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Long night of the foxes - the Austrian fox hunt

By Matthias Loinig

The old tradition of fox hunting is thought to originate from the UK with the first recorded fox hunt thought to have taken place in the UK back in the 16th century.

The tradition involved foxhounds together with their unarmed masters on horseback tracking, chasing and sometimes killing red foxes.

In England traditional fox hunts have been banned since 2004 as opponents branded them cruel and unnecessary, but the decision proved controversial especially in rural areas of the UK where they were regarded not only as a major part of local culture but also as necessary for pest control.

However, the tradition still stands strong in Austria and is by many seen as a very necessary part of local culture.

Last weekend saw a traditional ‘Night of the Foxes’ take place in Upper Styria and is very much regarded as an important part of the control of foxes.

A local hunter said: "The reason for the fox hunt is to regulate and keep control of the fox’s numbers. It enables us to preserve and improve the natural environment and is also important in our aim to protect local small game.

"It is not easy feat to kill a fox. Foxes are mostly active during the night and evening. Foxes avoid areas with light and avoid open areas.

Fox hunters have to be highly disciplined - it is a very intricate skill and much previous hunting experience is needed to master the art of fox hunting.

"Just one little movement and you can chase the foxes away. You have to be as still as a statue. Avoiding movement and noise of any kind otherwise you will scare off the foxes." Added the hunter.

After the ‘Night of the foxes’ hunt – hunters proudly bring their ‘hunting trophies’ together and they are laid out for the townsfolk and fellow hunters to see.
This year they managed to hunt 19 foxes and three martens.

It was not only fox hunting on the agenda – accompanying the ceremony was another long standing Austrian tradition – a group of hunting horn blowers who blasted their horns dressed in traditional Austrian costume.

During the ceremony the hunters were given awards for their hunting success – a fir branch which is tucked into the right side of their hats as a mark of their achievement.
The most successful hunter managed to take three foxes during the one evening.

This was most certainly an evening of Austrian tradition celebrated in the most traditional Austrian fashion – the long night of the foxes!

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