A PARADE of bloodhounds entertained crowds in Ashbourne’s Market Place as part of a traditional Boxing Day custom.
The Four Shires Bloodhounds gather in Market Place ahead of the annual Boxing Day meet, which starts from the town.
And, while this year, the hunt could not go ahead, horses and hounds still put on a parade in Ashbourne for the crowds of people who turn out to see the spectacle each year.
The Boxing Day meeting usually sees the pack of hounds chase a keen runner across up to 20 miles of countryside with the permission of surrounding farmers and landowners.
While the hunt itself was cancelled, Four Shires Bloodhounds kennel hunstman, Heidi Critchlow, brought a pack of the hounds to meet families assembled in the Market Place.
And as a special treat, two bloodhound puppies, Evander and Evonne, both eight months old, were allowed to meet the public.
The Boxing Day Meet has become a firm favourite on the festival calendar, with hundreds of people coming out to meet the hounds and horses as they congregate in the Market Square.
Bloodhounds have an excellent scenting ability, which they use to track their quarry over challenging terrain.
As the lead hounds follow the scent, they can be heard to ‘sing’ to the pack, to communicate the direction to take.
Once they catch the runner after a chase lasting several hours, hounds congregate around to say thank you and to plant him or her with an affectionate lick.
Maggie Pearlstine, Senior Master of the Four Shires Bloodhounds, said: “The Ashbourne meet is the highlight of the year us.
“It’s great to see so many supporters in the Square and we are indebted to the farmers and landowners who let us cross their land to hunt our human quarry.”