A hound’s howl breaks through the cold rainfall. Dozens more hounds emerge from a stand of trees and bound across a field in search of a fox’s scent. Horses carrying riders in red and black coats follow from a ways behind, quickly disappearing again over a hillcrest, minutes away from Baltimore’s growing suburbs.
The Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club has roots dating back to 1878, but records show organized foxhunts took place in Maryland as early as the 1790s. In order to preserve a pastime that requires vast open space in the midst of one of the world’s densest regions, the club has managed to protect a patchwork of land that is larger than Manhattan. According to the website of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America, there are nearly 160 organized foxhunting clubs in the U.S. and Canada.
And while the sport’s ban in Britain over animal welfare concerns 10 years ago is still debated, the American hunt is a chase – the intent is not to kill a fox. But from dress to decorum, many of the traditions remain unaltered from its inception.
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