Calls increased for a review of the hunting ban today as more than 1,000 supporters flocked to the start of the New Forest Hounds Hunt today.

Eighty traditionally-clad riders met at the Balmer Lawn Hotel, near Brockenhurst,before the huntsman's horn sounded the start.

Riders shadowed the hounds as they searched for trails, which were laid earlier by dragging a scent soaked rag from horseback.

Hunt joint secretary Graham Ferris said: "Boxing Day is by far the most important day in the hunting calendar and it is when a lot of people who don't hunt throughout the year join us for the day.

"It's a great occasion and can be a real thrill when the hounds pick up the scent."

More than 7,700 people have backed a new petition to support the repeal of the Hunting Act and the number is growing, said the Countryside Alliance.

Launched last week, it invites people to scrap the ''confusing, unnecessary and divisive'' Act, which came into force on February 18 2005.

But the Hunt Saboteurs Association wants the Hunting Act to be strengthened, with a recklessness clause added for the prosecution of hunts where animals are chased and killed ''by accident''.

Spokesman Lee Moon said: ''We've given the Hunting Act a fair crack of the whip, but it's not stopping the killing. Hunt saboteurs are needed up and down the country to save lives, and to stop the hunters torturing our wildlife.''