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Taking Sides

by Thomas G. Rusinack

          It all started back in the late 70's, I was just a kid and had too much time on my hands! Some seemed to think there was never anything to do. My school friends use that as an excuse to do things that were illegal and harmful to their health. Me, I had so many interests that I didn't have time for them all! I loved the outdoors and spent many long days just exploring the wooded mountains of my home country. My parents were caught up in the everyday tortures of living life as a grown up! They worked hard to keep me in new clothes and well fed. I didn't understand at the time, the chore supporting a family could be. I wasn't required to help out much with these everyday chores so most of my time was just me and whatever I could muster up as important at the time.

          My father enjoyed the outdoors as much as me, but grew up and got involved in that 'chore,' thus leaving me to fend for myself in those early years. We always had dogs and they always were some type of hunting dog. Beagles and coonhounds seemed to be the only dogs worth feeding. I not really sure when I learned the basics of Beagling since it seems like it was just always with me. A person couldn't legally hunt until they were 12 yrs. old, so I spent many trips at home waiting to hear about the day's hunt. When I finally got to go hunting,  my older brother and I had some Beagles that we had  acquired. They were supposed to be hunting dogs. All I remember was that these hounds liked to run rabbits that we never were able to see, and more than on one occasion, they took off in hot pursuit of those big cottontails that would literally run right out of the county!

          When I was 12 years old I started delivering evening newspapers in the neighborhood where I grew up. On my route, I met a man that had a whole kennel full of Beagles! I loved those dogs and was quickly drawn into that man's interest which was Beagle field trialing. At the time, I didn't know much about trials and just accepted everything that he said as gospel. He belonged to the Keystone Beagle Club and ran his dogs there often. He also had a starting pen for young Beagle pups. I must say, I spent a lot of time there helping those pups get fired up about running cottontails. From time to time, he would have some dogs that just wouldn't run well in the trials; thus, he would give them  to me for hunting. I spent many hours hunting with those Beagles; yet, found very few that would or could meet the requirements of being a decent gundog Beagle. I didn't think I was asking for much, just a dog that could circle a rabbit and stay around after the gun was fired. It seemed like most of them had about every fault listed in the AKC rulebook.

          Well, time moved along and good jobs were scarce in western PA so it wasn't long before I had moved to northern Indiana to find a full time job and begin my adult life that we all eventually do. Not long after finding my life long mate and before even settling down, I talked my future wife into purchasing a Beagle pup for a pet/hunting dog! Not knowing many people out in Indiana, I usually did most of my hunting alone with my Beagle buddy. He was everything I ever wanted in a Beagle! "He could circle a rabbit and not leave the county when I took a shot". I was easy to please after being run through the ringer with those old brace Beagles that I tried to make into hunters.

          After about eight years in Indiana, I came to know a few guys that liked to hunt with Beagles. I told them about my "perfect Beagle" and took them along with me on a few hunts. My dog wouldn't pack with any others since he had always been run alone. At about that time, I thought I would like to own and run my own pack of dogs, so I purchased a female to breed to my male. She was a female Beagle and that was all I knew about her. During those next two years, I learned a lot! I learned that you can't just breed to anything out there, and expect pups to come out just like your old dog! Also, I learned that most dogs don't produce their own kind unless they have been line bred for a few consecutive generations. That was the beginning of my QUEST! The next year was spent working my pups that I had, and looking for another adult Beagle that was the type I liked to hunt with. Somewhere along the way, I heard a quote that "If your buddies aren't breeding to your best male or purchasing your pups you are probably a little kennel blind"! Most of my friends not only weren't breeding to my male but also were telling me to get rid of them all!

          I talked to a lot of people via e-mail, phone, and through visits. I visited Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in pursuit of that perfect hunting Beagle. I found that most people did not agree what type of Beagle was the best for hunting. I also found that what I thought was a good hunting Beagle was just mediocre to what could be acquired. I visited some field trials (ARHA, AKC, and UKC). Met a lot of nice people in all of them but again found that you don't talk to many of them about the OTHER clubs and organizations. Some may not agree with what I've determined, but a person can't remain neutral about what he believes and be honest with himself and others. If you're new to Beagling and want to know the different style of Beagles, I will try to put them into perspectives that you can grasp.

          There are three main organizations that have organized Beagle field trials. The AKC (American Kennel Club), which is the oldest registry for keeping pedigree information. The UKC (United Kennel Club) which is primarily a hunting dog registry and they also fight for  hunter's rights. Third, the ARHA, (American Rabbit Hound Association), the youngest of the three registries that focuses just on Beagles, Bassets, and Harriers. The ARHA is very much a pro-hunting Organization as well. There are Formats, Federations, and Associations within each Organization that make up the different styles and speeds of Beagle competitions. This is what makes it confusing to a beginner!

          A gundog can't come from a traditional brace type competition as they are bred extremely too slow for hunting. SPO (Small Pack Option) is a gundog format popular in the AKC. Most people that run AKC trials with gundogs say that the UBGF (United Beagle Gundog Federation) is the closest organization to promoting the perfect hunting hound. The dogs I've seen compete in that Federation (particularly around Indiana), run a slower, line control dog than what I prefer.

          After running hounds in the UBGF, you may also want to check out the ARHA Gundog Pack trials.  A word to the wise, you might not want to let either registry know you are comparing them to each other. A lot of AKC guys don't like to know anything about the ARHA and vice versa. Within the many clubs that form the UBGF, the style and speed of hound does slightly vary. You can expect to find a more aggressive hound out towards the east but still not faster than a medium speed. There are a few Associations in the AKC that run a faster footed hound than the UBGF. I haven't visited any ARHA Progressive Pack trials as of yet, but hear they are running close to what the UBGF runs out east but perhaps with just a little more foot speed. The AKC Appalachian Mountain Gundog Association runs a more aggressive dog than the UBGF. Then there is the AKC Midwest Beagle Gundog Association that runs a faster hound than even the Appalachian. They are probably the most aggressive hounds in the AKC. There are more Associations in the AKC but if you get to know the dogs in these clubs you can usually ask a guy which style his dog(s) best fit.

          Now the UKC runs a Hunting Beagle format with dogs that are close to that of the AKC Midwest and ARHA Little Pack. They have started a Small Pack format but I think most are using the same dogs as run in the hunting Beagle trials. The ARHA Little Pack format seems to be the most outward about there 'NEED FOR SPEED'. These dogs have to accomplish it fast! I see a lot of the same type of hound in the AKC Midwest and UKC hunting Beagle formats around here. Make your choice for yourself. You are the one feeding them, not I or your buddy. Just remember to have fun and make friends. Don't knock another style dog because you might some day decide that you like them. You can never tell what the future holds.

          Me? I did finally get rid of all my old stuff and met a guy by the name of Gill Davis (owner of Boldstrokes Kennel). Through Gill and a friend of his, I acquired a female that I bred to one of Gill's males. Out of those pups, my father just had to have one. My friends were a little skeptical about them, but after a few times out in the field together, two of my friends have acquired a pup from this first litter. I guess that speaks for itself. I like what I have now and I plan to keep looking for that "perfect hunting Beagle", but until then I'll run these blue collar Beagles because that's what I enjoy the most! Taking sides doesn't mean you can't root for another team once in awhile. Happy Beagling and keep them running.

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).