Drag hunting and hunting with Bloodhounds is a sport in which a pack of hounds follow either an artificially laid scent or the scent of a human over a pre-determined route. Most Draghound and Bloodhound packs are registered with the Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association (MDBA).
Drag hunting originally developed in the UK in the early 1800s as a means of testing the speed and agility of hounds by laying a scent trail over a specified distance. This in turn encouraged the practice of following the hounds on horseback. There are currently thirteen draghound packs in the UK registered with the MDBA made up mainly of English foxhounds.
The ‘quarry’ of the draghounds is a ‘drag’ which is normally a piece of absorbent material to which the scent is applied and laid across the ground by a rider or a runner. Scent is repeatedly applied to the drag en route. A variety of scents are used by the different drag-hunts. Most of the scents used incorporate human or animal urine of some origin mixed with aniseed while others consist of a chemical crystal mixed with water and oil.
A drag hunt is similar in nature to a fast cross country ride and takes place over a predetermined course or line and is designed for fast rides over designated jumps and obstacles. The ‘line layer’ or ‘drag man’ will set off about ten to thirty minutes before the hunt and at the end of the line, which could be a distance of three to six miles, the drag will be then lifted so that the hunt can stop to rest before setting off again a short while later. In general between three and eight lines would be laid during the day covering a distance of from ten to twenty miles. The lines would be laid according to a route agreed in advance with the landowners. The route need not be known by the followers although the huntsman and field master would have an idea of the proposed course. As there are no long periods spent ‘casting’ or looking for live quarry drag hunts usually last about three hours.
Bloodhound packs hunt human scent and follow the scent of a runner or the ‘clean boot’. The way the hunt is organised is virtually identical to that of a drag hunt although it is usually slower and less ground is covered. There may be two or three runners out during the hunting day. There are currently thirteen Bloodhound packs registered with the MDBA.
Drag hunting and hunting the ‘clean boot’ existed long before the passing of the Hunting Act 2004 and is fundamentally different to trail hunting.