THE sound of hooves clattering down high streets could be heard across the Cotswolds and the Vale as thousands gathered for the traditional Boxing Day hunt.

Two thousand people flocked to Broadway to cheer the North Cotswold Hunt which attracted up to 100 people mounted on horses who gathered at The Kennels in Broad Close.

Joint hunt master Jamie Hooker said crowds of five people deep lined the streets to see them off.

“It was brilliant,” she said “It’s extremely popular.

“I think we had a few more people, mainly because the weather was so lovely. Everybody loves to come out and see the spectacle.

“It’s a nice thing to do. I went into Cotswold Trading later in the day and they said it’s fantastic afterwards because everybody comes to the shop and buys. It’s great for business.”

Hundreds of eager spectators also massed onto Broad Street, Pershore, to catch a glimpse of the horses and ponies taking centre stage before setting off.

Ed Righton, field master of the Croome and West Warwickshire Hunt, said: “This is one of the biggest hunts yet. It’s a great turnout. It’s a tradition that has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years and it’s great to take part in it. The turnout would be even bigger were it still legal though.

“I’m glad to see there is still support for hunting as it is a very British tradition.”

About 70 horses and 30 hounds set off from the town centre at 11.30am, following the trail of fox scents ensure the hunt remained within the boundaries of the law.

Joining the hunting effort was a bird of prey, as according to the Hunting Act 2004 it is legal to use dogs to flush out wild mammals for the birds of prey to hunt.

The riders led their horses through Drakes Broughton, Wyre Piddle and the surrounding countryside areas.

Meanwhile, a crowd of about 6,000 gathered for the Heythrop Hunt meet in Chipping Norton the same day.

The square outside the Fox Hotel was packed with riders, dogs and Chippy residents who went along to see the hunt off.

Just over the county border, about 1,000 people gathered at Upton House, between Shipston and Banbury for the Warwickshire Hunt meet which attracted 100 mounted followers.

Chairman Sam Butler said: “It’s a great tradition. We had a hugely successful day. We had 1,000 people who wouldn’t normally come to the hunt meet.

“They want to come and enjoy the pageantry and tradition.

There was a huge cross-section of people and a terrific atmosphere.

A great day for hunting.”

As about 250,000 people gathered for around 250 hunts up and down the country, the Countryside Alliance has called on the coalition government to make good on its promise to amend the law to make it easier to flush out and shoot foxes.

The organisation’s executive chairman, Barney White-Spunner, said: “In three-and-a-half years the Government has done nothing to address this illiberal, unjust and divisive law.

“The arguments for repeal or replacement of the ban are unarguable.

“Proposals to amend the Act backed by science have been brought forward and there is solid support in parliament.

Doing nothing is not an acceptable option.”