domestic sheep

Sheep drowns as Grafton Hunt hounds run rampage

Police are investigating the Grafton Hunt after a sheep drowned when hounds ran out of control in a farmer’s field. The ewes, who were all pregnant, scattered, breaking out of their field, and some fled into a river to escape.

The incident took place on 14 January. Grafton Hunt Watch, which monitors the hunt, said:

“Residents were alarmed and distressed to see a terrified fox run through the village while hounds were rampaging all over gardens and roads in Moreton Pinkney also causing danger to motorists. We are told that homeowners were alarmed to witness hunt hounds spooking sheep that broke out of their field and ran to the river where at least one sheep was drowned and fear that the heavily pregnant sheep could abort their unborn lambs.”
The hunt insists that it was hunting lawfully. The Banbury Guardian reported that the joint master, Charles Smyth-Osbourne, said:

“The Grafton Hunt was conducting lawful trail hunting activities in the Moreton Pinkney area on Saturday and is fully aware of an incident which occurred. Hunt officials have been in close contact with the owner of the sheep following the incident and has apologised unreservedly to all those affected.”


Pack of foxhounds hounds on the road. The legs of horses can also be seen.


The hunt’s statement is frustratingly predictable. Even though locals saw a terrified fox, and witnessed hounds tearing through gardens, it still insists that it was trail hunting rather than chasing a fox. As the Hunting Act currently stands, hunt staff can only be found guilty if the prosecution can prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant intended to hunt a wild mammal.

Just as frustratingly, unlike those who have pets, hunts don’t find themselves prosecuted for livestock worrying. It is an offence to allow a dog to worry livestock, with a maximum fine of £1,000. The Kept Animals Bill, currently passing through parliament, will strengthen the law more, giving authorities the power to seize dogs. But of course, the government’s main objective is to protect farmers, and more specifically, farmers’ profits. The bill’s focus is on households which have dogs, particularly since there has been an increase in the number of people who have dogs since the pandemic hit.

Grafton Hunt Watch said on Facebook:

“Over the years residents have told us that the Grafton Hunt have killed numerous animals, destroyed crops, been sworn at by hunt members on their own land and caused danger on the roads.
Why is it that the hunt have historically got away with this kind of appalling behaviour on a regular basis but that an ordinary dog owner does not? What kind of hold do these hunters, who appear to be above the law, have over people and the police?”

Northamptonshire Police said that “the Rural Crime Team are making enquiries into the incident”. The Banbury Guardian reported that:

“The [police] spokesman said that alleged illegal hunting by the Grafton would form part of the team’s enquiries.”

Add a reckless clause

This incident happened on the same day that Mendip Farmers Hunt hounds rampaged through an animal park, jumping into animal pens with goats and camels, traumatising them and other resident animals.

Protect the Wild is calling for a reckless clause to be added to the Hunting Act. The addition of a recklessness provision would mean that hunt staff could be convicted not only if they intended to hunt a wild mammal, but for all the carnage they cause, whether intended or not. A reckless clause would hold hunts to account for incidents like killing sheep, and for countless other incidents such as hounds killing family pets, or running on railway lines, or causing accidents on roads.

Until the Hunting Act is strengthened we are going to continue to see more sheep killed by hounds, with little consequences for hunt staff.



Featured image via Pixabay and Shutterstock