SIR - I enjoy reading John Phillpott's articles as I find his opinions and comments are largely similar to my own. I refer to his article about fox hunting (March 15) when he said that his 1958 Observer's Book of Wild Animals mentions that the fox would probably have been extinct since Elizabethan times "but for its careful preservation by the various hunts". That is so very nearly true!

Hunting of wild animals with dogs for sport has been a tradition in the UK for 1,000 years. However, it was not until the time of the Civil War that the popularity of fox hunting grew considerably, when the destruction of parks and forests reduced the numbers of the more desirable quarry of deer and wild boar. By the 18th century foxes were being destroyed in large numbers and the sport's continuation was under threat.

Foxes were therefore imported from the Continent and Leadenhall Market became a busy centre for fox trading. The late 18th century saw major changes in the English landscape with the passing of the Enclosure Acts, and the spread of arable farming. Landowners in the big hunting counties set aside areas where foxes could breed so that hunting could continue.

Modern-day adversaries of the fox claim that it is a pest to farmers and should be killed. Just quite when fox hunting ceased to become a sport to become a means of pest control, I really don't know, but I suspect it was when the general public came to recognise it as the cruel sport it clearly was, and still is.

C STANLEY, Worcester