Why you should care
Because this hunt is about history, not harm.
In British Columbia’s bucolic Fraser Valley, about 150 miles north of Seattle, there’s a tradition, one that’s almost 50 years old. Each week a group goes out on horseback with their British hound dogs. If you’re thinking fox hunt, you’re right — and wrong. The “hunt” involves pursuit, but the chase culminates without kill. No guns allowed.
This noncompetitive sport, with its complicated jumps and forest obstacles, is all about the art of the ride. Brought over to North America by European immigrants, the hunt is replete with history and formality. The dress code reads like Charlotte Brontë: “The gentleman member’s coat is scarlet, round corned, single-breasted frock coat of melton cloth, with forest-green collar.”
The social aspect also has the feel of a bygone century. Spectators and riders sip sherry from tiny chalices and a French horn signals the end of the hunt. Post-ride, the humans brunch, at a table or a tailgate, and the foxhounds reap a reward a little more up their alley: cow stomach. Photographer Jimmy Jeong calls the experience a “pseudo-culture type thing,” with its own “special attire and language.”
Not surprisingly, the chase didn’t start out so animal-friendly. The club’s joint master Katherine Von Trebra remembers when coyote and fox were the targets in the 1970s. Over time, she says, the practice faded because of “rampant development” and the loss of wide-open spaces. To chase foxes, you need to be able to follow them wherever they go, which doesn’t work with the presence of farmhouses or housing developments. Even so, says Von Trebra, “it’s a way of life.”
They don’t mind going to great lengths to make the faux feel real.
Reporting by Taylor Mayol