Thursday, November 14, 2013
Predators, if caught, ended up dead and that included birds of prey like hawks and owls, and mammals like otters and stoats. There were often special rules for foxes, though, even though foxes could do huge amounts of damage to young game birds. Keepers were usually forbidden to shoot foxes – the "sacred" fox – because the foxes were to be kept as the quarry for fox-hunting, which started on the first Monday in November. Grouse shooting started on 12th August, the partridge season in September, and the pheasant season in October, so the gentlemen had plenty to keep them occupied through the autumn and into the winter.
Hunting foxes with dogs is illegal now, but in the Regency period it was practised wherever the countryside was suitable, and especially in Midland counties like Leicestershire. Many, perhaps most, gentlemen hunted. One exception was Beau Brummell who apparently would not ride for any distance with the hunt because the pristine tops of his riding boots might become muddy! And Oscar Wilde (not in our period but worth quoting) called it "the pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable".