Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Elizabethan Hunting

Picture of an Elizabethan Hunting Horn

Picture of an Elizabethan Hunting Horn


Elizabethan Sports - Elizabethan Hunting
Hunting was one of the most popular sports enjoyed by the Elizabethan Upper Classes and the Nobility. Hunting had always been enjoyed by the English Nobility as it provided training for war because of the tracking skills, weapon usage, horsemanship, and courage that were all required.

During the Elizabethan era it was viewed more as a sport. Both men and women engaged in hunting. A variety of animals found living wild in England were hunted. There were different types of hunts which were therefore more suited to either men or women.

Elizabethan Hunting - Different Types of Hunts
Hunting was divided into two different types of hunts:

  • The 'At Force' Hunt
  • The 'Bow and Stable' Hunt

Elizabethan Hunting - 'At Force' Hunting
At Force Hunts were the most strenuous forms of hunting. The 'At Force' hunts were designed for fit, young and very active men. As the name suggests there were many huntsmen involved in this type of hunt who arranged themselves into teams. Dogs often accompanied the huntsmen on the At Force hunts. The Wild Boar was an extremely dangerous animal and would be the main choice of prey for this type of hunt. The teams would chase the prey to near exhaustion or would corner the animal just before the 'kill'.

Elizabethan Hunting - 'Bow and Stable' Hunting
The Bow and Stable Hunts were the less strenuous forms of hunting. The 'Bow and Stable' hunts were designed for women or less active, or infirm, men active men. As the name suggests this type of hunt was conducted on horseback using a bow as the main weapon. Dogs also accompanied the hunt on the 'Bow and Stable' hunts and would drive the prey into an enclosed space where the huntsmen and huntswomen could kill the animal at close range. The docile deer would normally be the main choice of prey for this type of hunt.

The Boke of St Albans
The 'Boke of St Albans' is an old English text, which is the earliest example of color printing in England, was printed in the town of St Albans in 1486. It's author is unknown. The book is interesting as it details the subjects of:

  • Hunting
  • Heraldry
  • Hawking

Elizabethan Hunting - The Animals which were the prey
The 'Boke of St Albans' provides a list of the animals hunted in England as follows:

  • The Stag - Usually hunted with aid of dogs and bows and arrows, in order to stay out of range of the horns. Suitable as the prey for 'Bow and Stable' Hunting
  • The Deer, Hart or Roebuck - Usually hunted with aid of dogs and bows and arrows. Suitable as the prey for 'Bow and Stable' Hunting
  • Boar - Usually hunted with the aid of dogs and with very long spears, in order to stay away from the tusks. Suitable as the prey for 'At Force' Hunting
  • Foxes - Usually hunted by chasing them with dogs and letting the dogs tear the fox apart. Foxes are rarely hunted as food. Suitable as the prey for 'Bow and Stable' Hunting
  • Rabbits - Usually hunted by sending trained dogs or ferrets down the burrow
  • Otters - Usually hunted with dogs. Hunted for sport not food
  • Game birds (geese, ducks, pheasant, partridge, grouse etc.) - usually hunted with dogs to chase them into taking off, then with bow and arrow to bring them down, and dogs (again) to fetch the corpses back. Suitable as the prey for 'Bow and Stable' Hunting

Elizabethan Hunting Laws
Sumptuary laws (the Forest Law) related to gaming and hunting. The Forests of England were normally owned by the reigning monarch. In Elizabethan times there were an estimated sixty nine royal forests. Only the monarch or his servants hunted in the forests. Permission to hunt in forests could also be gained by the granting of a royal licence. The animals subject to the forest law were the Red deer, Fallow Deer, Roe Deer and the wild Boar. The commoners had the right to hunt any beast over common land unless such right had been restricted by some special royal grant.

Punishments for breaking Elizabethan Hunting Laws
The strict Forest Laws reserved rights of hunting to the ruling class were hated and resented by the lower classes. Peasants accused of poaching were liable to hanging, castration, blinding or being sewn into a deerskin and then hunted down by ferocious dogs.

Elizabethan Sports
Elizabethan Era Index

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