Although the government and DEFRA have not yet given the go-ahead for hunting and cubbing to start, hounds and huntsmen are ready and raring to go.

Hunts around the country are eagerly awaiting news from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs so that they can begin hunting.

Despite regular meetings between the Master of Fox Hounds Association and DEFRA, hunting and cubbing have not yet received the go-ahead.

Not only has foot-and-mouth meant a late start – cubbing would normally commence around the end of August – it has also made it difficult to exercise the hounds.

A spokesman from the Dulverton East Kennels said: “We hadn’t been able to walk the hounds out since February as we were under a ‘D’ restriction. We’ve just been able to start again but are waiting to hear from DEFRA before we can start this season’s hunting.”

Meanwhile, acting joint master Mrs Maund said: “All thefarmers are 100% keen for us to start. In fact, they are quite desperate about the number of foxes on their land. At the moment we hope to be able to start hunting in September or October.

“People are being very generous despite the lack of hunting – we’ve had lots of support at hunt barbeques and so on. Now that Devon’s been declared foot and mouth free, we are all optimistic and hope to start as soon as possible.”