Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct

This Code of Conduct is intended as a guide to both newcomers and seasoned followers of hounds. Its purpose is to assist those who participate in foxhunting to fully appreciate the important responsibilities and roles of the key team members who organise hunting.

The objective of this code of practice is to help followers of the hunt, whether that be on foot, mounted or in the car, to understand and enjoy a day with hounds. Foxhunting is a highly regulated and organised sport that depends entirely upon the goodwill of the farmers over whose land we hunt.

There are 39 packs of hounds 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.
The minimum number of foxhounds needed to maintain a registered pack is 10 couple (twenty-one hounds) although most hunts maintain in excess of thirty couple. Hounds are cared for by the Hunt Staff comprising the huntsman and his assistant, the “whipper-in”. Some hunts may also have a kennelman and a hunt groom to look after the hunt horses.

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.

Foxhunting was never more popular or better supported than it is today and the main concern of most Hunt Clubs is maintaining the balance between the demand to go hunting and the need to restrict followers to a reasonable number.

Foxhunting takes place in public, it is observed by the public and it must be held publicly accountable for its actions. Familiarity with this Code of Hunting Practice will ensure that those who participate in hunting understand their obligation to maintain the highest standards of sportsmanship and good behavior at all times.

Foxhunting as a sport is the hunting of the fox in its wild and natural state with a pack of Registered Foxhounds. No pack of foxhounds either Registered or Associated with the IMFHA nor any Master(s), Hunt Representative or Hunt Chairman, who is a member of, or affiliated to the IMFHA, shall be allowed or shall allow his/her employees, agents or Hunt Staff to hunt a fox in any way that is inconsistent with this precept.

Hunts and Masters affiliated to the IMFHA agree to be bound by the Constitution, Bye-Laws, Regulations, Code of Hunting Practices, Guidelines and Directives issued by the Committee of the IMFHA.

The object of foxhunting as it is practiced in Ireland places the emphasis on the art of venery and not the death of a fox. Those opposed to foxhunting would have you believe that every hunt ends in the death of a fox and this is simply not true. However, it is inevitable that on occasion hounds will catch their fox and, when this happens, death is instantaneous. In foxhunting either the fox is killed or he gets clean away.

The Role of Masters / Joint-Masters
In the case of Masters and Joint-Masters, their responsibility extends to the conduct of Hunt Staff, the management of the Hunt Kennels and the care of hounds. It is the Masters’ obligation to ensure that hounds are kenneled in safe, clean, adequate kennels and that hounds are well fed, regularly exercised and properly handled in the hunting field. 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 appointment, it should be made clear to a new member of the hunt staff who is employing him/her and to whom he/she reports and takes direction. 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. Normally one of the Masters or a member of the Hunt Staff or an Area Manager does such canvassing. It is the responsibility of the Master to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place to deal with any last minutes changes of a hunt meet that may arise due to a local funeral, severe weather or some other unforeseen circumstances. The Master or Joint-Masters should ensure that there is adequate means of communications in place between the field and the Hunt repair crew on a hunting day. Should the Master or Joint-Masters need to leave the hunting field early, then they must ensure that there is a clear delegation of authority.

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. For example some hunts do not allow lorrys to park at the meet and horses are asked to unbox some distance away. Other hunts require that you park on one side of the road only.
(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!

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.

The Duties of Foot Followers
Foot followers can be very helpful to the hunt both during a day’s hunting and at other times. Please remember:
a) If you leave the road, you become a guest on the farmer’s land and you should behave accordingly.
b) 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.
c) Be as quiet as possible.
d) If you see the fox, let it get well past you before signaling the huntsman with a holloa, holding up your cap or a white handkerchief.
e) Leave gates the way you found them. Be ready to open or close gates for the Hunt Staff and Masters. Report any damage or loose stock you see to the Master or Hunt repair crew.
f) Above all ENJOY YOUR HUNTING! Some General Comments Accidental trespass cannot always be avoided but the wishes for all landowners, no matter how small, must be respected. Every effort must be made to prevent hounds and followers from hunting a fox into a “built-up” area or straying onto places where they are not welcome. Animal rights activists can be extremely irritating and may even break the law. Hunt followers must resist the temptation to retaliate in kind no matter what the provocation.

Many people use the countryside, some of which have no interest in hunting. We must make every effort not to offend these people in any way. Common courtesy, in the form of a simple ‘please’, ‘thank you,’ or ‘smile’ costs nothing. Politeness and a pleasant manner will go far to ensure the future of foxhunting. Finally but most importantly, please remember at all times that foxhunting depends upon the goodwill and generosity of farmers and landowners. To be invited onto their land is a great privilege and we must never do anything to abuse this great privilege.