Stories and images of mounted hunters leaping wire and following hounds in Australia and even New Zealand are familiar to many foxhunters in the internet age. Some riders have enjoyed the opportunity to travel to the southern hemisphere during their winter months of June, July and August to join in the chase. Even on the exotic island of Tasmania, off Australia's southern coast, love of hounds and sport exists - albeit in slightly different form.
One hundred and fifty miles from the mainland and slightly larger than West Virginia, Tasmania is the most mountainous state in Australia. Its geography also includes temperate rain forest and level agricultural areas, and nearly half its area is protected in natural parks and preserves. Its physical isolation contributed to development of many unique flora and fauna. Not surprisingly, British settlers introduced hunting dogs to the island in the early 19th century.
"The hounds we use are mainly foxhound or foxhound crossed with bloodhound or coonhound. They are crossed for voice," said Phillip Cocks, who follows the mounted foxhunting community online. "I hunt between eight and 12 hounds at the same time, and sometimes there may be another pack with me of eight to 10 more hounds." The country is 5000 acres of privately owned land, and like many rural North American packs, tracking collars are used to get the hounds back at day's end. "Some land owners don't like the hounds on their land, so we use the collars."
Due to the rocky terrain, Cocks and his companions follow hounds on foot. The territory, about 650 to 1100 meters above sea level, sees snow and heavy frosts."The game we hunt are Bennett's wallaby," a generally solitary marsupial whose population is increasing as agricultural patterns provide increased fodder. "They can run a long way. We hunt the months between April and November, the wettest time of year here."
The quarry is dispatched by gun, although the chase is the primary goal. Cocks explains, "We are hound hunters It's all about running the hounds, listening and watching them scenting. It's great to watch."