The Calls of the Hunting Horn

The purpose of this page is to explain the role of hunting horn calls that may be heard during a hunting day.

The hunting horn vocabulary falls into three groups. Signal calls, these comprise single notes used to convey routine information to hounds, staff, or the field. Disappointed or sad calls. These are longish wails that are used to indicate a blank covert, losing a fox in a covert, calling his hounds to him or blowing “going home” at the end of a day’s hunt. They have a slow, mournful tone. Double calls. Blown during moments of excitement & encouragement, in contrast to disappointed calls.

Moving Off, a signal call blown to indicate that huntsman & hounds are moving off from the meet & that the days hunting in beginning. A quickly delivered double note.

Drawing, a signal double call. Drawing means to look for a fox with hounds. The horn may be used sparingly by the huntsman while hounds investigate & sniff about. Calls comprise merely of light touches on the horn. The aim of this judicious employment may be either to get the fox on to its feet & moving, or to keep hounds in touch with the huntsman in a situation where there is distance or obstructions between hounds & huntsman or to keep hounds drawing the direction that the huntsman wishes to go.

Calling hounds out of a blank covert, a disappointed call. This horn call is a long & mournful wail, which may be repeated three or more times in an undulating manor. It is used by the huntsman to bring hounds out of a place where they have been searching that does not hold a fox. Also known as blowing out, this call is also used when the huntsman is missing his full complement of hounds & wishes gather them in.

Doubling the horn. Doubling the horn is recognised as a series of short rapid staccato notes. Doubling the horn only takes place when the fox has been roused & is moving. It is an encouraging call from the huntsman to his hounds that he wants them in a hurry. Doubling may be blown when the fox is being chased within a wooded area, or in another place such as gorse or a field of maize or when the quarry has been seen by a member of the hunt to be running in the open away from hounds & the huntsman wants to gather them together quickly to give chase as a unified body.

Blowing away (“Gone away”), a doubled group. Similar, but different to doubling the horn, blowing away is a quick series of pulsating doubled notes only blown when the fox has left its refuge, running in the open, & the hunt is on. It is often described as a thrilling sound & apart from communicating a sense of urgency to the hounds it serves the important purpose of letting the field master know that the time has come to gallop on following hounds. Also known as gone away.

Stopping hounds, a disappointed call. This is a long even repeated note. It is blown to stop hounds when they are hunting something other than a fox. Unless the pack of hounds is extremely well drilled in this call, although useful it is seldom enough to stop hounds on its own & is usually combined with whip cracking & stern shouting known as rating.

Calling the whiper-in, a signal call. This is a quick note followed by a rapid double. This call may be repeated & is open to interpretation from different huntsmen. Variations on this theme may be used to summon different officials for example the second whiper-in, terrier man or second horseman. Excessive variations may prove confusing to those who need to be contacted so it is important to all involved that there are not too many.

Gone to ground, a disappointed call. This slightly sad long & wavering note is repeated three times when the hunted fox has eluded hounds & taken refuge in an underground dwelling, animal hole, culvert or manmade drain. It may include a tremolo which is blown by shaking the mouthpiece of the horn against the lips.

The kill, a sad call. This an extended wavering note blown as a tremolo. Although it is not a doubled note & by definition sad sounding, this call is blown by the huntsman when hounds have caught & killed the fox as a signal of congratulation to them for doing their job.

Blowing for home. Blown at the end of the hunting day, this is a long, mournful wail & the most complicated call. Historically some huntsmen have sounded this call in a special & extended way at the end of the season.

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