'Bloodied' hounds on the loose in Hornton terrify children at school pick-up
Onlookers said the hounds were completely out of control and chasing a fox which came into the village centre and doubled back up a hill to make its escape.
The incident happened on Wednesday at 3.10pm as a large group of mothers, some with babes in arms, had to be locked into the playground to avoid being caught up in the pack.
The witnesses say there were far more and that at least one was injured, had blood on its face and was wimpering, frightening the children.
The pupils had to be returned to the school building until the hounds had been rounded up.
Villager Steve Woodcock was furious that the dogs had jumped into his paddock with his sheep and complained bitterly to the hunt.
"We have had hounds running through our back garden and paddock terrifying our sheep. More hounds were running loose through gardens and amongst primary school children as their parents were collecting them from school in the centre of the village. The kids were really frightened and parents have complained.
"Another villager of Bell Street had several hounds crashing through his back garden. There are numerous posts on the Hornton Village Facebook page making similar complaints. Apparently, one hound was hit by a car at the top of the village.
"According to one villager collecting children from school, the hounds had a fox cornered near the outskirts of the village which really upset the kids. I, however, only saw hounds careering through our garden and a neighbour's property, from two opposite sides and a complete loss of control."
Mr Woodcock, a parish councillor, said: "I believe this kind of dangerous and anti-social behaviour is completely unacceptable and shows a remarkable degree of disregard for the community and animal welfare. As a councillor, I will be raising this matter at our next meeting recommending that we contact one of the ‘hunt masters."
The Warwickshire Hunt spokesman said: "In Hornton on Wednesday three or four hounds got detached from our main pack of hounds and entered the village.
"They immediately were seen doing so by the quad bike who supports us and also one mounted rider. Therefore the hounds were gathered up no more than five minutes after this and reunited with the main pack.
"We apologise if there was any inconvenience from the villagers but we can assure them that hounds only adore children as can be seen on our social pages, so we can assuage any concerns there.
"However we appreciate that any disturbance is unacceptable, for any amount of time, so we have reached out and/or met with anyone who we understand to be affected including the parish councillor and villagers and if anyone is still concerned we invite them to contact us directly."
Martin Sims, director of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports and former head of the police’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “If the hunt was chasing a fox then this was illegal activity. This shocking incident outside a primary school which terrified young children shows that the Warwickshire Hunt is out of control and causing havoc in the local community.
“The Warwickshire Hunt is acting recklessly and this blows apart any excuse that they are trail hunting. Trail hunting has been shown to be a cover up to hide the shameful determination of hunts to break the law and continue taking part in the cruel blood ‘sport’ that is fox hunting.
“The hunt is a danger to both the local community and wildlife and the police should investigate their activities. The hunting law in Great Britain needs to be strengthened and prison sentences introduced for those who are caught and convicted of fox hunting.”
A villager said: "The railings on top of the school wall were only installed a few months ago. If this had happened before then, the hounds would have been all over the playground. One mother who was waiting to collect her child had to hold her toddler above her head because one of the hounds jumped up on her chest."
She said a man belonging to the hunt, on a horse, had walked into the village from the opposite direction some time before the hounds arrived. "It seems pretty clear that the hunt was hunting foxes and not on a trail."
One witness, writing on the village's social media page, said she had followed one of the hounds, which had something in its mouth, towards Horley. She said the hunt cars were swerving everywhere and the hound was unable to be caught.
The incident happened on the same day the Banbury Guardian published an in-depth report about hunting, following four other incidents of hounds being out of control in December. The special report can be seen here.