A very modern tradition – what is clean boot hunting?

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The clean boot hunting South Downs Bloodhounds will be demonstrating a different type of hunt at this year’s Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show

clean boot hunting in Dorset
The South Downs Bloodhounds clean boot hunt. Image © Sharon T Photography sharontphotography.co.uk

This year, the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show has a special treat for both seasoned attendees and newcomers alike. The South Downs Bloodhounds will be parading in both rings over the two days, promising a unique spectacle – hunting tradition without the controversy.

clean boot hunting bloodhounds
Bloodhounds in full voice. Image © Sharon T Photography sharontphotography.co.uk

What is clean boot hunting?

Established in 2004 by Jeremy Whaley, the current senior Joint Master – who also takes the role of Huntsman – the South Downs Bloodhounds offers a fresh twist on the traditional British hunt. Rather than pursuing foxes, in clean boot hunting the hounds chase after a ‘clean boot,’ which refers to the scent of human runners (volunteer ones, obviously! They don’t just take off after passing strangers!).

These runners, called quarries, set out between 20 and 60 minutes before the hounds, along planned routes. The chase can span varying distances, and with three to five hunts in a day, participants can engage in as many or as few as they choose.
The hunts have been thoughtfully designed to keep the exhilaration of the chase alive, while simultaneously respecting and protecting wildlife. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate our countryside’s rich traditions while safeguarding its natural wonders.

sleeping bloodhound after a busy morning clean boot hunting
Time for a nap. Image © Sharon T Photography sharontphotography.co.uk

Join in the chase

If you are interested to try it for yourself, there are lots of ways to get involved.
The South Downs Bloodhounds may be based in Hampshire, but last season they had hunts locally in the Tarrant Valley and Sixpenny Handley on Cranborne Chase. Those curious about this human-hunting spectacle are welcome to take part on horseback or on foot – or even to try leading the way as a quarry.
Non-participants are also welcome to witness the thrilling chase as car followers.
The South Downs Bloodhounds guarantee exhilarating hunts without putting any wild animal at risk. They strongly promote a community where everyone, regardless of their role, can come together and continue an ancient tradition into the 21st century.

human quarry for clean boot hunting
Clean boot hunting involves human quarry. Image © Sharon T Photography sharontphotography.co.uk

At the G&S Show

The inclusion of the South Downs Bloodhounds to demonstrate clean boot hunting is not just about entertaining the crowds at the G&S Show, but also about conveying a message of respect for tradition, wildlife and the countryside. The South Downs Bloodhounds team are renowned for their professionalism and skill with their hounds – watch out for the cheerful dogs and the Huntmaster’s absolute control.
It promises to be an unforgettable experience and a significant milestone in promoting new ways of keeping our traditions alive.

jeremy whaley and the south downs clean boot hunting
Jeremy Whaley, founder of the South Downs Bloodhounds clean boot hunt. Image © Sharon T Photography sharontphotography.co.uk

The South Downs Bloodhounds will be parading in the Gritchie Brewing Co Main Ring on Wednesday 16th, and in the Turnpike Ring on both days of the show.

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