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The History of British Hunting

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People have been hunting in Britain since the beginning of time. Prehistoric men and women needed to feed their families and hunted aurochs (ancestors of cattle), stags and bison with tools made from stones, bones and antlers. Later, they used spears, bows and arrows to kill their prey. Over the decades, the sport has adapted, keeping in line with rules and regulations. Below we have shared some information on British hunting from the very beginning.

From the Beginning

During the Ice Ages, Britain was covered in snow so was home to mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses and reindeer. Hunting these large animals was a challenge so early hunters would force them over cliffs and then collect the spoils at the bottom.

In-between the Ice Ages temperatures were warm enough for animals we are used to seeing in Africa today, to migrate to Britain. If a hunter killed a straight tusked elephant or a rhino he could feed his family group for many weeks.

Hunting with Hounds

In Celtic Britain (from 500 BC) hunting with the help of Agassaei hounds became popular. Deer, wild boar, foxes and bears were the main targets during this time but when the Romans arrived they brought with them brown hares and fallow deer. They also introduced two new hound breeds, Castorian and Fulpine.

The first recorded fox hunt with hounds took place in Norfolk, in 1534. It wasn’t an organised hunt, simply a farmer trying to catch a fox with his farm hounds. It was a century later before organised fox hunts became more widespread, after a decline in deer hunting.

Game Shooting

Up until the end of the 17th century, game was either hunted with hawks and nets or shot when perched on trees or on the ground. Shotgun advancements in the 18th and 19th centuries saw pheasants being shot in flight instead. Noblemen and royalty in particular loved this new way of hunting.

In the middle of the 19th century, driven shooting with a double barrelled breech loading gun became popular. Shoots became more organised and Scotland became the go to place for Victorian hunters. Hunting was still very much a sport reserved for those with money at this time.

The Modern Era

Since the 1980s, hunting become less of a sport reserved for the rich and became much more affordable. Fox hunting was popular for many years, with foxes actually being imported from other European countries to cope with demand. There was controversy around the sport for quite a few decades and in November 2004 the Hunting Act was passed, making hunting with dogs unlawful in England and Wales.

For an overview of what you can shoot today please click here >

If you’re a keen huntsman or are thinking of taking up the sport, you’ll be pleased to know that we stock all the hunting and shooting equipment you could need.