A HUNTSMAN has been found guilty of illegal hunting after he “encouraged” his out of control dogs to kill a fox.

Mark Pearson, 64, was observed to shout “carry on” and “hunt on” at his hounds after they chased and attacked the animal during a trail hunt.

The joint master of the South Dorset Hunt was then seen to carry the dead fox out of undergrowth where it had been cornered.

Pearson was found guilty of illegally hunting a wild mammal with dogs in violation of the Hunting Act 2004.

Magistrates heard Pearson was leading the South Dorset Hunt through countryside in Bere Regis when the incident happened on December 13, 2021.

Another fox had been killed earlier that day by the same pack of dogs but that incident was dismissed as an unfortunate accident by police.

Two hours later, when the majority of the hunt had left, hunt saboteurs monitoring the event heard the hounds baying.

One animal rights campaigner filmed the aftermath of the attack.

Pearson, of Child Okeford, near Blandford, can be seen in footage dressed in the red coat of a master huntsman getting off his horse and walking to the barking hounds by the gorse.

Molly Mifsud, prosecuting, told Weymouth Magistrates' Court that Pearson had failed to stop his hounds from killing the fox while unaware he was being filmed.

Joanne Joss, one of the saboteurs, told the court she thought Pearson was encouraging the hounds.

Asked by the prosecutor what Ms Joss heard Pearson shouting after he got off his horse, she replied: "He got off his horse and joined the hounds in the gorse.

"He seemed to be encouraging them and I could hear him shouting 'carry on' and when he emerged from the gorse he kept saying 'hunt on.'"

Miss Mifsud asked Ms Joss how many times Pearson 'encouraged' the hounds.

She said: "He was by the hounds on horseback. He told them to 'carry on' and said that four times as if he wanted them to carry on where the fox was.

"He got off the horse and joined them in the gorse, we thought he was leading them on."

Derek Perry, defending, denied that Pearson had encouraged the hounds. He said his client tried to call the dogs back and was heard shouting at them 'leave it'.

Mr Perry said: "The reality is that he blew his horn to call the hounds back.

"When the hounds didn't all obey he got off his horse and came straight down the hill to tell them to leave it.

"The recording was taken from some fields away and in it you can hear Mr Pearson shouting 'leave it’.

"He does not run away from the scene, he calmly takes the body to be taken away and continues on.

"At no point can Mr Pearson be heard saying 'hunt on'."

But in finding him guilty, presiding magistrate Justice Stephen Corben told Pearson that he should have had control over the hounds before they slaughtered the fox.

Justice Corben said the witnesses called were credible and consistent.

"We believe that Mr Pearson should have had full control of his pack.

Pearson was fined £6,000, a victim surcharge of £190 and costs of £620.