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Basil the rhea looking at the camera in a field

Basil the rhea went missing for days after he was spooked by hunting hounds

Hounds spooked a rhea in Northamptonshire as they hunted nearby. The bird was missing for days. But his owner just announced that he’s now back home.

Sophie Wills initially posted on 11 January that her “beloved Basil” went missing around 1.30pm that day. She said he was “last seen being chased by a hound/hounds”. Basil lives near Rushden, Northamptonshire, and Wills reported on 11 January that he was last seen off Newton Road just outside of the town. An update to the post on 14 January said search volunteers had located Basil and he was alive but:

“so stressed that even after many sedation attempts yesterday we still couldn’t safely catch him.”

Peterborough Hunt Sabs said on 12 January that it believes the North Bucks Beagles were responsible. It said the pack had been in the area from which Basil went missing and at the time.

Wills updated her post on 15 January to say that Basil had returned home. She told Protect the Wild that she is “so relieved and happy” that he’s returned. He is also “a little battered and bruised but safe”.

Recklessness and terror

Hunts regularly disturb animals, causing them distress, injury and even death. In an eerily reminiscent story from 2019, video published by the Banbury Guardian showed a rhea running down the road away from the Warwickshire Hunt. West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs, which filmed the incident, said:

“the Warwickshire Hunt completely took over the roads of Avon Dassett with hounds running uncontrolled over them.

“They caused a rhea to escape onto a road that is very close to the M40 motorway. Whilst their huntsman was filmed taking the hounds over to where a fox had been seen running moments before.”

Still from a camcorder showing a pack of hounds chasing a brown calf across fields
High Peak Harriers hounds chase a calf, via Nottingham Hunt Saboteurs.

In January 2022, the Essex and Suffolk Hunt were responsible for the death of a horse after spooking him while hunting near Wormingford. And in November 2020, Nottingham Hunt Saboteurs filmed hounds from the High Peak Hunt terrorising a calf near Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire.

No such thing as a trail hunt

These are just some examples of livestock worrying and other animal-related hunt havoc in recent years. In January 2021, Protect the Wild published a report that showed, between 1 October 2020 and 4 January 2021, an incident of hunting hounds worrying farmed or domestic animals once every two weeks.

If hunts actually engaged in trail hunting then livestock worrying and hunt havoc wouldn’t be a problem. There aren’t any reports of drag and clean boot hunts spooking, injuring, or killing animals, for example. But this is a regular occurrence for live quarry hunts because they can’t predict where a fox, hare or deer might run.

Basil’s story is another example of the impact hunting has on animals other than those that are hunted. And it’s another reminder that trail hunting is a smokescreen.

Help strengthen the Hunting Act by sending a letter via Protect the Wild demanding that a recklessness clause is added to the law.

Featured image via Sophie Wills