Cubbing | An autumn sickness

The summer months are a relatively brief respite for wildlife here in the UK. Both illegal fox hunting and so-called ‘gamebird’ shooting temporarily pause their war on wildlife so that populations can heal their wounds and rebuild, but of course that doesn’t mean that behind the scenes preparations aren’t being made for its resumption. Hunts will soon be getting ready to go out ‘cubbing’ – tormenting young foxes and training their hounds to get ready for another eight months of ‘accidentally’ ripping adult foxes apart.

Yes, can you imagine savouring the last few days of summer by getting ready to go out and kill again? Being gripped by a peculiar kind of fever that sees you phoning your mates, laying out your tweeds, and shaking with the anticipation of ripping a fox cub in half? No, we’re not ethically-devoid psychopaths so we don’t get it either (you can check if you’re not sure how to determine a psychopath via our post ‘Is the average fox hunter a psychopath according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist?’), but up and down the country the ‘autumn sickness’ is descending on some of the more far-gone sect members of illegal fox hunting (and, yes, cubbing is most definitely illegal).


Animal abuse plain and simple

Cubbing is a really nasty form of animal abuse. It is essentially training young hounds to kill foxes by targeting cubs, because dogs don’t naturally kill foxes – they ‘need’ (according to fox hunters anyway) to be trained to kill them. They ‘need’ (ditto) to be trained to know what a fox smells like and feels like, and they need to know how to hunt them down. And what better way than to use younger, inexperienced foxes…

Given that hunting wild mammals with hounds was made illegal by the Hunting Act 2004 (and fox cubs are wild mammals), you would imagine that hounds don’t ‘need’ to be trained to hunt foxes at all because there is no fox hunting. A reasonable assumption to make, but then when it comes to fox hunts ‘reason’ rarely applies. Thanks to the invention of ‘trail hunting’ after the passing of the Hunting Act and connivance with landowners (we’re still looking at you National Trust) and politicians (we’re looking at you Boris Johnson), hunts are still going out and still killing foxes. And the nasty, nasty ‘tradition’ of cubbing is when the law-breaking starts for another ‘season’

Also known as ‘autumn hunting’ (or even ‘hound exercise’ as hunts now idiotically refer to it in the hope that we public are so bamboozled by their clever way with words that we’ll never suspect what they’re really up to), cubbing is actually quite easy to recognise. This is mainly because the disturbed individuals who enjoy this particular form of lawbreaking on horseback are a) the only fox hunters out at this time of year, and b) are still wedded to the Victorian idea that to go and kill wildlife you need to dress up in a uniform and make yourself as distinctive to the lower classes as possible. (And if cubbers are worried about ‘getting it wrong’ there’s even a what to wear when breaking the law autumn hunting guide online – no-one ever accused of foxhunters of not being brazen enough…)


Recognising cub hunting

While most ‘cubbers’ do now try to hide what they’re up to (not through any sense of shame or emerging sense of morality, it’s more that court appearances can be so damnably inconvenient), their adherence to ‘we’ve always done it this way, we’re not going to change just because of the bloody Hunting Act‘ does handily translate into the following ‘recognise a law-breaking cub hunting fool on a horse’ guide (try saying that in a Mr T voice):

  • Cub hunting normally takes place in August, September and October (the main fox hunting season begins in November).
  • Contrary to ‘typical’ foxhunting which takes place during the day, cubbing takes place early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • The hunt staff normally do not wear traditional red coats but wear ‘ratcatcher’-type tweeds instead.
  • Cubbing is notably static compared with getting a fox to run for a chase. Small woods (known as ‘coverts’) are surrounded by hunt followers to ensure that if any foxes try to escape (‘flushed out’) they are scared back in towards the pack of hounds.
  • Hounds are normally put in at one side of a wood, and the Huntsman will call them through as a means of flushing out any foxes inside the area.
  • Fields of crops are also used in the same way during the early part of the cub hunting season.

In summary then, a gaggle of shifty-looking tweed-wearing fools on horses trying to look inconspicuous as they pretend not to be looking what their pack of dogs is getting up to in a wood in the early morning or towards sunset are likely to be cub-hunting…

Video copyright League Against Cruel Sports (does not contain graphic imagery)


So what can be done?

If you witness any illegal cub hunting contact The Hunt Saboteurs Association by phoning their TIP-OFF HOTLINE on 07443 148 426 – they can often get Sabs out to the hunts at short notice.

Contact the League Against Cruel Sports’ CrimeWatch service either online or phone 0300 444 1234.

Call the Police on 101. Fox hunting is a crime and while you can’t guarantee a response it must be logged. Ask for your call to be logged as a hunting incident and request an incident number. It helps establish a pattern if nothing else.

Finally, it’s worth mailing your MP if you witness cubbing. Most politicians (with some disreputable exceptions) are now firmly against fox hunting. They recognise that the vast majority of us loathe it and want it gone forever. A local MP may be precisely the person you need to contact a Police and Crime Commissioner or a landowner that is allowing this disgusting practice to take place (no, National trust, trail hunting is not what these people are doing).

Of course, and while for legal reasons we can’t recommend this ourselves, if you know what you’re doing and can do so safely, it is possible to go and stand nearby with a camera phone. You may help stop a crime taking place. But always be aware that hunts and their followers can be – er, ‘unwelcoming’: this is particularly important to remember if you’re on your own!


  • (We’re not sure who took the beautiful photo of the fox cubs we’ve used in the header. If it’s yours please let us know if you’re okay with us using it (and who to credit) or ask us to take it down. Thanks)
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