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The Fatiguing Of The Breed

by Robert L. Mason

            Over the past several years, I've noticed an alarming trend in Beagling. Indeed, for better than two decades now, I've been troubled by what seems to be a growing lack of "staying power" exhibited throughout the breed.  Stamina, ever the hallmark of hunting hounds and once as characteristic of the Beagle as long, floppy ears, has diminished significantly.

            To be sure, I'm not the only houndsman to observe this dreadful phenomenon.  Proof of that lies in the various quaint steps taken by hunters and houndsmen to remedy or accommodate this problem.  Some--the purists among us--simply quit the field once their hounds decide to quit.  Others, more resourceful, have adopted the small-pack relay system, returning to their trucks for successive relays of hounds, once the fielded pack has lost its freshness.

            Still others are resorting to cross matings with non-hound breeds, in their misguided efforts to rekindle banked fires and restore lost character to the blood.  Of course, apart from ethical considerations, the problem with the latter approach is obvious: whenever you cut the blood you cut the nose.  You also cut the legendary stamina for which the breed is noted. And that may just be the heart of the problem: we now have a product with 'too much cut' on it.

            In The Ultimate Beagle: The Natural-Born Rabbit Dog, I address the matter of body type and stamina in the chapter entitled "The Elements of Greatness."  Whatever happened to the houndsmen and hounds that hunted from "can see" to "can't see?"  There was a time in this country when leisure time was scarce and hunters took full advantage of their opportunities to slip away to the fields.   They hunted  from daylight to dark, and they hunted behind hounds that wouldn't quit.

            In analyzing the diminishing endurance of our hounds, nutrition is one of the first of many suspect factors to be considered.  Despite the outlandish boasts of many major brands of commercial dog food, our Beagles are not receiving all they need from most of these products.

            Over the years, I've hunted in and around countless soybean fields, but never have I observed a Beagle to manifest an interest in eating soybean.  That suggests to me quite strongly that soybean and other filler products are not natural food choices for the carnivore.  And, yes, the hound is descended from a long line of carnivores. As such, meat or flesh in one form or another constitutes a natural part of its diet.

            It's worth noting that only a few generations ago, many hounds rarely tasted commercial dog foods.  They fed almost exclusively on table scraps and the occasional prey animal they caught and killed.  Yet, they thrived.  Eating, after all, means far more to an animal than mere nutrition.  Eating fills the animal heart with joy and revitalizes the animal being.

            Make no mistake, there are some excellent commercial dog foods available.  There are also some terrible dog-food products on the market.  Still, I don't attribute the bulk of this stamina drain to the failings of our commercial dog foods.

            Shelf life, on the other hand, is a major problem--too many Beagles spending too much time in kennels and too little time in the field.  The Beagle, like every fine athlete, requires constant training and conditioning under real-world field situations, in order to harness and refine the fires of its instincts, synapses and sinew.

            Perhaps more  significant than  all other  factors combined  has been the  far-flung   practice of breeding  and promoting slow, inept hounds that bear no resemblance to any recognized  standards for the  breed.  Sloth and lethargy, if not identical twins, are closely enough related, and  it  is  unthinkable that olfactory retardation could be encouraged and fostered in a breed for half a century without spreading its polluting effects throughout Beagledom.

            Although the pendulum has begun to swing back to high-yield hounds capable of locating game in all types of cover and driving it energetically and decisively to the gun, the painful legacy of promoting inferior hounds will be with us for a long time to come.

            It was only through careful and patient breeding that the Beagle acquired its legendary stamina, and only breeding can rid Beagledom of the cancer of fatigue.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).