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As a farmer’s daughter, I’ve always felt ambivalent about foxes. I grew up in a family that regarded hunting as a countryside tradition that was necessary to reduce the number of creatures that were regarded as little more than vermin. I’ve seen newborn lambs that have been killed by a fox and it’s a very upsetting sight.
My first experience of cubbing was on a pony that we were planning to sell on. The pony’s price could be increased at market if it had had some hunting experience. Cubbing began in September before the hunting season proper kicked off. It was exceptionally boring for an eleven-year-old to hang around a wood or copse waiting for the fox cubs to be disposed of. I didn’t know how they were dispatched as I wasn’t near enough to see. Nor would I have wanted to. I just remember getting cold and hungry and not really understanding what other people saw in this activity.
Not long after that I decided foxhunting wasn’t for me. Not especially through moral reasons but being an asthmatic child I didn’t have the stamina to hunt on horseback all day. Horses invariably get stronger and stronger as the day of hunting progresses. They are on an adrenalin high when the hounds are in full cry and I didn’t rate my chances of staying in control.
Contrarily perhaps, when I go back ‘home’ to Herefordshire, the sight of the hunt at a country pub gives me an irrepressible, visceral thrill. It’s impossible not to feel the goose pimples rise and the heart quicken when they move off to start the hunt. Horses kept stabled at home usually go spare when they hear the hunt anywhere nearby. Even horses or ponies that have never ridden to hounds will have this inbuilt response. I have never attended a drag-hunt meet so it would be interesting to see if the same vicarious thrill is in the air. Apparently many hunt memberships have increased since the ban was imposed in 2004, so a lot of people, while enjoying a day out with the hounds, don’t enjoy the idea of killing a fox. On the other hand many old-school hunting people regard it as merely a ritual now, a pale imitation of what hunting should be.
Now I’m a town dweller I hunger for any contact with the natural world. On a recent trip to my country bolthole in the UK I was lucky enough to encounter a family of foxes that came out daily to entertain us. You would have to be a cold-hearted person indeed not to be moved by the fox cubs’ playful antics. Even the sheep and lambs that they shared the field with seemed totally unperturbed by their presence. The vixen sat and stared right at us while her cubs played. Obviously smart enough to realised that we were far enough away not to pose a threat. Through the spotting scope I got a perfect view of her beautiful, vulpine face. I know foxes are still a pest to farmers with poultry and livestock but it would be interesting to see the figures as to how much this has worsened since hunting was banned. While I’m aware that as a meat eater I have no right at all to any moral high ground, the vixen and fox cubs won me over completely and I’m glad I made the decision not to foxhunt all those years ago.
Angela writes using pseudonym, Susan Carey. She has dual nationality, GB/NL and lives in Nijmegen. Susan has had short fiction published on multiple platforms and was a runner-up in the 2018 and 2017 Casket of Fictional Delights Flash Competitions. Her writing has also been published and performed by amongst others: Mslexia, Liars’ League, Reflex Fiction, the Casket and of course the wonderful Writers Abroad. In 2020 she published her short story collection, Healer. Tweets at @su_carey
Interesting blog, Angela. We’ve been plagued by foxes since we started keeping chickens, now on no’s 14 and 15 over the last 3 years! We’ve tried every deterrent bar keeping the chickens locked in all day, which is hardly the point for free range eggs! What really annoys me is that they kill for fun, not always for food. So I’m on the side of the chicken here….
Thanks Louise! You have my sympathies. When we house-sitted on the farm in Wales it was a real problem. Can you imagine how bad we felt when we had to tell the owners that a duck, gosling, chicken had been snatched while under our care. Thankfully owners were easygoing about it. Foxes will always cause mixed responses I fear!
Lovely pic Angela! I saw foxes quite recently in my brother’s back garden – in East Sheen of all places. About as suburban as you can get, but it is close to Richmond park. I was thrilled to see them sporting amongst the dahlias!
It is a thrilling sight, isn’t it? Even though they are pretty common, in the UK at least. I didn’t take the pic myself. Frank got a nice one of the vixen but it was so far away it was difficult to see the detail.