Trail hunting FAQs

Winter panorama, Parke, Devon

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions on trail 'hunting'.

Do we allow fox hunting on our land?

No. Hunting wild mammals with dogs was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004: National Trust land is no exception. 

The law does allow what is known as trail hunting to continue. This activity involves people on foot or horseback following a scent along a pre-determined route with hounds or beagles. It effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being chased, injured or killed. 

We are no longer issuing licences for any trail hunting activities. In coming to a decision on this complex, contentious issue, our Board of Trustees considered a wide range of factors, including but not limited to, the recent guilty verdict in the court case of the Masters of the Foxhounds Association, the appropriate use of charitable funds, the risk of reputational harm to the Trust, and the result of the recent members’ resolution vote on this matter at our October 2021 AGM.

Do we allow stag hunting on our land?

No. Hunting deer and stags with packs of dogs has been illegal since 2004 and stag hunting groups do not have permission to operate on Trust land for any purposes. If anyone witnesses anything that they believe to be illegal, we advise them to contact the police directly, in addition to reporting the incident to National Trust staff. We will continue to provide all possible support to the police to ensure any incidents are appropriately investigated.

What is drag hunting? 

Drag hunting is an equestrian event created in the 1800s where a scent is laid along a pre-determined route, which leads to specific fences and there is a known beginning and end. Drag hunts use a variety of hounds, including foxhounds and bloodhounds. Bloodhounds track a human runner, while other hounds follow a chemical scent (usually aniseed).

The aim of drag hunting is not to chase animals. Hounds are trained not to follow live quarry and the routes are laid in areas where a live quarry presence is unlikely. Drag hunting can provide an alternative to the use of a pack of hounds in the countryside while minimising the risk to wildlife.

As the route is predetermined the hounds can be kept safely away from livestock, vulnerable crops, roads and railway lines. The route can also be organised so that the risk to sensitive and fragile habitats can be minimised. Drag hunting is governed by the Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association.

Are we aware of reports of illegal activity on Trust land? 

We do not allow illegal activity on our land and we take any validated reports of illegal activity seriously. We ask that any reports are passed to the police directly, as the appropriate body to investigate criminal matters, in addition to notifying our staff on the ground where possible. We will continue to work with our partners in the police to ensure incidents on National Trust land are appropriately investigated. We are not able to comment on the outcome of any reported incidents.