The County Roscommon Hunt was revived in the 1998/1999 period following a hiatus which began in the 1950s. The season, which began on the first Sunday in October last year, will run until the first Sunday in March this year, with up to 73 people registered to take part throughout the winter.
Micheál Curley is the chairperson of the hunt and he says the weekly meets are popular with people from across Co. Roscommon and even further afield.
“There would have been a long history of the hunt in Co. Roscommon right up until about 1950 – a lot of the hunts stopped around that time. I re-established the County Roscommon Hunt in the 1998/1999 season and it has grown since then. We notify around 73 people through text and Facebook on a weekly basis now.
“Earlier this month, for example, there were 42 horses out and people from all over the county. We also had participants from countries as far away as Norway and Sweden and a couple from England. There was even a Master Huntsman from Canada”.
Micheál believes that the hunts attract people from all over and are therefore good for tourism and local business.
“The visitors will hire horses and pay for accommodation so it’s good for the local tourism economy. Many of them will come for a week or longer and travel around to different hunts”.
Micheál is a Portumna native and had been involved with hunts in Mullingar and Westmeath before he arrived in Roscommon. He says the hunt is as much a social outlet as a day of sport.
“We’ve got plenty of young people involved in the County Roscommon Hunt and there’s a wide range of ages right up to fellas like me! There are a number of teenagers who are involved and they have their own social group within the wider group”.
While it can be argued that it is a healthy outdoor pursuit for those on horseback, the hunt, as we know, has received criticism from animal rights activists both here and in the UK. What message does Micheál have for those who would protest against the hunt?
“I would say come along with us and see for yourself. The horses and hounds are well looked after and the County Roscommon Hunt would be part of the Irish Masters of Harriers Association and the Hunting Association of Ireland.
“There are strict rules in place concerning where we can and cannot hunt and how we treat the fox also. Last Sunday, for example, while we were trying to find the fox in Lecarrow, he gave us the slip and in fairness he usually manages to give us the slip!”