Enjoy the elation of the bloodless hunt, its track and chase, with all of the rich traditions, dressage and social etiquettes. Drag Foxing now graces the fields and leas of Ireland as an alternative to the Fox.
Proponents of this sport hail it as completely captivating, evoking the affluent rural life of Ireland's great estates. Take to the fields, in the thrill of the chase, on a cross country extravaganza of hounds, superbly equipped mounts, breath taking scenery, outstanding camaraderie and team spirit, with the with the added excitement and challenges that the natural domain presents. This unforgettable adrenaline filled experience won't disappoint.
The types of drag hunting practised in Ireland are as follows:
1. Mounted on horseback following a laid scent known as "drag lines".
2. Mounted on horseback following a human scent (Hunting the Clean Boot).
3. Hound trailing.
In Drag Lines Hunting, the pack of hounds follows a line of artificial scent made up of various substances and chemicals i.e. paraffin, aniseed and animal excreta, which is laid out in sections across the countryside by a person known as the Dragsman.
Mounted on horseback he lays out the draglines over the selected area to be hunted. This can be done up to half an hour before a meet.
Another version of this is to have the Dragman lay out the line as the hunt is underway. The first section of the hunt ends when the mounted field caught up with the Dragsman. From this another Dragsman can be chosen to drag out the next line and so on for rest of the day.
The drag is pulled along by the Dragsman in anything from a rabbit skin to a woollen casing with a string through the middle. The drag man can then pull it behind him on his trek along the line. A straight line is easier to follow than a twisting one with the best scenting surfaces includes grass, sand and earth.
Note: There are many versions of making up and setting out a drag scent. Whatever method is used the aim is to make the dragline as natural as possible and to make the hounds work.
Hunting the Clean Boot involves the hunting of a person with blood hounds, not by the smell of anything he carries or wears, but by the human scent, his smell. The mounted field follows behind the pack.
The season for Hunting the Clean Boot falls between October to March and the meets take place at the weekends
Hounds used bloodhounds - supreme trackers and very affectionate animals.
In Hound Trailing, an artificial scent is laid out over a course. Hounds are released in groups and the winner is the first hound to complete the course. Betting is an integral aspect of the activity.
Hound Trailing involves mainly harrier hunt club packs and the season runs from March to September with meets being held at the weekends.
Hounds used are either the Kerry Beagle, the Northern Irish Hound (used only for drag hunting) or the English Hound. Main Areas Armagh, Clare, Cork, Kerry
The quarry of a drag hunt is the drag, a strong smelling lure for hounds in lieu of live game. Its quality is judged by four factors:
1. That the odour of the drag is pleasing enough to the hounds for them to want to follow.
2. That it is strong enough so that they are able to do so.
3. That it lies breast high so that they can go at a good pace.
4. That it lasts and does not evaporate before the hounds have been set onto it.
It's quite simple. Instead of chasing a terrified animal, hounds and mounted riders follow an artificial scent which has been specially laid along a pre-planned route. The scent can be laid in a number of ways - a rag can be soaked with the scent (aniseed or animal urine are common scents to use) and then a mounted rider with a fifteen minute head start drags the rag after him as he gallops along the course. Alternatively it can be trailed by a human running the route which the hounds are to follow.
There will be an end to hounds trespassing onto roads and railway lines during which they pose a threat to public safety.
No longer will farmers be plagued by arrogant hunters invading their property and damaging meadows, crops and gardens as well as worrying and killing livestock and domestic pets.
The difficulty level of a drag hunt and duration can be set to accommodate the level of skill of those taking part. Therefore a shorter course with simpler jumps can be arranged for less experienced riders and a more challenging one for those with greater riding skills.
Those taking part in drag hunting are guaranteed a good day's sport. In foxhunting and carted deer hunting, there are often lengthy delays while the fox or deer is being located to chase. For those who get pleasure from riding cross country, this is boring, frustrating and not at all enjoyable. Such periods of inactivity would not occur in drag hunting because the day's activities are pre-planned and everyone can be sure that there will be lots of equestrian sport to enjoy.
Drag hunting provides the thrill of the chase but reduces the risk to horses and riders associated with jumping blindly over hedges and other obstacles, behind which may be concealed dangerous ditches or farm implements. And to the benefit of the riders, trails can be designed so that the drag hunt circles around to end close to where it started. This would eliminate the danger associated with riders travelling miles along dark country lanes to return to their parked horseboxes (an inconvenience to riders and motorists alike).