HUNDREDS of spectators turned out to watch the start of the traditional Boxing Day hunt in the New Forest.

The New Forest Hounds (NFH) set off from a huge area of grassland near Bolton’s Bench, a landmark hill on the edge of Lyndhurst.

Hunting with dogs was outlawed by the last Labour government 14 years ago.

Since then the NFH and other packs have switched to trail hunting, which involves hounds chasing an artificial scent laid by hunt supporters.

The New Forest hunt took place in near-perfect conditions and lasted several hours.

NFH joint-master Graham Ferris told spectators: “You’re part of the Boxing Day tradition, not only of the New Forest but of the country as a


Dr Ferris said the 250 other Boxing Day hunts being staged across the UK were likely to be watched by about 250,000 people.

He added: “The New Forest started as a hunting forest for William the Conqueror - and we have been hunting in the area for 237 years.”

Referring to the ban on hunting with hounds and the introduction of trail hunting he said: “That’s what we will be doing today - hunting within the law.”

Dr Ferris was cheered as he added: “We hope the Forest will be a hunting forest in another 1,000 years.”