It is widely believed that the origin of a fox being tracked, chased and often killed by trained hunting hounds (generally known as ‘scent hounds’) and followed by the Master of the Foxhounds and his team on foot and horseback, originated from a Norfolk farmer’s attempt to catch a fox using farm dogs in 1534. Whilst foxes were widely regarded as pests by farmers and other landowners who hunted them as a form of pest control for many years, it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that fox hunting developed into its most modern incarnation as a result of the decline in the UK’s deer population.

The decline in the deer population and subsequently the sport of deer hunting was in part, a consequence of the Inclosure Acts passed between 1750 –1860, particularly the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act of 1801, which was passed to clarify previous acts of inclosure. These acts meant that open fields and the common land where many deer chose to breed were fenced off into separate, smaller fields to cope with the increase in the demand for farmland. 

Fox hunting continued to grow in popularity throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and, in 1753, 18-year-old Hugo Meynell - often referred to as the father of modern fox hunting - began to hunt to a system, whilst breeding hunting dogs for their speed and stamina as well as their keen scent at Quorndon Hall, his estate in North Leicestershire. The speed of his pack not only allowed hunters to experience “La Chasse” (the thrill of the chase) but also extended the hunt, allowing it to start later in the morning. This was popular with the young gentleman of the social circle, amongst whom late nights were “de rigour”. Fox hunting continued to grow in popularity throughout the nineteenth century, largely due to the inroads made by the Railways which provided rural access to the masses.

Despite the banning of fox hunting with hounds in Germany and most other European countries from 1934 onward, fox hunting in Great Britain remained popular well into the twentieth century. Indeed, foxes were hunted to near extinction (as wolves and wild boar had been previous) in England and were actually imported from Germany, Holland and Sweden. Today, there are still many reports of vixen's and cubs being bred or moved artificial earth's on or near hunt land. 

The debate between hunters and anti-hunting campaigners, who believe the sport to be cruel and unnecessary, eventually led to a Government inquiry in December 1999 into hunting with dogs, named the Burns Inquiry after the retired civil servant Lord Burns who chaired it. Whilst the Burns Inquiry report noted that hunting with dogs "seriously compromises" the welfare of the foxes, it did not categorically state whether or not hunting should be permanently banned in the UK. As a result, the Government introduced an ‘options bill', so that each House of Parliament could decide on whether hunting with hounds should be banned or subject to license or self-regulation. Whilst The House of Commons voted to ban the sport, in contrast the House of Lords voted for self-regulation. The Government supported The House of Commons and the resulting Hunting Act 2004 was passed in November 2004, outlawing hunting with dogs in England and Wales from 18 February 2005. The Scottish Parliament had already banned fox hunting in Scotland in 2002 and in Northern Ireland, it is still legal.

The Hunting Act 2005 - Many anti-hunting campaigners have complained that hunts have flouted the ban and illegally continued hunting with hounds - a claim strongly supported by over 340 successful prosecutions under the Hunting Act up to 2013, making the Hunting Act the most successful piece of wildlife legislation in England Wales.