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Hunting Phrasebook

Don’t be put off by the unusual terms and actions you hear and see in the trail hunting field.  Like any traveller in a strange country the trail hunting novice will soon pick up a smattering of the language, soon becoming fluent.  The following should help those keen to enhance their language skills:


All on -  A term used by the Whipper-in to the Huntsman to tell him all the hounds are present.

Amateur Huntsman – A Master who hunts hounds - not a derogatory term, but used to distinguish them from professional (paid) Hunt Staff.

Autumn Hound Exercise – The preliminary part of trail hunting from August until the Opening Meet. This starts at first light, or late evening before dusk, and is now used to get hounds and horses fit.


Babbler – A hound that speaks when it is not hunting (i.e. without a true line or when it is way behind the pack) is said to be a babbler or babbling.

Benches - The raised wooden platforms at the kennels on which the hounds sleep.

Bitch – Female hound

Blind - The country is blind when covered with leaf and long grass.  A fence is bling when any ditches are hidden in the same way.

Blowing away – The quick pulsating notes of a Huntsman’s horn as he blows hounds away when they are hunting. A thrilling sound which communicated a sense of urgency to the hounds and lets the Field Master know that the time has come to move on swiftly following hounds.

Blowing out – The long mournful notes of a Huntsman’s horn as he calls hounds to him.

Brush – The tail of a fox.

Bullfinch - A high uncut thorn hedge that often has to be jumped through rather than over.

Bye-Day - An extra day fitted into the calendar of hunt meets that has not been advertised previously.


Cap – The daily charge to come out trail hunting, collected by the Hon. Secretary. 

“Car Please” – Is shouted to the Field to keep to the left and to let cars through on the road.

Cast – When the hounds are looking for the line they cast themselves in various directions to recover the scent.  The Huntsman may cast the hounds towards where he thinks they may pick it up.  Followers must remain quiet and still.

Check – When hounds lose the line - hence the need to cast (see above).

Country – The boundary area in which a hunt operates, as recognised by the M.F.H.A.

Couples – Hounds are always counted in couples, so 12 and a half couple = 25 hounds.  This comes from the practice of attaching a young hound to an older hound by a "couple" (two leather collars linked on a chain) to teach the younger hound to follow in the pack.

Covert – Pronounced "cover".  Usually a wood, spinney or patch of undergrowth where the trail layer may commence their line.

Cry – When hounds speak (bark) to the line.  In “full cry” the majority of the pack are speaking on their hunted line.

Cur Dog – A canine that is not a hound.

Cut & Laid - the process of maintaining a hedge where the branches are cut half through near the ground and bent over, with stakes driven into the ground, and tied at the top with binders, then neatly trimmed.  Cutting and laying a hedge is a skill that takes many years to learn.

D / E

Dog – A male hound

Draft - The process where by the Huntsman selects individual hounds from the whole pack to take trail hunting the following day. 

Draw – Hounds draw a covert searching for a scent.

Entered – To enter a hound is to teach it to join in with the rest of the pack, as in the Autumn hound exercising period.  After the opening meet all such hounds become “First Season” hounds.  An unentered hound is one what has not yet been trail hunting for a full season.


Feather – When a hound is not certain he is on the line he feathers the scent i.e. he snuffles along the line feathering his stern from side to side.  He will not speak on the line until he is certain of it.

Field – The mounted followers.

Field Master – The person in charge of leading and controlling the Field.  Always follow the Field Master and never ride in front.

Foil – Any smell or disturbed ground that spoils the line.  The line may be foiled when the person laying the line doubles back on himself, or when cattle or sheep cross the line.  Riders and foot followers can foil a line.

Full Cry - when all hounds speak together on a line - a wonderful sound!


“Gate Please” – Shouted backwards on going through a gate which should be closed.  If this is not acknowledges by a raised hand you must ensure the gate is shut.

“Good Morning” – The appropriate greeting at the meet.

“Good Night” – The appropriate farewell for the end of your day, regardless of time.

Green Ribbon - worn on the tail of a young or inexperienced horse that may behave unpredictably.


Hand behind the back - Means this horse needs space and may kick if crowded.

Hand in the air by a gateway - Signal to people coming towards the gate, but out of hearing, that the gate should be shut. The response to which should be to hold your hand in the air to show you have got the message and will shut the gate.  If in any doubt shut the gate.

Head - To head hounds i.e. to cut in front of them when they are on a line, is a cardinal sin.

Headland - The strip of land around the edge of a field of crops.  A farmer may ask the Field to ride on the headland to avoid damaging crops.

Heel – When hounds run the line in the opposite direction to which the trail layer has run.  It usually indicates poor scenting conditions.

“Hold Hard”  – An expression used by the Field Master, asking the field to remain where they are and not follow them, or for the Field to stop and wait.

Holloa – Pronounced holler.  Traditionally a loud sound made by the voice to encourage hounds to move towards the line and stay on it.  It should be used reservedly by experienced members of the hunt, and only if it can assist the Huntsman. The rider will raise their cap / hat and point it and their horse's head in the direction the line was laid. You may hear the huntsman call "Hoic Holloa" which indicated that the Holloa has been heard but needs to be repeated to get his bearings.

Hot Bitches - female hounds that are in season - usually kept separate from the main pack in their own yard.

Hound – All scent hunting dogs are referred to as hounds.  It is the duty of mounted followers to keep our of the way of the hounds, not vice versa.

Hound Exercise - in summer the hunt staff will start to walk hounds out in the country, usually on bicycles (the hunt staff, not the hounds) to get them fit.

Hunt Button – Every hunt has its own button engraved with its initials or insignia.  The hunt button is awarded by the Masters to followers in recognition of services to the hunt and is to be worn with pride.

Huntsman – The person who hunts the hounds and is in charge of the kennels.  There is only one huntsman on the hunting field per day.  A huntsman may also be a master.  The huntsman has absolute right of way at all times.

Hunt Staff - The Huntsman and all those who work in the kennels and stables. They were formally called hunt servants (and working for a hunt is still called "Hunt Service") because they were , in effect, servants of (and paid by) the Masters.

Hunting Tie - also know as a "stock", not to be confused with a normal neck tie worn during Autumn hound exercise.  It is recommended that the ends of the tie be secured to the shirt with safety pins to prevent the ends flapping in the wind.  Hunt ties should be  secured with a tie/stock pin placed horizontally.  Hunt Staff secure their hunting ties with a vertical pin.  A plain white or cream hunting tie is correct.

J / K

Joint Masters – Those people who have been appointed by the Hunt Committee to share the many tasks associated with the Hunt.  They are entitled to use M.F.H. after their names.  Female Masters are Masters - not Mistresses.  Sometimes a Master will also hunt hounds: he or she will then be referred to as an "amateur" huntsman. 

Keep in please - a signal given to members of the Field when riders must keep to the verge or off the crops.

Kennel Huntsman – Is in full charge of all things pertaining to the hounds – cleanliness, feeding, lodging etc but is answerable to the Master who hunts hounds.

Kick on - You may get this response when you make way for someone at a gate or jump.  It mean you don't have to wait for him / her and should carry on.  Or it may be just general encouragement.


Lark - Jumping fenced when hounds are not running.

Lawn Meet – A meet where refreshments are provided by someone, usually the owner of the property where the meet is taking place.  This person should be thanked by everyone as they are leaving the meet.  Good etiquette dictated that horses should be plaited for lawn meets.

Ley - Newly seeded grassland - best to go around the headland to avoid causing damage.

Lift - The Huntsman will lift his hounds when he thinks they may be better able to pick up the line from a different spot.

Line – The scent trail.  This is artificially laid since the Hunting Act 2004 hunting ban to copy the likely line of a fox across country.

Loose Horse - Shouted when someone has fallen off and the horse is running away.  A helping hand catching a loose horse is always appreciated by the rider.


Mark - The pack will "mark" at the point where the object of the artificial scent trail is finally buried (formally this would occur at the point where the quarry had gone to ground, often in a rabbit hole, or badger sett).  The cry of the chase is replaced by a more intense barking sound.

Master (M.F.H.) – Master of Foxhounds.  They are responsible for the running of the hunt and for liaison with farmers and landowners.  They should have right of way at all times second only to the hunt staff.

“Master/Huntsman/Whip/Hounds please/ on the right/left” – This means give way to these people as they have a job to do.  Everyone should move to one side so they have an easy passage.  Always turn you horse's head to face hounds when in proximity to avoid the risk of kicking a hound.

Meet - Where hounds and the Field meet before they set off trail hunting.

M.F.H.A. - Masters of Foxhounds Association.  The Governing Body for registered packs of Foxhounds, representing 171 packs that hunt within the law in England and Wales, and 8 packs in Scotland.

Mixed Pack - Usually a Huntsman will hunt a pack of either dog or bitch hounds on a hunting day.  But sometimes a Huntsman will draft a mixed pack for the day.

Music - Hounds make "music" when in full cry.


Old Pasture - Grassland that hasn't been ploughed for decades.  It has a wonderfully thick root structure which means it can take a lot of hammer, and doesn't mark easily.

Opening Meet – The first day of the formal trail hunting season.

Over-ride - When riders over take the Master or even hounds, usually when out of control - quite embarrassing!

Own the line - The first hound to pick up the scent owns the line.

P / Q

Point – The point of a run is measured from where it starts to where it finished - as the crow flied, rather than as hounds ran.  Going ‘On Point’ is a job given to a whip or a senior member of the hunt to ride out wide looking for signs of the quarry.

Point to Point - a days racing over fence organised by the hunt as a fund raising activity and a way of repaying the generosity of the farming community.

Puppy - A hound which is new to hunting that season.  It will appear fully grown.

Quarry – Traditionally this would have been a fox, however since the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004 the quarry is an artificial trail / scent that it laid for hounds to follow.


Ratcatcher - A tweed jacket usually worn by mounted followers during Autumn hound exercise, as opposed to black / navy jacket.

Red Ribbon - Worn on the tail of a horse who is known to kick.  If your horse kicks you should stay to the back of the field.  Other riders should take note of horses with red ribbons in their tails and give them plenty of space.

Ride - A path through a covert.

Riot – When hounds start to speak to anything that it not their true quarry.

Roots - Any root crop - potatoes, turnips, etc


Scent – The smell left by whatever has passed that way be it fox, or artificial trail.  It is always an unknown quantity and varies with the weather, temperature and general conditions.

Secretary – The Honorary Hunt Secretary (unpaid) deals with day to day inquiries from subscribers and those wishing to visit on a daily basis.  Visitors should seek this person out at the meet to pay their cap to them.

Single File Please - Shouted when the Field is required to ride in single file close to the fence boundary of a field in order to protect crops or sensitive grassland.

Speak – Hounds do not bark, they speak or are speaking when they are ‘on the line’ (hunting a scent)

Stern – The tail of a hound, always called his stern.

Stirrup Cup - the drink offered by the host at a meet

Subscriber – Someone who pays an annual subscription to hunt with a pack of hounds for the season.  Subscriptions should be paid as early as possible but always before the Opening Meet.


Tally Ho – A cry given by senior members when viewing the quarry to aid the Huntsman. It can be followed by ‘back’ or ‘over’  to give further information.

Tantivying - the act of riding cross country usually over jumps when not engaged in following the hounds.  This should never be done unless following the Field Master who may be entertaining the mounted field.

Tiger Trap - a man-made wooden "A" shaped jump, usually over a ditch. Can be jumped from either side.

Trail - the scent left by the quarry.  Since the Hunting Act 2004 the scent used is an ethically sourced, quarry-based scent.

Trail Laying - the trail is laid by dragging a scent infected sock/cloth along the ground. This can be done from a horse, a quad, or on foot, and is laid across the country taking a route that might be taken by a fox – i.e. through hedgerows and woods and along ditches in essence simulating the natural movement of a fox across the countryside. 


Walk – Hounds at walk, often known as Puppy Walking, is where hound puppies are sent to private homes from the age of 2 months where they learn all about people, children, farm animals, vehicles and everything a normal puppy would encounter. When the hound puppies get to big and boisterous they are returned to kennels to learn how to fit in to the pack.

“Ware Hole/Wire" – Ware is often pronounced ‘war’  and means beware.  Therefore if you hear ‘War ‘ole’ it means there is a hole in the ground coming up! Similarly any other hazard.

Whelp - a hound puppy.

Whip in the air – usually by the Field Master, means everyone should stop where they, NOT wait until you get level with the Field Master and then stop.

Whipper in (Whip) – the person who helps the Huntsman control the hounds.  This person has right of way at all times and will only give way to the Huntsman.

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