Deer came a close second but needed large tracts of open land, so both were annexed and protected as Royal preserves. Anyone caught poaching in these were severely punished. William Ist, who brought packs of Talbot and Gascon hounds over with him when he conquered England in 1066, revelled in the chase.
But by the mid 18th Century, wild boar had become virtually extinct and the Acts of Enclosure of land introduced in 1760 had made deer hunting harder. The new hedges and fences encouraged jumping and a new quarry had been established - the fox.
Taken up as a sport by prosperous farmers and local landowners, dedicated fox hound packs had been founded as early as the 1670's. The sport kept gaining in popularity over the next 200 years. Wealthy Victorians with extensive estates were enthusiastic supporters and participants on their country weekends. The hunting season extended from November to April and was accompanied by many social gatherings.
Hunt Balls were very popular but the other big social occasion was the Hunt Breakfast.
Held sometimes before the start of the chase, but most times afterwards. Either in some large barn and catered by the estate owner or in the local pub by prior arrangement. These were hearty meals for prodigious appetites and were welcomed by the whole community.
The hunt now covered all classes from the lord of the manor to the humblest farmer. Anyone who could procure a horse could participate and the rising middle classes particularly those who wished to improve their social standing delighted in the sport.
The Georgian Hunt Breakfast evolved from the great traditional feasts held in Medieval Halls after the chase when vast quantities of food and wine were enjoyed by all and the days sport discussed in great detail. Not a breakfast in the usual sense of the word, but a spread of food covering roast meats of all kinds, warming stews and soups, several different kinds of breads, carving hams, whole cheeses, meat pies, ale and hot mulled wine.
In Yorkshire there might also be a fruit cake to go with the cheese but in general there was little sweet stuff at the meal, if any at all. Hunting is now officially illegal in Britain, but some packs still meet, defying the ban.
I can not believe that the groaning table that figured so prominently in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian meets is still in practise today, but some modified version may be more likely, if anyone tarries after the hunt is over, now it's a pint of beer and a cornish pasty in the pub bar.