October 2012 Sneak Peek
Breeding with Purpose: Foundation Stock
by Don Rahe, Top Gun Beagles
The following four articles are the result of many beaglers asking me to write a no-nonsense, down to earth guide to successfully breeding hunting beagles. This author is nobody special. I have had hounds all my life, mud on my boots just like you, and I don’t claim to have a super strain of beagles that can win it all in any form. What I have been able to do was to develop a strain of beagles that run like I want them to and to reliably reproduce these qualities when bred within my strain.
This will be a four part presentation that hopefully will answer the most frequently asked questions by beaglers who call, stop by, or discuss breeding beagles with me at trials. I will try, strictly from my own experiences, to maintain my personal opinion on the advantages and disadvantages to three different approaches when developing a breeding program.
I have had beagles all my life, but my focus has always been fixated on breeding dogs specifically meant for hunting on small farms in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. This could be with a single hound, brace or small pack. As a kid back in the early sixties and seventies I didn’t have the money or space (city dweller) to properly care for a large pack. Mostly grade dogs and occasionally a dog with papers would come my way.
My father, an older cousin, and I shared the cost of requiring and keeping our personal small pack. Now I have to be honest, we went through a bunch of hounds because we had one strict criterion when evaluating a hound. Could it solo a rabbit back to the gun or into a hole with no excuses for lost game. At that time there wasn’t many deer or cougars, so off game was not a factor. We didn’t care about color, size or bark; but confirming was somewhat important. We felt that confirmation affected a dog’s recovery following a hard day of hunting from dawn to dark.
At this time, we acquired hounds primarily from three sources: cast-off gifts from other beaglers, some purchased for twelve dollars from the local dog pound, and occasionally purchases or trades with dog jockeys in the area. Most of these dogs were terrible. The give a way dogs from various sources were usually “hundred yard dash specials” that couldn’t circle a rabbit in a broom closet. When we actually considered paying money for a dog, they always left the final decision up to me. If we couldn’t try it out, I looked for one thing, a brush beaten body! Yup! Torn ears, rat tail, and a few blood swollen ticks for good measure at least indicated some hope for the future.
When our best females came into heat, we bred them to our best males. The off spring seldom were as good as their parents, never better. We did this for a few years with similar results each time. This was my first lesson in breeding beagles. Without knowledge of their pedigrees mating two dogs was a blind, usually futile attempt at wished for outcomes.
Now don’t get me wrong, we went through a lot of dogs and the ones we kept were pretty good, but couldn’t produce like off spring. We were juggling dogs like a circus clown juggling balls. The only we were consistently doing right was the strict calling of dogs that couldn’t reliably solo a rabbit. That was our saving grace!
For the remainder of this article, please see our October issue on page 26.