HUNDREDS of North East riders set out for the traditional Boxing Day meet yesterday.
The established hunts commenced across the region early in the day with riders using animal-scented trails for the hounds to track.
In Northumberland, the Morpeth Hunt set out from Dyke Neuk while the Haydon Hunt set out in Hexham and the Border Hunt rode out further north.
The Tynedale Hunt also set out from Corbridge Market Place.
A spokeswoman for the Morpeth Hunt Supporters Club said: “It was a fantastic send off. We have had a record turnout of both riders and spectators.”
Michael Hedley, master of the Border Hunt, said the hunt set out from the Percy Arms in Otterburn.
He said: “We went off very well and it has been incredibly busy.
“The hunt is very well supported with a lot of people in cars and a lot of people on quad bikes.”
Elsewhere hunts were planned by Braes of Derwent at Lanchester, County Durham, and by the South Durham Hunt at Sedgefield.
Many involved in the controversial sport used the traditional meet to point out that most hunts have a wealth of support.
Fox hunting was outlawed in 2002 – but under the terms of the coalition agreement there will be a vote on whether to repeal the ban.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has claimed that the Hunting Act “simply doesn’t work.”
Mr Paice said he is in favour of hunting with dogs while visiting Milton Park in Peterborough ahead of the annual Boxing Day hunt.
The Countryside Alliance estimates that more than 250,000 people turned out yesterday to 300 hunts across the UK.
“The current law simply doesn’t work,” said Mr Paice.
“I personally am in favour of hunting with dogs – and the coalition agreement clearly states that we will have a free vote on whether to repeal the act when there is time in the parliamentary calendar to do so.”
League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Joe Duckworth said: “This cruel blood sport has thankfully been made illegal in this country and there is absolutely no desire among the general public to bring it back.”
Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh said: “There is no place for animal cruelty in a civilised society.”