Writer and Foxhunter Lauren Giannini has written an informative
piece on the vocabulary of foxhunting. In a light manner she has
presented a glossary of terms, each with an easily understood and
functional definition—a helpful listing for both foxhunting neophyte
and seasoned follower of hounds.
For the uninitiated, the following paragraph might as well be
written in Urdu or Farsi, but a simplified glossary of terms
“On a bye day during cubbing, the ratcatcher field gathered at the
meet full of excitement. They hacked to the first draw and waited
while hounds drew. Two couple burst from covert in full cry, quickly
honored by the rest, as the huntsman doubled ‘gone away’ and several
mounted members tipped their hats silently in the direction taken by
wily Charles James. The field leaped the nearby panel at a gallop,
pulses quickening to the music of hounds in full cry. Alas, the
quarry doubled back, the pack overshooting the line in their
ambitious drive. The Master scorched several thrusters with a curt
‘Hold hard!’ and ‘Ware hounds!’ while whippers-in discouraged young
entry from riot and the huntsman blew the fox to ground.”
BYE—Actually a bonus day of hunting, not usually noted on the
CAP—Passing the hat a) to collect the fee guests pay for the
privilege of hunting with a pack; b) special donation for a worthy
cause, paneling fund, charitable concern, etc. c) in the old days,
masters and staff wore the “hunt cap” made obsolete by ASTM safety
regulations that require protective helmet with proper harness on
CAST—To search for fox or to find lost line; huntsman may make a
cast, sometimes hounds cast themselves.
CHARLES JAMES—The fox, aka “Reynard.”
CHECK—The exciting chase comes to a halt, one hopes temporarily,
when hounds lose the line; considered a great opportunity to tighten
girths, put oneself back into order, and pass ﬂasks.
COLORS—Each hunt has distinctive collar color registered with the
MFHA and enthusiasts consider themselves honored to be awarded the
privilege of wearing the hunt’s colors and buttons. Gentlemen step
up from black melton to scarlet coats and top hats; ladies in the
field, however, maintain their black meltons and some opt for the
elegant formality of the shadbelly and top hat.
COUPLE—Not as romantic as it seems, but definite togetherness to
train young hounds via special collars that tether them to older,
steadier hounds; also, how hounds are counted.
COVERT (pronounced “cover”)—Woodland or patches of brush where foxes
might be found (years ago, Casanova MFH/huntsman Capt. Ian Benson
named a patch of woods along the Weston Road the “Boardinghouse
Covert” because it was well populated with fox and other wildlife.
The name persists to this day.)
CRY—Exciting sound made by hounds when they ﬁnd a fox—in full cry;
also described as making music. The older term “giving tongue” is
not used as often for obvious reasons, but when hounds give tongue
on scent other than fox or on no scent at all, they are said to
babble, a very bad thing in terms of pack dynamics.
CUBHUNTING (cubbing)—Early hunting when young entry are brought out
to learn their jobs, when young fox cubs are learning their
roles—before the harvest of cornfields and crops and the start of
the formal season. Quite often, when the fox breaks covert (runs
away), they are allowed to do so in peace by some huntsmen in the
hopes of encouraging a “straight-running fox,” which provides the
most exciting runs or chases.
DOUBLE—Blood-stirring series of notes on the hunting horn that
announce a fox has gone away.
DOUBLE BACK—When the fox returns to covert after it has left.
DRAW—To search a covert for fox or other quarry; also used as a noun
as in, “That woods is a difﬁcult (or delightful) draw.)
DRIVE—What the best hounds possess—the instinctive urge to get well
forward on the line of the quarry—“That hound has great drive.”
EARTH—Where the fox goes to ground for its own protection and
survival; also the den—the fox’s underground burrow with escape
FEATHER—The action of a hound’s stern (tail) that indicates it is on
a line of scent or near one—before the hound “speaks” or cries or
FIELD—Great open spaces that the “field”—i.e., mounted or foot
followers—rides through. The field includes the MFH, staff and all
the people riding to hounds on a given day.
FIELD MASTER—Designated person who controls the field—sometimes must
chide enthusiasts for transgressions (not controlling their horses,
larking over fences, chatting after a “HARK PLEASE!”—a demand for
silence when master’s trying to listen for hounds, and various other
breaches of hunting etiquette. Very special position, as the field
master often leads the members of the field and thus must know how
to follow the chase, which is not the easiest thing to do by ear,
reading the ground, and instinct.
FIXTURE—Dates on the hunt’s calendar giving time and place where
hounds will meet. It is considered an invitation to hunt when you
receive a fixture card, but if you are not a subscribing member, be
sure to contact the hunt secretary to inquire about cap, attire,
GROUND—A fox takes shelter when it goes to ground. The huntsman
often dismounts, praising the pack, and blowing on his horn the
mournful quavering notes of “gone to ground.”
HOLD HARD—Verbal command heard often in the course of a day’s
chasing, loudly and definitively, to stop immediately! If used more
than once to a particular person, William P. Wadsworth, MFH and
author of “Riding to Hounds in America” claims it means, “Stop,
please, damn you!”
HUNTSMAN—The leader of the pack, lead hound in human form,
responsible for the hounds in every way, at kennels and out in the ﬁeld.
LINE—The trail left by the scent of the fox.
LARK—A bird, and also breach of etiquette by members of the ﬁeld who
jump fences when hounds are not running or race each other or act
unruly and disruptive.
MARK—When hounds indicate that their quarry has gone to ground—they
mark by giving tongue in a completely different voice than the full
cry that screams excitedly that they’re chasing a fox and also by
digging around the entrance to the earth or den.
MASTER—The Master of Foxhounds (MFH) or Master of Beagles or
Bassetts, MB, etc., the CEO of the pack.
MEET—Where hounds and enthusiasts gather for the day’s sport.
NOSE—The essential ability of the hound to detect scent.
PANEL—Jumpable places in fence lines for the field to leap over in
the course of the chase—usually coops, telephone poles, tiger traps
or stone walls set off by wooden or metal posts between fences
constructed of planks, split rails or wire.
RATCATCHER—Sounds ominous, but really just refers to informal
attire, which is correct during cubhunting.
RATE—Not whatever interest you’re paying, but a warning to hounds,
such as “Back to him!” or “Ware riot!”
RIOT—Whatever hounds might chase that they really shouldn’t; it’s
very bad when hounds run riot.
RUN—Used as both noun and verb: “Hounds ran their fox to ground at
the edge of the orchard and the field enjoyed a terrific run over
SCENT—The odor of a fox; scent can be good or bad (i.e., strong or
weak), easy to follow or difﬁcult to decipher, depending on the
weather, ground and atmospheric conditions.
SPEAK—Similar to making music, giving tongue, cry—most often what an
individual hound does vocally when it finds a fox: “Faithful opened
and spoke for some time before the rest of the pack took up the
STERN—Not gruff, but the tail of hounds, which gives rise to poetic
description: “A sea of black, tan and white sterns waving as hounds
surround the huntsman on the way to the first draw.”
THRUSTER—Any mounted member, who just can’t contain his/her
excitement; can’t seem to stay in line or hold horse without trying
to “win the hunt”—considered very bad form and earns verbal rockets
from the Master of Foxhounds (MFH): he/she who must be obeyed out in
the hunting field.
VIEW—Both noun and verb—the unbelievably rewarding moments when you
see the fox; also, VIEW HOLLOA—the verbal alert by a staff member
when the fox breaks covert and goes away, good signal to jam on your
hat, gather up your reins and be prepared for the chase.
WALK—In the summer and fall of their first year, puppies get sent
out to walk or live with people who have the mind, time and energy
to teach them some basic manners, etc.
WARE—Short for “Beware” – a warning to riders: ’Ware wire! ’Ware
hole! ’Ware hound! And a reprimand to hounds: ’Ware riot!
WHIPPER-IN—The staff member who assists the Huntsman in the control
of hounds; often, the first whipper-in is the understudy for
Huntsman (many aspire to hunt hounds someday); highly coveted
“honorary” position within a hunt’s membership that requires sharp
eyesight, excellent hearing, and intense desire to learn the names
and markings—and instantly recognize—every hound in the pack under
the most testing circumstances.