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The Grand Hunt

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A grand hunt is when the wealthy and/or noble decide to go hunting. This is invariably done for sport, rather than for food — often the aim is an impressive trophy to mount on their wall, but even if the hunted animal is cooked and eaten, the hunters are doing it for the entertainment value, not to put food on the table. Hunting this way generally takes a significant amount of time, equipment, and personnel. This restricts a grand hunt to usually upper-class members. A grand hunt usually includes specialized weapons, animals trained specifically for the purpose, and/or experts in order to help make the hunt successful. A hunter on a grand hunt will almost always travel with an entourage — a handful of assistants to carry the equipment and handle the animals at least, and dozens of servants and courtiers brought along to serve the hunters' every possible whim at most. (For musical purposes, count on these to include a few horn players.) Anyone who actually hunts for food often sees these hunts as elaborate wastes of time and money, but to the grand hunters, the point is to create a social occasion (with all the attendant opportunities for networking and politicking) rather than to just kill some animals.

In theory, a grand hunt is perfectly safe, but watch out for a Hunting "Accident" or Upper Class Twits who can't shoot straight.

There are several types of grand hunts, depending largely on the type of game being hunted.

  • Falconry: hunting by means of trained raptors (the Noble Bird of Prey, not the dinosaur—though that would certainly be even more awesome), including not just falcons, but also hawks and eagles. Requiring the least amount of work on the part of the hunter, and being the least dangerous, it's the only sort of hunting traditionally considered appropriate for noble ladies in addition to gentlemen. That said, it was held in high regard in several societies; Arab nobles in particular are noted for loving falconry (which makes sense, as it is very well suited to desert hunting). Depending on the type of bird being flown, game consists of anything from other, lesser birds to small mammals like rabbits. As such, this sort of hunt rarely produces anything the hunter actually uses.
  • Bird hunt: birds are common and relatively unthreatening, making them good targets for hunters. Normally only specific types of birds are hunted, rather than random pigeons and sparrows, with waterfowl being a common target, though pheasants and quails also have a following. Dogs are often used to assist, by flushing the birds out of cover and/or retrieving them after they've been shot and fallen to the ground (often somewhere inconveniently far from the hunter). Besides meat, the main product of a bird hunt is their attractive plumage.
  • Stag hunt: when hunting deer, the goal is typically an impressive set of the animal's antlers rather than their meat (which is why you're more likely to see the term "stag" or "hart" than "deer", as both mean a male deer). Typically hunted with bow and arrow, or in later eras the single-shot riflenote  or bolt-action repeating rifle, allowing the hunter to show off precision and grace while still being more manly than falconry or bird hunting. Besides antlers, the hunter usually takes the meat as food and the hide for leather.
  • Big game hunt: a category that includes most predators, as well as unusually large and dangerous herbivores. Lions, bears, boar, buffalo, elephants, etc — not to mention whatever fantasy creatures may exist in the setting. The aim of a big game hunt is usually to bring home an impressive trophy (a mounted head, an entire stuffed corpse, or some particularly impressive body parts like claws or fangs). In settings with firearms, these will be hunted with rifles like stag, but of a higher caliber; in settings without firearms, spears are generally the weapon of choice. Undoubtedly the most dangerous and most expensive (and thus most prestigious) kind of hunting.
  • Fox hunt: a particularly British tradition, involving men on horseback running down wild foxes with the aid of hunting dogs. The purpose is the sport itself, rather than meat or trophies — once captured, the fox may even be released rather than killed. Highly controversial in modern times due to being seen as cruel, in 2004 the UK banned hunting with hounds entirely.

Something of note: In Britain—or at least among the British aristocracy—there is a distinction between "hunting", (which generally refers to fox hunting with hounds), "shooting" (shooting birds with shotguns), and "stalking" (deer hunting with rifles, so called because you need to follow the deer over terrain and avoid detection to get a good, clean shot).note  Works set among the British upper crust commonly involve these sports and are careful to distinguish them.

Frequently overlaps with Upper-Class Equestrian, since only rich people could raise all these horses with which to go hunting for fun. See also Hunting the Most Dangerous Game, when the prey is human (or something else intelligent). Not related to Hunter of Monsters, whose prey is always some supernatural creature and usually done alone, but the Egomaniac Hunter and the Great White Hunter may take part in a grand hunt. See also The Wild Hunt, which is a grand hunt conducted by a hunting party of supernatural spirits — usually (but not always) hunting humans. Can be a Snooty Sport if it's done by the rich and depicted as obnoxious. Hunting is also often seen among the Snobby Hobbies.


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  • In a commercial for Energizer batteries, the Energizer Bunny engages in one and comes out the victor when the dogs get tired from trying to hunt him.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Berserk, the King of Midland shows his increasing favor towards Griffith and the Band of the Hawk by asking them to serve as security at an important wild boar hunt for the nobility. The King's brother Count Julius, who already hates Griffith, is even more enraged because that honor used to belong to his White Dragon Knights. Minister Foss takes advantage of this by suggesting that Julius have Griffith killed in a Hunting "Accident".

    Comic Books 
  • The Transformers (IDW): Mirage's Universe profile establishes that prior to the Great War, he used to engage in turbofox hunts on his grounds and that he's the Cybertronian equivalent of "old money".

    Fairy Tales 
  • The fairy tale "The White Cat" by Madame d'Aulnoy features a scene where the eponymous cat and the Prince go on a hunt. The prince rides a wooden horse and the cat rides a monkey.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Day That Shook the World: Franz Ferdinand and Sophie are introduced hunting on one of their estates, complete with servants in the lead to flush out the game. It's an ironic contrast since they are also being hunted, as shown in the first scene where Gavrilo Princip and the other assassins are practicing how to kill them.
  • In Gosford Park, in a Shout-Out to the Renoir film below, there's a hunt planned as part of the country-house festivities. The women join a special outdoor lunch after the shooting, and the American film producer (who is also a vegetarian) is clearly the odd man out.
  • There's an example of a stag hunt in Love Me Tonight (1932) with all the elements: formal hunting clothes, horn-blowing, hounds, servants everywhere, etc.
  • The Rules of the Game by Jean Renoir featured the most iconic rendition of this. It's set in the late thirties and the mansion has a large game reserve filled with partridges, foxes, and rabbits. The party, filled with aspiring bourgeois, appoint a gamekeeper and servants to march into the reserve to chase out the animals for their sport and the result is a shocking montage sequence of birds, foxes, and rabbits hunted in shot-after-shot, and the film killed real, live animals on camera.
  • In Run Wild, Run Free, a party of hunters on horseback appears twice with their pack of baying dogs. In their first appearance, they startle Philip's falcon Lady, who tries to fly away. Her injured wing can't support her, and she is killed. Later on, the hunters spook Philip's horse into running away into the bog with Philip on his back.
  • The Squaw Man: Lord Henry is killed when he's thrown from his horse during a fox hunt.

  • The Black Fox of Beckham: Arabella's parents and Finn's father were all killed during one of Beckham's yearly fox hunts. Most of the book takes place during the lead-up to the next hunt, with both the vulpine and human protagonists trying to get fox hunting banned.
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: A grand hunt occurs in Crowner's Quest, where the conspirators arrange a Hunting "Accident" to eliminate one of the nobles who refuses to join their rebellion. Sir John quickly determines that the 'accident' is actually murder.
  • Danny, the Champion of the World: The antagonist is a wealthy, snobby, petty Jerkass who spends a fortune raising pheasants to host an annual hunt for the upper crust. The protagonist and the local community plot to poach the lot of them the day before the hunt, and succeed in making a laughingstock of the man.
    Danny's father: They come from miles around. Dukes and lords, barons and baronets, wealthy businessmen and all the fancy folk in the country. They come with their guns and their dogs and their wives, and all day long the noise of shooting rolls across the valley. But they don't come because they like Mr. Hazell. Secretly they all despise him ... But to Mr. Hazell it is the greatest day of the year and he is willing to pay almost anything to make it a success.
  • Deryni:
    • Deryni Rising opens with King Brion Haldane's household on a deer hunt, with a mortified Duke of Claibourne frustrated with his master of hounds (the dogs keep losing the scent). Brion's brother Nigel is using the occasion to instruct his pages in the proper forms of address for the various courtiers.
    • In King Kelson's Bride, Kelson Haldane plays host to the Ramsays (the last descendants of the old Mearan royal line) on a hawking expedition in the days before the Ramsay heir marries one of Kelson's cousins. Nigel and his sons are also along (Nigel is specifically described working a gerfalcon), and more matrimonial diplomacy is discussed on the hunt's periphery.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Mayors": The former King of the planet Anacreon was accidentally killed during a hunt to kill a giant flying animal called a Nyak. In the story, Prince Regent Weinis hints to the current King Lepold I that he had the previous king murdered and could do the same to Lepold during a royal hunt if he doesn't go along with Weinis' plans. It is mentioned that in the old times, when Anacreon was prominent enough for Emperors to visit it, every single one tested his own skills in the hunt.
  • Mermaid (2011): After Lenia transforms into a human, Prince Christopher takes her along on a hunting expedition. She loves riding her horse because it reminds her of swimming in the ocean, but she's horrified by the violence of the kill. The stag seems nearly human, unlike the fish and sea plants Lenia used to eat.
  • In The Moon and the Sun, King Louis XIV releases animals from his menagerie, including some camels, so he and his court can hunt them down in the nearby forest.
  • There's a lengthy (and very historically accurate) depiction of a medieval boar hunt in The Once and Future King
  • In Planet of the Apes an organized expedition of apes (mostly gorillas) go out hunting humans. They kill a bunch but keep a few for medical experimentation. After the hunt they pose for pictures with some of their kills. This doesn't count as Hunting the Most Dangerous Game because (a) the prey humans aren't intelligent and (b) the hunters aren't human.
  • Unsurprisingly, medieval literature has a lot of these. Perhaps the most famous is the series of them in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where the host's deer, boar, and fox hunts are intercut with his wife's attempts to seduce Sir Gawain. (The dismemberment and preparation of the quarries are also described in great detail.)
  • Solar Pons: In "The Adventure of the Missing Huntsman", Pons and Dr. Parker take part in a fox hunt while investigating a murder at the hunt club.
  • In the The Stormlight Archive book The Way of Kings:
    • Dalinar organizes a greatshell hunt to entertain his nephew, the king, and provide a chance for the king to prove his courage despite his fears of assassins. The beast—which is about fifty feet tall and at least as long—eats the bait early and manages to climb onto the plateau before anyone is ready. It's theorized that it was an intentional assassination attempt, but no one is sure how such a thing would be arranged.
    • The plateau battles are not quite hunts, as they involve two enemy armies clashing, but as they're both fighting over the gemhearts the pupating chasmfiends hide in their shells, the idea is similar. The nobles definitely treat it like a game, to the annoyance of their soldiers, who are fighting and dying for nothing but the glory of winning money for their lords.
    • Roshone, the citylord of Kaladin's town, takes his son out on a whitespine hunt, which ends up crippling Roshone and killing his son. Kaladin's father mentions that he and the old citylord used to mock the type of men who would go out on hunts, but he still patches Roshone up as best as he can.
  • Xandri Corelel participates in a game hunt, despite her hatred of violence and animal cruelty, in order to avoid a diplomatic incident. She plans to stay near the back and try to avoid the action; instead, she and an injured councilor end up being cornered by the animal, and she is forced to shoot it to save the councilor's life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Crown (2016) has a few hunting episodes. A few particular standouts:
    • The very first episode, "Wolverton Splash", is named for George VI's favourite spot to shoot ducks, where (while shooting) he informs Sir Anthony Eden in no uncertain terms that while Albert Windsor is sympathetic to Eden's complaint, His Majesty George VI will not remove Winston Churchill as Prime Minister.
    • A key episode in Season 4, "The Balmoral Test", centers much drama on the royals' efforts in stalking a large stag that had wandered onto the Balmoral estate after having been wounded by an inept tourist on a neighbouring property.
  • Game of Thrones: King Robert Baratheon dies from wounds sustained in one against a boar.
    • House of the Dragon: The one in which King Viserys is looking for a white hart to kill for good omen. All of his court is brought to it. While Viserys is drunk for most of it and kills a deer that was already immobilized for him, his daughter Rhaenyra gets to kill a boar that was attacking her.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Death of a Stranger", Barnaby investigates a murder that takes place during a fox hunt, and has a village full of toffs as suspects.
  • Fox hunting features in several episodes of To the Manor Born, as Audrey is a member of the local hunt, and Richard joins as it is expected of him as lord of the manor.
  • Downton Abbey naturally features a few of these. The second episode actually revolves around the unexpected fallout from inviting a Turkish diplomat's son for an English fox hunt, at least three episodes involve bird shoots (pheasant and pigeon by the look of it), and one Christmas special involves stalking deer in the Scottish Highlands with Lord Grantham's cousin Lord Flintshire.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: According to the legend, when King Oeneus of Calydon failed to honor the goddess Diana with offerings, she released a terrifying boar on his land. The king's son, Meleager, assembled a group of renowned warriors to slay the beast. Several of the huntsmen were killed or maimed before Meleager finally defeated the boar. If it wasn't for the serious business behind the boar's hunt, this would be both the Ur-Example and Trope Codifier.

  • Johann Sebastian Bach:
    • This is more or less the backdrop for Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd (a.k.a. the "Hunting Cantata"). The work's recipient, Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels, had a court with a tradition of brass playing and was also a keen hunter, so the use of horns to imitate hunting calls was only natural, hence the hunting-centric work.
    • One of Bach's sacred cantates, BWV 88, has an opening arioso setting the text of Jeremiah 16:16. In its second half, which sets the words, "And after will I send for many hunters," the tempo becomes considerably livelier and a pair of horns join the accompaniment.
  • The third movement of the "Autumn" concerto of Antonio Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" depicts a hunt organized with "horns, rifles and dogs" (as the accompanying sonnet puts it), and the opening ritornello is immediately followed by imitation horn harmonies from the principal violinist. Later passages represent the hunted beast's flight and death throes. Another violin concerto published in the same collection, Op. 8 No. 10, likewise bears the title "La caccia" (The Hunt) and contains similar musical motifs, but has no narrative program.

  • Pal Joey plays with this in "Happy Hunting Horn," which uses old-fashioned hunting metaphors for Joey's horniness. The dance music for this song interpolates Siegfried's horn call from The Ring of the Nibelung.
  • Tristan and Isolde: At the start of the second act, King Marke is off hunting, which affords the lovers their golden opportunity. While this hunt takes place entirely offstage, its scope is suggested by the large number of horns heard in the distance.

    Video Games 
  • Crusader Kings II: It's available in September or October and costs 25 gold, available if Christian, Pagan, or Zoroastran (and with the Way of Life DLC, only if Hunting is the active focus). There's the usual animals that appear in the hunt, sometimes there's regular hunting accidents, and events in case of low or high martial-rank characters. There's also a chance it can be exploited by assassination plots.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The Mark of the Assassin DLC for Dragon Age II sees Hawke receive an invitation to a grand wyvern hunt from Orlesian Duke Prosper, which a Qunari assassin named Tallis uses as a pretext for infiltrating the Duke's castle. To maintain their cover, however, she has to help Hawke hunt down that wyvern, all while dodging sabotage from other noble hunters who want to take the grand prize.
    • The Masked Empire makes it clear that formalized hunts are the standard practice of the Orlesian nobility—as well as the most accepted way of getting rid of rivals.
  • Final Fantasy IX: The Festival of the Hunt is an annual event in which beasts are let loose in the city. Contestants sign up to hunt the beasts, with prizes and fame awarded to the champion.
  • The Barons of the March in King of the Castle are enthusiastic hunters, and the March's version of the story event "An Invitation" is based around the Lord's Hunt, a huge social gathering of Barons to hunt the local wildlife. If the King attends, they can choose a weapon, an accompanying animal, and the prey they plan to hunt. The most ambitious choice for the prey is the White Hart; the probability of even finding one, much less killing one, is always very low, but the rewards for success are high.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • On the planet Rishi you run into a trio of hunters from the Spawn Nebula who every so often, based on an unknown calendar, arrive on a world decreed by their shamans to hunt the most ferocious beasts there. The reason for this ceremonial hunt is unknown to any but themselves.
    • Likewise, hunting is a sacred religious rite among Trandoshans. The Consular's companion Qyzen Fess has some sidequests where he is hunting great beasts as a rite of passage.

  • Latchkey Kingdom has the short chapter "Boron", wherein Willa guides the Baron Boron and his Yes-Man servant as they hunt the giant Feenix for a trophy. It doesn't go too well.

    Western Animation 
  • The Hill Farm: The peace and quiet of a bucolic country farm is disturbed by a bunch of red-jacketed aristocrats galloping through the farm on a fox hunt. After the dogs tear the poor little fox to bits the hunters shoot one of their servants. Then the hunters disturbed the Godzilla-sized bear that lives in the forest, which threatens to bring disaster to everyone.
  • Jonny Quest episode "Riddle of the Gold". The fake maharajah sets up a tiger hunt in honor of Dr. Quest's visit. He plans to use have Dr. Quest assassinated during the hunt by having him "accidentally" shot.

    Real Life 
  • This trope caused a few problems in medieval Europe: while the hunt originally kept the numbers of large crop eaters down, the need for animals to hunt caused feudal lords to forbid their peasants from hunting. This in turn caused many crop-eating animals to proliferate, leading the peasants to resort to poaching to get enough food.

Alternative Title(s): Nobles Like To Hunt