In The Markenmore Mystery (1922) by J. S. Fletcher, the chief constable was talking to a rural woman, saying:

“Now, Mrs. Braxfield, listen to me; we know certain things. You’ve been in the habit of going to that spinney, or round about it, very early of a morning, to have a shot at foxes; the foxes, we hear, have given you trouble about your fowls. Is that so?”

“What if it is?” demanded Mrs. Braxfield. “Do you think I’m going to have my valuable fowls and chickens carried off by foxes? I’m not!—not for all the hunting men in the country! So there! I wish I could shoot every fox that’s running about! As it is, all I’ve done has been to frighten them.”

“You can settle your affairs about the foxes with the Master of Foxhounds, Mrs. Braxfield,” said the Chief Constable good-humouredly. “It’s a truly awful crime to shoot a fox, in the opinion of hunting people, but it’s one that doesn’t come within police regulations. But now, Mrs. Braxfield, what did you use in shooting at the foxes? Was it a rifle, or a sporting gun, or a revolver? Or—was it an automatic pistol? Come!”

I read in Wikipedia that fox hunting is an activity involving the tracking, chase and, if caught, the killing of a fox, so, how can a hunting man consider that shooting a fox is an awful crime while he himself kills them?


Because hunters want the joy of the hunt. They want to experience the thrill of the chase, with horses and hounds.

Shooting a fox deprives them of their fun.


In the Victorian and Georgian periods, the killing of a fox other than by hunting was considered by many to be tantamount to a crime, de facto, if not de jure (and referred to semi-seriously as 'vulpicide'). Shooting a fox mid-hunt would, in particular, deprive the hunt of its raison d'être and ruin a perfectly good afternoon for a hundred or more people.

Note that foxes in this period were almost taken to extinction by trapping, poisoning and shooting whereas the huntsmen would often intentionally breed foxes and have them left alone, better to allow the hunt to take place. Without the hunt, the wild fox would be extinct at this point in time.

An 1862 report of one such incident appeared under the heading ‘Atrocity In The Hunting Field’ as a correspondent who signed himself ‘Bullfinch’ related:

The Duke of Rutland’s hounds met on Saturday, the 27,h inst. at Croxton Park and drew Coston Cover where they found a fox starring him towards Buckminster ... but a hard fate awaited him as an individual (it would be libel on the name to call him a man) shot him within two fields of the cover just as the hounds had warmed to their work.

The noble master rode up to the infidel who had hidden the murdered fox in a barn and demanded that poor Reynard should at once be given up, but the assassin, gun in hand, placed his back to the door and swore he would shoot the first man attempting to enter. However, his cowardly threat was held at its worth and the Duke, dismounting, managed to wrest the gun from him...

I was told the fellow’s name is Marshall occupying a farm in the neighbourhood of Buckminster. Such an outrage cannot but obtain for him an unenviable notoriety and I would suggest that every honest man should forthwith ‘send him to Coventry’ ... and thus, by drawing the attention of the sporting world to the outrage, banish the creature from civilised society.

The Story of Your Life: A History of the Sporting Life Newspaper (1859-1998)


As foxhunters took to breeding foxes, a clear contradiction in the rationale of the sport emerged. The hunt was ostensibly there to serve the needs of the farmers: it existed to kill the vermin that plagued their farms. But the foxhunters also insisted that they alone were entitled to kill foxes and woe betide any farmer who dared to take the destruction of foxes into his own hands. In the 1820s, a new word entered the English language. In that decade, the Sporting Magazine began referring to ‘vulpicides’ - by which it meant people who killed foxes with utilitarian, rather than sporting, intentions.91 In the absence of any legal sanction prohibiting the killing of foxes, a social convention emerged, and as the foxhunters assiduously imported, bred and reared a new population of foxes, so did they successfully implant the notion that vulpicide was a despicable act. The American novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, visiting England in the 1850s, observed, ‘It seems that killing a fox except in the way of hunting is deemed among hunters an unpardonable offence.’ Her observation was entirely correct.

Blood Sport: Hunting in Britain Since 1066


Because it's considered unsporting.

Fox hunters don't shoot foxes; they allow foxhounds to chase down the fox and kill it. The fox therefore has a good chance at escaping—at least in theory. It can evade the dogs by going underground or by running into private land whose owner does not permit hunting.

On the other hand, a fox has little chance against a gun. This gives fox hunters a rationalization for letting themselves off the hook. Convinced that what they are doing is fair and "sporting," fox hunters project their own cruelty on to people who shoot foxes for harming chickens, etc.: "See, we're not the criminals! Foxhounds are natural predators of the fox, so what we are doing is just natural! It's the people who shoot foxes that are cruel and unnatural!"

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