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Service Animals - Hunting

dogs hunters fox falconry

Early Times

Hunting was the first task in which animals were put into service to humans. Prehistoric hunters took advantage of the natural instincts and skills of carnivorous (meat-eating) animals, like dogs, which had been domesticated from wolves. The hunters trained the dogs to accompany them on hunts and turn over any captured prey. Prehistoric cave paintings show humans and dogs cooperating to pursue and capture large prey.

The ancient Egyptians used a variety of animals to help them hunt, including dogs, mongooses, and birds of prey. A drawing in a Cairo museum shows a man hunting waterfowl along the Nile River with his mongoose. Mongooses were considered sacred and were called "Pharaoh's cats."


Falconry is thought to date back to around 2,000 B.C. in China. It is a form of hunting conducted with the use of trained birds of prey, such as falcons, hawks, owls, or eagles. These birds are also called raptors. Falconry was particularly important in the Middle East and is discussed at length in the Koran, the holy book of Islam. It became popular among European nobility during the Crusades and was fashionable until the invention of firearms.

Falconry is still practiced today as a sport in the United States. (See Figure 8.2.) According to the Falconry Experience, a falconry school in California, there were approximately 7,000 licensed falconers in the United States as of 2005. Falconry has very strict licensing requirements because it uses wild birds that are protected species. Animals commonly hunted using falconry are rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, quail, and waterfowl.


Dogs have historically been used in hunting. In the United States, dogs are used to hunt upland game birds and waterfowl, such as pheasant, quail, partridge, ducks, and pigeons. Dogs are also used to hunt squirrels, bears, raccoons, mountain lions, foxes, and other prey. The primary dog breeds used in hunting are beagles, spaniels, griffons, retrievers, setters, pointers, and hounds. Dogs FIGURE 8.2
A falconer holds a peregrine falcon wearing a hood and jesses. Photograph by Robert J. Huffman. Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission.
that hunt mostly by scent are called scent hounds, and dogs that hunt mostly by sight are called sight hounds. Hunting dogs perform a variety of tasks, including tracking prey, pointing prey out to the hunter, and retrieving downed prey after it is shot.


Hunting with dogs has become a controversial issue in some areas where it is common. In April 2003 the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported on increasing conflicts in south Georgia between hunters using dogs and landowners (Stacy Shelton, "Hunters Howling," April 13, 2003). Dog running, as it is called, is a long-standing tradition in rural areas of the state. Landowners accused hunters of letting their dogs trespass onto private property during deer-hunting season (mid-October to mid-January). Hunters said that property owners were being unreasonable and had killed at least one hunting dog. The landowners claimed that hunters had threatened them and told them that they should fence their property if they did not want hunting dogs on it.

In July 2003 the Georgia legislature passed a bill to severely restrict the hunting of deer with dogs in the state. It can only be conducted on large pieces of property of at least 1,000 acres. The owners or lessees of the property must obtain a permit from the state prior to allowing a hunt. All hunters have to label their dogs and vehicles with the permit number. In this way, trespassers can be easily identified and reported to authorities. Some companies that own huge tracts of land in south Georgia, such as the International Paper Company, have decided not to allow hunting with dogs on their property anymore.

One particularly controversial form of hunting conducted with the help of dogs and horses is fox hunting. Hunters on horseback pursue foxes across the countryside using packs of hounds. Though fox hunting has been practiced in the United Kingdom for hundreds of years, animal welfare groups have been trying to get it outlawed since the 1940s because they consider it cruel to the foxes. In February 2002 Scotland passed a bill outlawing mounted hunting with dogs. After much political maneuvering, a similar bill was passed in England and Wales that went into effect in February 2005. The debate over the bill in the U.K. was generally divided between social classes, with upper-class landowners opposing it. Fox hunting has traditionally been a sport of the wealthy in the U.K., including members of the royal family. The most prestigious foxhunting club in the country is operated by the Duke of Beaufort and dates back to the 1700s. According to the Associated Press, the Duke's club staged a mock fox hunt after the law went into effect as a form of social protest ("Four Arrested as Brits Test Limits on Hunting," February 19, 2005). Four people not part of the club were arrested for using dogs to hunt hares (rabbits). The new law bans the hunting of any mammal with the use of dogs.

In February 2005 the Paris-based newspaper International Herald Tribune reported that there are 169 recognized fox hunts each year in the United States (Brian Knowlton, "Americans Going to Dogs," February 10, 2005). This number has reportedly grown over the last decade as fox hunting becomes more popular in the country. A spokesperson for PETA said, "I can't think of a more cruel way for an animal to die; to be pursued to the point of exhaustion, then ripped apart." The fox hunters at Elkridge-Hartford, a private hunting club in rural Maryland, defend their sport as a conservation measure for foxes. Club members own thousands of acres of undeveloped property around the area. A club official noted that "there wouldn't be all the fox we chase if it wasn't for fox hunting."

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