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Rural crime

Cambridgeshire has a varied urban and rural landscape. This page aims to provide information and advice on rural criminal activities that we are committed to reducing, such as; hare coursing, poaching, equine crime and fox hunting.

Hare coursing

Hare coursing is where people use dogs to chase, catch and kill hares. Hunting wild mammals with a dog is illegal in the UK under the  Hunting Act 2004.

Hare coursing usually takes place at dawn or dusk and tends to occur during the month of September, when large areas of land are crop-less. Coursers will often walk along the edge of fields to frighten a hare into the open, as well as using dogs like greyhounds and lurchers.

Cambridgeshire’s flat and rural landscape can make it a popular area for hare coursing. We urge members of the public to help us clamp down on hare coursing by looking out for;

  • groups of vehicles parked in rural areas, particularly by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridleway
  • estate cars, four wheel drives or vans with dogs inside
  • groups of people using binoculars to spot hares.

If you witness hare coursing in progress, please contact us immediately on 999.

Anyone found to be involved in hare coursing can receive a fine of up to £5,000 by a Magistrates Court. Officers are also authorised to seize and detain vehicles until a court hearing, under  section 30 of the Game Act 1831.


Poaching is the hunting, capturing or killing of animals and is illegal under the  Hunting Act 2004.

Historically, poachers would go out to kill, namely a rabbit or a pheasant, for their meal. Nowadays poachers typically travel in 4x4 vehicles, use dogs and a variety of weapons to kill animals as part of a cruel sport. There are many methods of poaching including the use of weapons, poisons, explosives, traps, nets and cages.

Please be aware that it is illegal to hunt or fish if;

  • the game or fish is not in season
  • you don’t hold a licence
  • hunters use an illegal weapon for a particular animal
  • the animal or plant is on restricted land
  • the right to hunt the animal is claimed by somebody
  • the tactics used are illegal e.g. using something, such as food, to attract an animal (baiting)
  • the animal or fish is protected by law or has been listed as an endangered animal.

Signs of poaching include vehicles parked on verges, lines of people walking through fields with dogs and damage to gates and boundaries around land.

Fox hunting

Hunting includes any circumstances where a person engages or participates in the pursuit of a wild mammal and has one or more dogs involved.  The Hunting Act 2004 was formed to control this and bans hunting and hare coursing in England and Wales.

Fox hunting is a common form of illegal hunting and we are responsible for investigating any alleged cases. If you’re found to be involved in hunting or authorising land to be used for that reason, you could face a fine of up to £5,000 and have dogs or hunting equipment taken away.


There are some exemptions to the fox hunting ban which is mainly to prevent damage to livestock, wild birds and other property. These exemptions allow the shooting of wild mammals (not just foxes), if certain conditions defined in the The Hunting Act 2004 have been met. This includes dogs legally being used to;

  • conduct trail hunting or drag hunting, which is the use of an artificial scent
  • exercise hounds with landowners consent
  • conduct flushing, which is where two dogs chase (‘flush’ or ‘stalk’) foxes out of hiding if the fox is causing damage to your property or the environment.

Cambridgeshire countryside watch

Cambridgeshire countryside watch aims to reduce crime and the fear of crime in rural areas.  It involves us working with the National Farmers Union (NFU) and other rural agencies and businesses to tackle rural crime together.

Visit the Cambridgeshire countryside watch website to contact your local representative.

Horse watch

Horse watch offers information and advice to horse owners and riders to reduce equine crime in Cambridgeshire and forms part of the National Horsewatch Alliance.

If you would like to find out more or become a member of horse watch in Cambridgeshire, please visit the National Horsewatch Alliance website.

Protect your horse from crime

To protect your horse from equine crime, below are some helpful tips and advice you might consider;

  • as an owner, you must have an equine passport for your horse that include a selection of photographs of your horse in winter and summer seasons
  • freeze branding your horse acts as a deterrent to thieves as well as making your horse easier to recover, should they ever be lost or stolen
  • hoof branding aids in the identification of your horse
  • microchipping your horse is a way to register their identity to make it easier to trace them
  • mark your horses rugs, saddles and trailer with your postcode or the horses freeze brand number
  • use a wheel clamp on your trailer to prevent it from being stolen
  • ensure all access, drives and roads to stables are gated with a heavy duty lock and chain to secure them
  • place tools, tack and other equipment in a lockable, secure area
  • install security lights or an alarm.

If you see any suspicious activity or have any concerns about a horse, mule or donkey being sold without an equine passport, always get in touch to report a concern to us.  

Boat watch

Cambridgeshire boat watch is dedicated to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour around our waterways to make boating safe and enjoyable for all. 

The Association of Nene River Clubs, Environment Agency and Great Ouse Boating Association work together with us and other police forces to ensure boating is safe for everyone.

To become a boat watch member or for more information on the boat watch scheme, please email

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