The Great Frederick Fair released the hounds Saturday with a display of horses and hounds at the fair’s grandstand.
The pack of 10 hounds from the New Market-Middletown Valley Hounds was commanded by Huntsman Emily Melton, of Mount Airy, as they moved up and down the track in front of the grandstand.
Melton said she started hunting as a teenager, and spent nine years as a whipper-in, someone who rides alongside the dogs and keeps them from getting too far from the huntsman and them from getting too far away from the pack, before becoming the huntsman for the club.
The huntsman position requires that you know your dogs and have a bond with them, and know the hunting territory, she said.
She said she was attracted to the tradition of hunting with hounds, and wants to keep it alive.
Various cultures have used dogs for hunting, but the tradition is most commonly associated with fox hunting in England.
A decline in England’s deer population in the 18th Century made fox hunting a more popular sport, and it continued to grow in popularity through the 19th Century, according to the website historic-uk.com.
But the sport of hunting with dogs was banned in much of the United Kingdom in the 2000s, although it remains legal in Northern Ireland.
The New Market group hasn’t run into any of the opposition that groups in England did, said Grace Pariso, master of the fox hunt club.
They go out twice a week from September to March, when cooler temperatures make the scent easier for the dog to track, Pariso said.
There’s no sure way to know that you’ll find a fox, but even if you don’t find anything, it at least gets the dogs some exercise.
“Sometimes you just get lucky and find something right off the bat,” she said.
Pariso said she didn’t know what the dogs would do if they actually caught a fox.
Invariably, the animal darts into a hole or across a creek throw off the scent, and they reward the dogs for the pursuit, she said.
She said she’s always surprised that the horses and dogs are able to work at the fair, without getting distracted by the sounds and smells of the rides, foods, and all of the people.
Melton said the hounds are pretty good at following her as she guides them where to go.
Every huntsman has their own style, she said, although she had trouble articulating exactly what hers is.
She just likes her hounds to stay nearby and attentive, she said.
“I want them to be close,” she said.