In my hunting country, the cottontail rabbit tends to find a hole if pushed very hard for any length of time. Runs of over 30 minutes occur infrequently with my hounds, although they are not uncommon in springtime when the rabbits are breeding. I had a very nice 35 minute driving run a couple of weeks ago that ended with hounds in a muddy hole. (See photo of Woodpont Manager). I have seen rabbits go into every type of den out there, or into pipes, under buildings, and into rock cliffs. I remember one rabbit at Ohio’s Tycoon Wildlife Area years ago that would always go into a pipe barely large enough to get a man’s fist into. I often wonder what happens to the rabbit who encounters an opossum or mink in the hole it chooses? One area I like to hunt has a good rabbit population, but strip mining left sheer rock walls with many crevices, so you get one circle and a hole from nearly every rabbit. Can’t say I blame them!
An English huntsman would say they have “Gone to Ground”, whereas most in America say they have “holed up”. The English packs even have a note on their horns to let their followers know the chase has ended at a hole. Hunters in America rarely ever dig out their game, but it was quite common for this to be done in other countries, especially with foxes. Of course, part of the reason for hunting foxes in parts of England and elsewhere was to exterminate some of them to make life easier for the sheep and poultry farmers, so digging them out was an approved practice. The English banned all hunting of foxes and hares with hounds in 2005, so the farmers now must use other methods to control the fox population.
Some hounds have a habit of staying and digging when the rabbit has “gone to ground”. Some beagle owners like this, but others want to move on and get very upset when a hound lingers at a hole. Some of my hounds come right back, while others, like my Woodpont Madcap and Woodpont Brawler, will stay to dig, claw and chew at the hole for some time. Years ago I saw my hounds pull a full grown rabbit from a hole, and some of those hounds would never leave a hole after that. They never forgot.
Photo: Woodpont hounds marking “gone to ground” in a rocky hole, March 2014.