Before I go into explaining the history of Foxhunting, keep in mind that Foxhunting takes place in many countries but often with slightly different traditions than those of the English hunt. In Canada(and USA), for example, the goal of hound-led hunts is not to kill the quarry; the emphasis is on the chase. The hunts are pre-arranged on a set route ahead of time on private property. The typical hunt rules apply otherwise(no hounds are involved).
Foxhunting, the chase of a fox by horsemen with a pack of hounds. In England, the home of the sport, foxhunting dates from at least the 15th century. In its inception, it was probably an adjunct to stag and hare hunting, with the same hounds used to chase each quarry.
Modern foxhunting took shape in the 19th century shortly after Hugo Meynell, the father of the modern English chase, started hunting, and it soon developed into a national upper-class pastime; a character in Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance calls it “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.” The sport often followed wherever the British Empire took root. Traditional procedure is still observed and the proper kit (clothing) worn. A fox hunt is conducted by the master, and, in theory, all who take part in it do so at the master’s invitation, even when they pay for the privilege. The hounds, generally 20 to 30 couples (matched pairs), are controlled by the huntsman, who may be the master but is generally the senior paid servant of the hunt. Two or three whippers-in assist in reconnaissance and in keeping the hounds together as a pack. Master, huntsman, and whippers-in take precedence over all other riders to hounds. The huntsman controls hounds by voice, his or her calls being known as cheers, and by a horn—a copper tube about 8 inches (20 cm) long that produces two notes of great carrying and penetrating quality.
Before World War I, foxhunting reached a zenith of popularity as an English field sport. Horse and hound breeding had arrived at a highly developed state, and hunting itself was well organized and regulated by the Master of Foxhounds Association. The sport of foxhunting survived a number of difficulties in the 20th century, notably changes in patterns of rural landownership and land use as great landowners were replaced by numerous smallholders, proliferation of barbed-wire fences, hardships caused by World Wars I and II, and some popular opposition to the sport on anticruelty and other grounds. Hunting continued, however, in the second half of the 20th century in England, Wales, Ireland, and parts of Scotland from November, when the harvest was gathered, until April, when new crops began to grow. The sport was also practiced in similar season in some parts of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
In the early 21st century, however, efforts to end the sport intensified, and in 2002 Scotland banned foxhunting. Two years later the British House of Commons outlawed the killing of wild mammals in hound-led hunts in England and Wales, although the ban provided for certain exceptions. Despite a number of legal challenges, the law went into effect in early 2005. Hunts have continued to be held throughout England and Wales, sometimes with the hunters and hounds following a previously laid scent trail rather than a live fox (drag hunting). When a live fox is hunted, the law requires the animal, if it is killed, to be shot by the hunters rather than killed by the hounds.