HORSES and hounds charged off on the annual Boxing Day hunt.

Hundreds of spectators turned out at Rivington Hall Barn in the sun to watch the start of the Holcombe hunt.

The riders, wearing traditional red coats, galloped past the crowd before setting off.

As the sound of the hunting horn filled the air, the hounds followed a 12-mile pre-laid scent.

Hunting foxes and hares with dogs was outlawed in 2005 but, under the ban, dogs can still be used to follow a scent.

Arnold Greenhalgh, master of the hunt, said: “People love to come trail hunting and it does not do any harm.

“We have been very lucky with the weather and have again had a fantastic turnout.”

About 60 riders and horses took part in the hunt yesterday with many more people following on foot.

Carolyn Armstrong, aged 26, from Blackrod, said: “I have been riding since I was a small child and I took part in this a lot when I was younger.

“But this is the first time I have done it since the ban came in, but it is still popular and the nice weather has brought people out.”

Shirley Thompson, aged 73, from Chorley had taken her grandchildren Alex, aged seven, and Christopher, aged five.

She said: “It is the first time we have been to the hunt.

“We thought it was quite exciting and it is something different to do on Boxing Day with the children.“ Yesterday more than 250,000 people took part in 300 hunts which were held across the country.

Simon Hart, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “The support of hundreds of thousands of people on Boxing Day is a measure of the rural community’s determination to keep the infrastructure of hunting together until the Act is repealed.”

The League Against Cruel Sports chief executive, Douglas Batchelor, said: 'If hunts are hunting legally, as they claim to be, and attracting record support, why on earth do they want a repeal of the Hunting Act and why are they so reluctant to be monitored?

“Either the hunters are lying when they say they obey the law or their leaders are unable to come to terms with the fact they are not allowed to abuse and kill an animal. Which one is it?”