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The Pendulum Swings

by Robert L. Mason   


   For hunters and houndsmen who endured the long, harsh winter of slothful, ineffectual Beagles bearing nothing more than cosmetic resemblance to a top-notch rabbit hound, mounting evidence squarely reflects that the pendulum in Beagling has dramatically swung in favor of swifter, more energetic hounds, capable of pushing their quarry to a shotgun conclusion.

          Nowhere was this evidence more convincing than in two field trials I attended in late April 2001.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) conducted its Small Pack Option National Championships some 22 miles south of Owensboro, Kentucky, on April 20th and 21st.  On the very same dates, across the Ohio River in southern Indiana and less than a half-hour drive away, the American Rabbit Hound Association (ARHA) was conducting its Little Pack World Hunt 2001.

     On Friday morning, April 20th, my longtime friend and hunting companion, Garrett Humphrey and I joined BEAGLES UNLIMITED's Owner/Publisher, Donald J. Potts and his father, Donald D. Potts, for a delightful day of Beagling.  We saw many fine hounds on both sides of the river and met and chatted with houndsmen from all across the country.

          Although the AKC Beagles were touted as "medium speed" hounds, I witnessed no discernible difference in trail speed or accuracy between the hounds I saw perform on either side of the river.  Both organizations conducted excellent trials, and the hounds they fielded would reflect credit on any houndsman or hunter.  To be perfectly honest, I saw no particular Beagle that I would rate as being the equal of any of the handful of "natural-born rabbit dogs" I've known.  Nevertheless, I witnessed some very fine Beagles, and I didn't see a bad hound among those I watched perform.

      As a hunter, I was also pleased by the simulated gunfire that marked the AKC trials. Any hound that cannot abide gunfire is worthless as a real-world hunting hound and should not, in my humble opinion, be allowed to compete for any field honor.  I observed no gunshy Beagles in these trials.

          All in all, I give the AKC and ARHA high marks for the trials they conducted.  I suppose that my one  lingering concern  centers on the fidelity of  this commitment to nose speed.  In  Chapter 10 of  my  book,  The  Ultimate  Beagle: The Natural-Born Rabbit Dog, I cited the AKC's "Beagle Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedures" and its holding that "No hound can be too fast provided the trail is clearly and accurately marked."  I have always believed in and lived by this standard.  And while I'm delighted to see the pendulum swing in the direction of nose speed and trailing mastery, I'm not fully convinced by the jaded expressions on the faces of houndsmen who mutter about "medium-speed" hounds. It always leaves me wondering when and where they hold the trials for the "the fast" hounds.

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).