Why are Terriermen in trail hunting?

Terriermen on quadbikes during a supposed trail hunt.This blog is part of a series of blogs that feature excerpts of IFAW’s report Trail of Lies, which is the most comprehensive study to date examining the hunting with dogs debate and the practices hunters take to undermine the ban. –The eds.

They should not be there.

The fox urine artificial scents that hunts say their trail layers lay during trail hunting do not suddenly go into a badger sett or disappear into a hole in the ground, so the services of a terriermen and his terriers to bolt it back to the surface are not required. 

Why do we still see terriermen in trail hunts then?

Read the following extract of the IFAW’s Trail of Lies report to learn more about it:

In traditional foxhunting the hunt would employ one or more terriermen. Their role was to stop or block fox earths and badger setts in the area where the hunting was to take place to prevent foxes from going to ground.  They were also responsible for dealing with hunted foxes that had gone to ground. These foxes would be located using terriers and then dug out and shot or, alternatively, the fox would be bolted to be hunted again by the hounds.

Terriermen would have at least one terrier with then as well as equipment such as spades, nets and terrier locating devices. They normally followed the hunt on quadbikes but also in 4x4s or on foot depending on the terrain. Hunts now refer to terriermen as 'countrymen' and say they are employed to open and close gates, repair fences and lay trails. (…)

It is difficult to imagine which roles terriermen could now play in trail hunting and we should not expect to find them with trail hunts. However, IFAW’s Wildlife Crime Investigators’ hunt monitoring reports, produced during the 10 years of the ban, show that terriermen were seen with the hunt in at least 78% of the hunt monitoring operations (…).

In fact, the presence of terriermen has been confirmed in several successful prosecutions against people connected to the hunt. And such terriermen have themselves been convicted for offences related to their activities connected with hunts (although when this is the case the hunts tend to deny such connections), as shown in the following table.

Hunt Accused Role Investigators Prosecutors Verdict Court
Flint & Denbigh Hunt William Francis Armstrong Terrierman Police CPS guilty Prestatyn Magistrates
Fernie Foxhounds  Kevin Allen Terrierman LACS CPS guilty Leicester Magistrates
Middelton Hunt Lee Martin Terrierman LACS CPS guilty York Magistrates Court
Ross Harriers Hunt Alan Hill Terrierman Police RSPCA guilty Hereford Magistrates’ Court
Ross Harriers Hunt James Smith Terrierman Police RSPCA guilty Hereford Magistrates’ Court
Ross Harriers Hunt Jack Hudd Terrierman Police RSPCA guilty Hereford Magistrates’ Court
Cottesmore Hunt Dean Jones Terrierman LACS CPS guilty Leicester Magistrates Court.

It is possible that terriermen play different roles in trail hunting (i.e. laying trails on quadbikes) and that is why these days, they tend to be called countrymen. This, however, may be just a euphemism to hide their true purpose). Alternatively they may be simply a token presence aimed to ‘simulate’ the hunt before the ban when they always were part of the meet. But this justification seems unlikely as hunt monitors have seen them very active, operating basically as they used to operate before the ban. This includes carrying their terriers in their quadbikes, which would be unnecessary if they are just for show. Also, often terriermen in today’s trail hunts cover their faces with balaclavas and sometimes use quadbikes without number plates. This certainly suggests that they are trying to hide something. Examples of terriermen in trail hunts (or claimed trail hunts) can be seen in the case studies shown towards the end of this report.

(…)[Part of the first case study in the full report referring the Seavington Hunt prosecution] For instance, in the morning, a few minutes after the hunt started, they recorded the huntsman sending the hounds to search for a scent in a scrub. This was while the whipper-in was on point to alert anyone in case a fox bolted.  The hounds found a fox which led them to a hole in the ground (obviously artificial laid scents do not ‘hide’ underground).  Terriermen were called and they tried to bolt the fox while the hunt’s staff and the hounds patiently waited close by facing the hole. They did not go elsewhere to find the supposed artificial trail. After the fox did not bolt and the terriermen proceeded to dig it out, they all left. Later in the afternoon the hunt was recorded elsewhere chasing a fox which led to the conviction.(…)

(…)[Part of the ‘Trail hunting as a false alibi for illegal hunting’ chapter in the full report]  Simon Wild, an experienced independent monitor whose evidence also secured convictions of illegal hunting of offenders connected with foxhunts, stated: “I have mainly looked at three different fox hunts and have attended 300 plus hunt meets in the last 10 years.  Only one hunt tried genuine trail hunting, but even that one soon lapsed.  That hunt is trail hunting for short show sessions, but it is not genuine as the hounds are soon allowed to go their own way.  I have spoken to the huntsman of that hunt, and he claims: ‘how do you tell the difference when they are following a fox trail or our trail?’  The other two hunts keep a rag in a box with a bottle of fox urine.  They would lay a trail over a field if a TV camera was near, but otherwise never bother laying a trail.   And all hunts have had terrier-men following and flushing or digging the fox out that has run to ground.”(…)

Looking at the evidence we have available the answer to the question of why terriermen are still present in trail hunting is clear to us. They are just there to help the hunt to hunt foxes that go to ground, as they did before the ban. We believe they are part of the conspiracy of illegal hunters to build false alibies to avoid prosecution, and to make the gathering of evidence of the hunt’s activities more difficult.

If the trail hunts are hunting legally they should definitively not be there.


England and Wales residents ask your PCC to ensure the Hunting Ban is properly enforced.

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