Bloodhound hunting is a totally non-blood sport. It was started here earlier this year by Islander Asa Wingate, a former National Hunt jockey. Asa is Master Huntsman of The Isle of Wight Farmers’ Bloodhounds, with his friend Roger Broomfield the Master.
They initially started bloodhound hunting for their own pleasure, but it has quickly grown in popularity as more people heard about it. Asa explained: “It is a totally different sport to fox hunting – if you like, as different as football is to Rugby Union. What we do is have a ‘quarry’, which is a human runner, and the hounds sniff him or her, which ever the case may be.
“The runner then goes off, usually with a 10 to 15-minute start for a three to four-mile run, and the hounds aim to catch him before he reaches the finishing point. Ideally, the hounds catch the runner within the last 100 yards or so. We normally do three or four runs each meet.
“It is hunting in one sense because the hounds are hunting the runner, and they are great fun to watch because they are very loud and have a great sense of smell.”
The sport has been given a warm reception on the Island since it was introduced here in March, with between 20 and 30 people taking part in the hunting exercise each week throughout the summer. Although there is no bloodhound hunting season as such, hunting normally takes place in the autumn and winter months when it is cooler, with the first full meet having been held just a few weeks ago.
Each rider donates £3 to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Fund charity for hunting, and 10 per cent of any further takings are handed to the farmers on whose land the bloodhounds hunt. Asa said: “We have had some great response from landowners and gamekeepers, and we are looking forward to some exciting days’ hunting.”
The IW pack currently comprises nine bloodhounds and six pups, the latter believed to be the first bloodhounds to be bred and registered on the Island. Asa hopes the pack numbers will increase to around 20 in due course, and because bloodhound hunting is a non-blood sport, the pack can hunt on any day of the week, including Sundays.
The inaugural meet of the Isle of Wight Farmers’ Bloodhounds proved a highly successful event with around 40 riders taking part in the non-blood sport, recently introduced to the Island by Asa Wingate, the Master Huntsman, and his friend Roger Broomfield, the Master.
The IW pack, currently comprising nine bloodhounds, were soon showing their hunting prowess as they followed the trail set by the runner across the downs near Brighstone. It is anticipated there will be regular meets throughout the autumn, winter and spring for the sport that is continuing to grow in popularity.
Afterwards many of those who took part praised the high levels of organisation of the meet, claiming the attention to detail was the finest they had ever enjoyed while out hunting.