Hunting Etiquette and Hunting Terms, Language and signals.
The major concern of people wishing to hunt for the first time seems to be a fear of wearing or doing the wrong thing. Whilst etiquette is important to ensure hunting has an acceptable public image, we hope that people who come to hunt with The South Downs Bloodhounds will find us tolerant and helpful. We hope this guide will help you feel more comfortable and confident if you should choose to come out with us for your first experience of hunting. You will not remember all of it, but the more you hunt the more you will realise the reasons for a code of conduct.
When you are out hunting you are responsible for your and your horse's actions, just as you are responsible when you are riding around your local area. You are strongly advised to have third party insurance to cover any damage you may accidently do. You may be covered on your house insurance and you can be covered if you are a member of The Countryside Alliance. The onus is on you to check and ensure you have adequate protection against any claim made against you.
We are a child friendly hunt, delighted that so many children decide to hunt with us and we are keen to encouage them. HOWEVER, whilst we will always do our best to help children, we cannot take responsibility for their welfare. Young children coming out for the first time should be accompanied by a responsible adult and we advise that they wear body protectors. Unaccompanied children (and indeed single adults) should have in their pocket (NOT IN THEIR HAT) full contact details in an emergency and full details of any medical conditions a doctor would need to know about in the event of an accident.
Will my horse and I have the required ability?
The hunting field is not a good place to try a new horse. However if you know your horse well and have enjoyed and felt confident riding at various events, it is likely that you will be able to cope with it out hunting.
What should I wear?
Whilst there is a formal hunting attire that regular followers/subscribers should wear, there are a variety of alternatives which are perfectly acceptable. Starting from the top, any form of safety hat is acceptable, but we would prefer the cover to be of a sober colour and without tassles or pom poms! A hunting shirt and white hunt tie (commonly incorrectly referred to as a stock), or a shirt and tie, or even a polo neck sweater are acceptable under any safe coat/jacket, but once again brightly coloured coats should be avoided. Tweed hacking jackets are traditional for training meets and black for men or ladies (or blue for ladies) from the Opening Meet onwards. Wearing tweed after the Opening Meet is called "ratcatcher", and perfectly acceptable. Wax jackets are perfectly acceptable. Fawn breeches are preferred, but white or coloured breeches/jodhpurs are acceptable if they are all you have. Long boots or jodhpur boots are safest. Spurs are completely optional. Back protectors are also acceptable and are indeed recommended for novices/children.
Should my horse be plaited?
There is no requirement for horses to be plaited with this hunt. It is incorrect for horses to be plaited before the Opening Meet. The hunt staff's horses will usually be plaited for "lawn meets", but not necessarily otherwise.
What should I do before coming to a meet mounted?
The first thing to do is telephone one of the Hunt Secretaries and ask her if you may join the hunt for the day and check with her the amount (cap) you will be required to pay. You can also find out the best place to park and any other matter you are unsure of. She will want to help you so don't be afraid to ask questions. Also by "booking in" you can be informed of any last minute changes due to weather, farming problems etc.
How long is a hunting day?
Before the Opening Meet, we have days which are called "Training Meets". These consist of some hound exercise interspersed with short hunts of around 1 mile long. After the opening meet, there are between 3 to 5 hunts each hunting day, with breaks between hunts and each hunt being from 3 to 5 miles long. You can leave at any time during the day. There will be people who can direct you the best way back to the boxes. You should not attempt to find your way across farmland.
What should I have in my pockets?
The money for your Cap (see subscriptions page), a penknife, some baler twine and possibly some food. You may even consider carrying a handkerchief or a bandage for emergencies. If you are carrying a mobile telephone it should be turned off during hunting. If you are a complete stranger, or suffer from any medical condition, it is a good idea to carry a printed copy of your details so that we can help you should you have an accident.
Going to the meet
It is much more relaxing to allow plenty of time to get to the meet/unboxing place as you are more likely to find a convenient place to unbox. Please do not park in gateways or opposite other boxes or vehicles. Where possible ensure vehicles are completely off the road, especially on narrow roads, and allow room for agricultural vehicles to pass. Do not park in farm yards or on private land unless you have the owner's permission, or are directed to do so by the hunt.
What should I do at the meet?
Etiquette demands that you should find the Hunt Secretary and offer her your cap, rather than waiting for her to approach you. She should be wearing an armband. Similarly you should say good morning to the Joint Masters (the correct greeting being "Good morning Master" even if you know them personally), whilst ensuring that your horse does not get amongst the hounds. Look for people in black coats with SDB on their buttons, these should be more experienced members of the hunt who will be able to help you and tell you what is going on. In particular find out who is the Field Master for the day and keep behind him/her and obey his/her instructions. If hospitality has been provided at the meet, be sure to thank your host before you leave.
How can I tell who the Joint Masters are?
The Joint Masters of The South Downs Bloodhounds wear blue coats with four or five silver buttons on the front and two silver buttons on the back. They will also have mustard collars. The hunt staff carry white whips and it is essential that they are given clear passage at all times. The Joint Masters carry full responsibility for the day and have invested considerable time and money in the hope of providing you with an enjoyable day. You should understand that if anything goes wrong or if damage is done, it is the Joint Masters who will have to put matters right. In return you should treat them with some respect and give them priority at gates or jumps.
Is there anything special that my horse should wear?
If you know your horse is liable to kick it should wear a red ribbon at the top of his tail. If it is a young horse and you are not sure of its temperament it should wear a green ribbon. Stallions sometimes wear white ribbons. Any horse with a suspect temperament should be wearing an appropriate ribbon and kept to the back of the Field. If the person in front of you is going through a gateway and has one arm behind their back you should be aware that their horse may kick if you crowd them. RED OR GREEN RIBBONS SHOULD NOT BE USED JUST BECAUSE YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL GIVE YOU MORE ROOM.
Is there anything I need to know about the hounds?
Do not assume that because you horse does not kick your dog at home that he/she will necessarily tolerate a pack of hounds. Even if he/she will, the huntsman does not know that and you will worry him if you get amongst the hounds. Bloodhounds are particularly bad at getting out of the way, so it is your duty to keep away from them. If the hounds should be coming towards you, either from in front or behind, always ensure your horses head is turned towards the hounds to ensure he/she doesn't kick a hound. Equally, keep to the same side of a ride/road as everyone else when hounds are passing. The hounds should never have to pass between horses on either side of its path.
Jumping Etiquette
Do not attempt to jump if there is a hound anywhere near a jump. Give Masters priority and if you know your horse is a poor jumper let others go first. If your horse refuses, clear the jump quickly and let others go before you try again. If you break a jump make sure it is stock proof before you go on (this is where you might need that baler twine) and ensure you report the breakage to a Master or Hunt Secretary. If you attempt a gate and break it you will be expected to pay for it.
Do I have to jump?
Whilst we try to put in as much jumping as possible a lot will depend on the area being hunted and the ground conditions. There are nearly always easy ways round a jump and a number of people don't jump at all, so there is usually someone to follow. If you are a stranger and do not want to jump it is best to talk to one of the Hunt Secretaries or the Field Master who will know of a regular non jumper to pair you with.
Gate Etiquette
A Master or Huntsman should never need to open a gate, a member of the field should offer to do it. If you hear people in front shout "gate please", they are indicating that the gate you are coming to must be shut.. Yyou should shout similarly to people following you and ensure they have heard it. If people behind you are too far away to hear you, you should either wait until they can, or shut the gate and leave them to open and shut it. Never leave someone to shut the gate on their own, the last three horses are responsible for shutting a gate.
Bridge Etiquette
Wooden bridges can be very slippery and some smaller bridges are only strong enough to accommodate one horse at a time. So cross bridges one at a time and once you have crossed the bridge, stand still until the next horse has crossed, to prevent it from becoming to excited and slipping on the bridge in an attempt to catch up.
Riding near or through livestock.
When riding near or through livestock ensure you are between the stock and the fence and ride at a speed they will tolerate without getting upset. If stock bunch up in a corner, stop and wait for them to move out. You should not enter any field without the Field Master unless instructed to do so.
End of the day
It is important to remember that without a huntsman and quarry there would be no sport. A thank you goes a long way in helping these people feel appreciated, especially the quarry who will probably be cold, wet and tired at the end of the day. It is traditional to say "Goodnight" at the end of your day, regardless of the time of day. For example a training meet may end around 11am, but it is still traditional to say Goodnight.
Did you fall off, get shouted at?
Don't worry, we've all been there. It's all part of becoming an experienced horseman/woman!
General etiquette
It is surprising how many people leave their manners on the ground when they get on a horse. Please thank cars for slowing down, wave cars on when you see the Masters wave them on, and keep to the nearside if you hear the shout "car please". A smile and "good morning" to people on foot will help to dispel the myth that everyone on horseback is a snob and too good to talk to people on foot.
Have fun, that's what you are there for, and we want you to enjoy yourself and come back again.
















Autumn Hunting The early part of hunting from August until the Opening Meet on the first Saturday in October.
Babbler or babbling A hound that speaks when it is not hunting is said to be a babbler or babbling. However it is quite normal for bloodhounds to babble when they move off from the meet or when they approach the start of a hunt.
Bitch Female hound
By Invitation This sometimes appears on the meet card of a hunt that has been invited to hunt in another hunt's country.
Cap A daily charge for non-subscribers
"Car Please" Is shouted to tell the Field to keep to the left to let cars through on the road. This message should be passed back or forwards as circumstances dictate.
Cast When the hounds are looking for the line. The huntsman may cast the hounds towards where he thinks the hounds will pick it up. Everyone needs to stand still and keep quiet while this is being done.
Chairman The Hunt Chairman is elected either by the hunt or by the Hunt Committee, to oversee the smooth running of the committee meetings and liaise with the Masters. The SDB is a privately owned pack and does not have a Hunt Chairman or committee.
Check When the hounds lose the line.
Clean boot Hunting the clean boot is the hunting of human beings with no artificial scent added or dragged by the runner.
Committee An elected section of the hunt either running the hunt (i.e. Hunt run by Committee) or a body which sets the guarantee (Hunt run by Master/s) and carries out fund raising to meet all or part of the overall costs of the season.
Couples Hounds are counted in couples.( i.e. one hound, a couple, a couple and a half, two couples, etc.) Couples are also two collars linked on a chain and can be seen hanging on the hunt staffs' saddles.
Cur Dog A canine which is not a hound.
Dog Male hound
Drag hunting Drag hunting is the hunting of an artificial scent usually on a rag dragged by a runner or rider
Enlarge The "Quarry" is said to be enlarged at the point where the hunt starts.
Entered An entered hound is a hound that has done a season's hunting.
Feather Hounds are said to feather or be feathering when they have the line but are unable to speak to it.
Field The mounted followers.
Field Master The person in charge of leading and controlling the Field.
Foil Any smelly or disturbed ground which spoils the line.
"Gate Please" Shouted backwards on going through a gate which should be closed.
Gate shutter A person specially designated to shut gates and mend fences. Sometimes wears a white armband. Even when these people are present, you should shut gates where necessary.
"Good Morning" The appropriate greeting at the meet.
"Good Night" The appropriate salutation for the end of the day even if it was an Autumn Hunting morning which ended before midday.
Guarantee The sum of money the Hunt Committee annually guarantee to pay the Masters to run the hunt.
Green Ribbon Worn on the tail of a young horse.
Hand behind the back Means this horse might kick if you crowd it.
Hand in the air by gateway Signal to people coming towards a gate, but out of hearing, that the gate should be shut. The response to which should be to hold your hand in the air to show you have got the message and will shut the gate.
"Headland Please" Shouted when the Field is required to ride in single file close to the fence boundary of field in order to protect crops or sensitive grassland. It is the Field's duty to ensure that not only they keep to the headland, but that those immediately in front do so as well. Take special care not to cut the corners.
Heel Hounds are said to be hunting heel when they hunt the reverse direction to the route of the quarry.
"Hold Hard" Shouted by the Field Master to stop the field overtaking him/her.
Hot bitches In season bitches.
Hound All scent hunting dogs are referred to as hounds. It is the duty of mounted followers to keep out of the way of the hounds, not vice versa.
Huntsman The man who hunts the hounds. There is only one huntsman on the hunting field per day, he may also be a Master, and he has absolute right of way at all times.
Hunt A hunting day usually consists of 3 - 5 hunts, each hunt being 2 - 5 miles long. Sometimes incorrectly refered to as "runs" or "lines".
Hunt Button & Collar Subscribers who have over a period of time have gained knowledge and been helpful to the hunt may be awarded the hunt button and collars of the hunt. The buttons are black with the hunt logo. The collars of the SDB are mustard and are only worn by officials of the hunt.
Hunting the clean boot The process of hunting human runners with no artificial scent applied.
Hunt Staff The people responsible for working the hounds. i.e. Huntsman and Whippers in. They may be Masters, amateurs or professionals.
"Kick on" You may get this response when you make way for a Master or Huntsman at a gate or jump. It means you don't have to wait for him/her and should carry on.
Lawn Meet A meet where refreshments are provided by someone, usually the owner of the property where the meet is taking place. This person should be thanked by everyone as they leave the meet.
Line The scent left by the quarry; naturally by bloodhound quarries or artificially in drag or trail hunting.
"Loose Horse" Shouted when someone has fallen off and the horse is running away.
Master Maybe a Joint Master. These are the people responsible for the running of the hunt and particularly for liaison with the farmers and landowners. They should have right of way at all times second only to the hunt staff.
"Master/Huntsman/Whip/Hound please" This means give way to these people as they have a job to do. If it is heard on a road or a track everyone should get to one side, not line both sides, to reduce the chances of them being kicked.
"Master/Huntsman/Whip/Hound on the right/left" This means the Master/Whip/Hound should be let through on the side shouted. The side corresponding to the direction of travel of the majority of the Field.
Mixed Pack A pack consisting of dogs and bitches
Mute A hound which hunts without speaking is mute
Opening Meet The start of formal hunting.
Puppy A hound which is new to hunting that season. It will appear fully grown.
Quarry Captain/Quarry Quarry Captain is a regular runner who has experience of the technicalities of setting a hunt. Other runners are known as Quarry.
Rat Catcher Term used to describe the official dress for mounted followers during Autumn Hunting and consists of a Tweed jacket as opposed to a black jacket. Rat Catcher is also an acceptable form of dress after the Opening Meet.
Red Ribbon Worn on the tale of a known kicker. These horses should be kept at the back of the field until they become educated and no longer need to wear a ribbon.
Ronald 01 Ronald is a hounds name and the 01 is the year he was entered. Therefore Ronald 01 is likely to be one year older than the suffix indicates. So in the season starting 2002 he will be three years old.
Riot or rioting When hounds hunt something other than that which they are supposed to be hunting, they are rioting. In the case of bloodhounds hunting the clean boot all wildlife is known as riot.
Scent The smell, indiscernible to the human nose, left by the runners. The hounds also use the smell of the disturbed ground where the runners have been to stay on the line.
Season Runs from 1st May until 29th April. Autumn Hunting will start once the harvest is under way, usually in August and will consist of short hunts in the early morning or early evening. Formal hunting starts with the Opening Meet, usually the first Saturday in October, and will go on for as long as country to hunt over can be found, usually to the end of March to mid April.
Secretary Usually the Honorary Hunt Secretary (unpaid) who deals with day to day inquiries from subscribers and those wishing to hunt on a daily basis. It is more correct to make inquiries about hunting with a pack of hounds through the Hunt Secretary rather than through the Master or the Kennels. Visitors should contact this person before coming out with a pack and then seek this person out at the meet and offer to pay their cap to them.
Speak or speaking Hounds do not bark, they speak or are speaking when they are "on the line" (hunting a scent).
Stern A hound's tail.
Subscriber Someone who pays an annual subscription to hunt with a pack of hounds.
Training Meet These are the meets before the Opening Meet. The hunts are shorter, the dress code less formal and the Cap reduced from the normal rate.
Walk Hounds at walk, often known as Puppy Walking, is where whelps are sent to private homes, in minimums of two's, from the age of eight weeks until they get too big and boisterous for the walkers, at which point they return to kennels to learn how to fit in to the pack.
"Ware Hole/Wire/Glass" Ware is often pronounced "War" and means beware. Therefore if you hear "War 'ole", or "Ware 'ole" it actually means mind out there is a hole in the ground coming up! Similarly any other hazard. This message should be passed back.
Whelp A new born hound is a whelp until it goes out to walk, when it is referred to as a puppy.
Whip in the air (usually by Field Master) This means stand still where you are, not wait until you get level with the Field Master and then stop.
Whip held to side by huntsman If the whip is in the huntsman's right hand he will be keeping the hounds to his left. You should therefore let him pass so that his horse is between you and the hounds. Similarly. if the whip is being held in the huntsman's left hand, he will be keeping hounds on his right.
Whipper in The person who helps the huntsman control the hounds. This person has right of way at all times and will only give way to the Huntsman.
White armband Sometimes worn by a "gate shutter".