Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who once caused outrage by telling a live audience on Have I Got News for You that he likes to run over foxes, became the fox himself two weeks ago when the BBC motoring show’s presenter was hunted down by Ledbury hounds.
Clarkson challenged the Ledbury, with co-presenter Richard Hammond in the field, that he could beat them across country. So he took on the horses in a 4×4 Daihatsu car decorated as a fox.
While the BBC remained tightlipped about what was filmed, Ledbury joint-master David Redvers told H&H: “The whole thing was a bloody good laugh and Jeremy Clarkson seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.”
Hounds were brought back to fitness specially for the stunt, in which they followed a trail left by Clarkson in his “fox-car”. Hammond joined the field of 20 Ledbury regulars, after taking a series of riding lessons organised by the hunt.
“I think the plan was to show him in a farcical light,” said Mr Redvers. “But he had a series of lessons with eventer Tor Brewer and he proved to be a complete natural — so wasn’t nearly as farcical as the BBC wanted to make him out to be.
“We had the full complement of hounds — 12½ couple — and followed a trail for about five or six miles, ending up on the edge of the River Severn.”
While the field took in some hedges, Hammond even popped a few hunt jumps — and stayed in the plate.
“Richard is keen to come out with us again, actually,” said Mr Redvers. “His wife, Mindy, occasionally hunts with us, so perhaps they’ll come out together.”
On a serious note, the Ledbury joint-master said the show is the “best possible evidence” that their hounds are trained to follow a trail.
“It shows the hunt in a very good light — and everyone had a lot of fun,” he said.
While the BBC will not confirm any details other than the stunt will be aired in “one of six shows starting in late June”, Mr Redvers said everyone who took part is invited to the BBC studios to film the programme on 9 July.
But who won — Richard (the hunt) or Jeremy (the fox) — remains a secret.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (8 May, ’08)