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Hunting The Clean Boot Explained

What is it?

The unequivocal, publicly verifiable, humane hunting of human runners that neither drag, nor wear any form of scent enhancement.

Hunting the clean boot is currently done with cross bred bloodhounds that have never hunted an animal quarry. They love humans, because not only do they give them food and shelter, but they get to hunt them as well. These hounds are trained from a very early age not to chase anything by sight.  If a bloodhound sees a human, it means only one thing - fun!  It is possible other breeds of hounds could hunt the clean boot, but so far no-one has had the courage or patience to see it through!

The South Downs Bloodhounds
The History

Contrary to common belief, hunting the clean boot with bloodhounds goes back to well before World War II, but it’s the countryside’s best kept secret. Not deliberately so, but because it is not controversial, it never gets any media attention. The oldest pack currently in existence is The Coakham Bloodhounds, started in 1976, and there are currently around 15 packs of bloodhounds in the UK.

Bloodhounds love humans and vice versa
Give us a kiss!

Hunting is a hugely popular equestrian sport, because it tests a rider, without being competitive. Many of those taking part for the first time will not be confident riders and may be particularly nervous about jumping. However they find that in supportive company and in a controlled challenging environment, they start to do things they would be too nervous to do in cold blood. Hunting the clean boot is becoming increasingly popular, not least because it is gaining recognition as a totally humane form of hunting. It is also a very accessible sport, with clean boot packs openly advertising their meets on their websites and social media. However, because it is so popular, riders have to book in before they can take part, but this is solely to prevent there being more horses on the land than it can accommodate without doing unacceptable damage.

Shetland jumping
Yeeha!
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Bloodhound hunts are very welcoming to people who haven’t hunted before. You don’t have to 'know anyone’ to be able to join a hunt, nor do most packs insist you go out and buy ‘all the right gear’ before you try the sport. Most people who come out with these hunts do so because it gives them organised, controlled access to land they wouldn’t otherwise be permitted to cross. For young children in particular, this is good physical exercise, which also gives them a good understanding of animals and the countryside. Much healthier for your child to be on a pony rather than on a computer!

How does it work?

Masters of Bloodhounds approach landowners and farmers to ask for permission to hunt on their land. Once permission is given, the Masters will produce a map and check with the landowners and farmers that the routes planned will not interfere with any of their farming, shooting and/or conservation interests. In the planning of the routes, the Masters are effectively carrying out a risk assessment to ensure as much as possible, there are no likely points of conflict with other landowners/farmers and the general public. For example sometimes warning signs are put up to ensure dog walkers, who might otherwise let their dogs off their leads, end up with their dog joining the pack as they hunt.

Bloodhounds catch their Quarries
Bloodhounds catch their Quarries
A tired bloodhound gets a lift.
Can I car/foot follow a hunt?
Foot followers at the meet
A hospitable meet.

Following the hunt on foot or in a car is becoming very popular, not least because the routes are preplanned and you can get to good vantage points to see what is going on. There is no formal charge for foot following, but it is hoped those doing so will make a donation in the bucket to help feed the hounds. Hunts are 'not for profit organisations' and most struggle to make ends meet. Some foot followers also like to get involved with jobs to help the day run smoothly, and that is most welcome.

Spectators watch the hunt
Holding the gate up?
Drinks and donations
Are you old enough for port?
Bloodhound gets a lift
I'm tired, give us a lift!
An eye to eye meeting with a bloodhound.
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