Six hounds from the Duke of Beaufort’s hunt were killed on New Year’s Eve as the famous hunt met near Wootton Bassett.

The dogs were hit by a train after they wandered on to the lines.

The hunt met at the Volunteer Inn at Great Somerford earlier in the day.

Spokesperson for the hunt Jo Aldridge said: “It was a tragic accident and we are all distraught.

“We love our hounds very much.”

Hunt members were unsure why the hounds wandered away from the rest of the pack but were keen to stress it was a rare occurrence.

Miss Aldridge said: “It is extremely rare and is just one of those terrible things.

“We only guess that they picked up a scent.

“We apologise profusely to British Rail and to the driver. We think it was a goods train but if any passengers were inconvenienced we are very sorry.

“We will be looking carefully into what might have gone wrong.”

Captain Ian Farquhar, master of the hunt, said: “Most people had gone home by the time it happened and no-one actually saw the accident. It was a very sad and nasty accident.”

The dogs are housed in Badminton and Captain Farquhar estimates they currently have about 120 of them.

Captain Farquhar made it clear that the dogs are all known individually so their loss will be felt by all hunt members.

He said: “They all have a name and everyone knows them and the dog knows its name.

“We work with them a lot and we become very fond of them.

“It should not have happened but it was one of those sad things.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said they had no record of any incidents in Wootton Bassett and said it sounded as if a freight train could have been involved.