kick one!

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The Duties of Car Followers

Car followers are welcome but they must also obey the rules.

a) Do not interrupt the flow of traffic. Courtesy must be shown to every road user and pedestrian.

b) Do not obstruct gateways or driveways or enter into private residences, farmland or open country unless you are sure that proper permission has been obtained.

c) Be careful not to obstruct a farm gateway where the hounds or field might emerge onto a road.

d) Avoid turning at the driveway into a private residence.

e) Keep together as much as possible and try to avoid heading the fox or getting between hounds and their line.

f) Exercise due care and courtesy to all other road users. Do not double park or hold up traffic.

g) If hounds or horses are nearby, stop in a safe, legal place and SWITCH OFF your engine, exhaust fumes mask scent and irritate hounds' noses.

h) Please do all you can to help the hunt. When you leave your vehicle, follow the code for foot followers.

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The Duties of Car Followers

If you leave the road, you become a guest on the farmer's land and you should behave accordingly.

Do not get into such a position as to head the fox as to do so is to spoil your own and everyone else's sport.

Be as quiet as possible.

If you see the fox, let it get well past you before signalling the huntsman with a ‘holloa’, holding up your cap or a white handkerchief.

Leave gates the way you found them.

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County Galway Hunt (The Blazers) - Point to Point

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A ‘point-to-point’ is a form of amateur horse-racing over fences for hunting horses.   In Ireland many of the horses will appear in these races before they compete in National Hunt races.   The Irish point-to-point is used as a nursery for future young stars: a horse that wins its debut point to point in Ireland will often sell for a lot of money.

Horses running in Point to Points must be thoroughbreds.   The horses have to obtain a certificate from a Master of Foxhounds stating that they have hunted for at least 4 days in the season before racing starts in January.   Chasing from 'steeple to steeple' or point-to-point began in County Cork in 1752 when Mr. Blake challenged his neighbour Mr. O'Callaghan, to race across country from Buttevant church to Doneraile church some four and a half miles distance and so jump stone walls, ditches and hedges as these presented themselves.   By keeping the steeple of the church in sight (steeplechasing) both riders could see their finishing point.

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Point to point regulations in Ireland require all races to be run over a minimum of 3 miles, but there are exceptions.   The fences are made of birch and are approx 4 foot 6 inches high.   Horses that are eligible to run in points are also eligible to run in hunter chases, i.e. races run under rules over regulation fences open only to horses with a current hunter certificate.

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Hunting In Ireland A Noble Tradition.

Stunning coffee table tome with color photographs on slick hardcovers. 256 glossy, heavy stock pages. Multiple full color photos on every page. The history of the hunts, character sketches of notable persons, a perfect addition for any foxhunter's library and welcome company by the fireside. Includes fox hunting, stag hunting, harriers and so much more.