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Selection And Culling

by Rev. John Parks


          In the past few articles, I have pointed out, again and again, the importance of the selection and culling out of undesirable individuals, especially if you have decided to enter into a program of linebreeding or inbreeding. Both of these practices (although this is more true of inbreeding) will tend to "bring to the surface" any bad traits that might be recessive and thus were "just along for the ride." There is a sort of "sifting out" that takes place, in inbreeding especially, that uncovers characteristics that you will definitely not want to perpetuate in your bloodline. When this happens, for goodness sake cull those inferior hounds out and see that they do not become a detriment to your bloodline and the whole breed.

          Now I'm not telling you to destroy your "culls" carte blanche. Not at all. I would grade the "culls" into three categories:

  1. First, if the puppies are deformed in some way that would make it difficult to live in a normal manner, I would consider mercifully putting them out of their suffering by having them put to sleep. This is rare, but I have seen hounds with congenital breathing problems that would gasp and groan and suffer untold agony every time they were asked to run. These poor hounds should not be asked to hunt, and if a breathing or digestive problem is very bad, indeed they should be "put out of their misery." Now I know that some of you will not agree with this because you love animals too much to kill one. Well I love animals too, but I can't see perpetuating the suffering of any creature, great or small. It's like torturing them, and you wouldn't want to do that.

  2. Next, there are those Beagles that appear normal, but won't make good hunters for one reason or another. The worst of these, I would have spayed or neutered, and they can become someone's pet. There is always a market for a good loyal Beagle as a pet, so you shouldn't have any difficulty in selling them. At any rate, they should not be allowed, because of significant faults, to become breeding animals.

  3. The third category is made up of those that are from all appearances fine hounds; but for some minute (but justifiable) reason you don't want to use as a breeding stock. Sell them, and ask a good price for them! However, be honest about them to the buyer and mention the reason why you are selling them. I would respect you highly, if you were candid and forthright with me. And I would be more likely to do business with you in the future, more than with the breeder that I felt was hiding something from me.

          Now before I go any further, I want to stop and caution you not be be too hasty in your selection and culling process. Don't start "weeding them out" too soon. Give them a chance to prove themselves before you decide about them. Some hounds just do not come into their own as hunters as early as others.

          Elmer Gray, who was the owner of the renowned FC GRAY'S LINESMAN, said in his book "The Grayline Story," that he usually put a litter of pups down on a farm in southern Indiana until they were about a year old, then he would go down and look them over carefully to see which ones he wanted to keep.

          Later on, in his book, he said that Linesman didn't start running really well until he was almost two years old. So, when I talked to him, I asked him how he knew that he didn't get rid of some others as good as Linesman when they were only one year old. He replied that he guessed he didn't, but he only had room to keep a certain number, so he felt like he should cull them out at a year or a little less.

          In 1963, I had a litter of five that had a large male, three average sized puppies, and a runt female. The big male was always picking on the runt female.  (Incidentally, I called them Samson and Delilah.) He was always dragging her around by the tail or an ear or something. Soon he had her pretty well cowed down and ruined. I had advertised these pups because I really didn't have room for more breeders. Soon I got a letter from a Mr. Walter Vollert of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin who said, "I want a male that is bold and aggressive and not shy in any way." "Well," I thought, "that's Samson alright. I'll just sell him quick and get him out of there before he spoils any more of his brothers or sisters." So I got him ready and shipped him off to Mr. Vollert at once.

          Imagine my surprise, about two months later when I got a letter saying "The male pups I got from you is a good one. He is starting already. I've named him Swamp Acre Sam." Then a month or so later I got a letter saying "Sam is running good. I won a derby trial with him. I hunt with him all the time. I never had a seven month old pup that was as good." To make a long story short, Swamp Acre Sam was "bold and aggressive" alright, he became fairly well-known in middle Wisconsin. He never finished as a field champion (but he could have if he had had a chance), and still bred about ten or twelve bitches before being stolen. We never heard of or saw him again and I feel it was a loss to Beagling. My point is that I should have kept him around and given him a chance, instead of being so hasty with an ornery male puppy.

          On the other side of the ledger -- and this is a greater danger -- don't "get married" to your hounds either. Have a rule that they can stay around as long as they deserve to, but not if you don't want more like them.

          This happens so many times to Beagle breeders. They get "kennel blind" and lose their objectivity. They know their hounds so well that they can't see their faults, hence culling out just doesn't happen.

          Maybe you should have some other Beagle breeders (that you know will be honest with you) come by and evaluate your hounds some time or maybe you should get the opinion of three or four other hunters who have good judgment. Then, if they point out something that you didn't see, make a wise decision and cull out that undesirable one. It's called "upgrading" your stock. Do it, again and again until you can be proud to say you are the owner of those hounds.

          In nature it's called "Survival of the fittest," and it really works to perfection the way nature functions. The weak ones just do not survive to carry on the species. "Survival of the fittest" was studied extensively by Charles Darwin. Somewhere I read an article about Charles Darwin years ago. Unfortunately I did not write down the source, but here is what Darwin was quoted as saying in that article:

"Man does not allow the most vigorous males to struggle for the females. He does not rigidly destroy all inferior animals, but protects during each varying season, as far as lies in his power, all his productions.

Nature is unerring in the selection of superior animals for the reason that they are put to the merciless test in which nothing counts but efficiency, and where the short-comings will inevitably  weigh against them. Man is likely to be dull and superficial in his judgments, easily deceived by vain notions of all kinds.

Can we wonder then that nature's productions should be far truer in character than man's productions; that they should bear the stamp of a far higher workmanship?"

When I was young I used to work in a greenhouse, and from time to time we were bothered with an insect pest called the Red Spider Mite. These little mites had a life cycle of eight days and each female could lay eight to nine thousand eggs! Then a new insecticide came out which was very effective in killing the Red Spiders. We would fumigate the greenhouses overnight and that seemed to build up a "resistance" to the new insecticide, and the problems was worse than ever. What actually had happened was that the first treatment had killed ninety-nine percent of the red spiders, but the one percent had survived to reproduce. Those were fumigated and this time ten percent of the strongest ones survived to reproduce. Finally, after several cycles of this the new generations of red spiders were so tough that the insecticide barely fazed them. We had unconsciously "selected" the best (as far as resistance to that insecticide was concerned) for a least ten or fifteen generations!

          This is exactly what I am urging you to do on a regular basis. Let only the "fittest" survive in your Beagle breeding program! If you do, soon you will have fewer and fewer to cull out and you will have achieved your goal or breeding better Beagles!

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).