December Sneak Peak
by David Bagaley
Judging the beagle in AKC field trials requires a “correct” understanding of two major criterion of hound performance. The “correct” adjective, no pun intended, is used above. “Solid” or “good” just doesn’t cut it. Unfortunately, many rabbit hunters have been told that an acceptable performance of the beagle in the pursuit of game is a matter of interpretation — from a nebulous rulebook. That is a fallacy that drives many sportsmen away from field trials, and all too often, from registered dogs.
There is a “standard” of performance for the beagle breed. One only needs to check the work of James McAleer, as recorded in “The Beagle in America and England.” Several hard copies of this book can still be found. It is available as a free e-book for those not adverse to an electronic download. Published in 1920, by H. W. Prentice, of DeKalb, Illinois, it employs some of the best minds detailing the development of the beagle breed. The pictures and pedigrees, when combined with research data from the field, leaves nothing to the imagination (or interpretation) when approaching field trials.
Nearly a hundred years ago beagles were imported from some of the best-known kennels in England. The imports were to be crossed on the bloodlines of beagles found in some of the well-known kennels in America. The English kennels were scrutinized and hounds evaluated prior to striking any deal. Fortunately a few sportsmen of means were able to envision a plan for development of the beagle breed in America. Offspring from their breeding programs eventually spread throughout the country.
THE major characteristic for merit, positive action for the field trial performer, is line-control. Let me repeat: line-control. Most meritorious factors hinge upon line control. Staying on the line of scent is essential. Consistently barking and progressing along the line of scent, controlling the line, in turn controlling the rabbit, … will ultimately control the chase. Intense line control is the name of the game. All the rabbit hunter should need to do is decide if and when to pull the trigger.
A break from line control is cause for demerit. This emanates in what we term “skirting.” Nearly every demerit, mistake and fault, can be addressed as some form of skirting. Whether skirting a brace mate, skirting pack mates, or skirting a brush pile, reaching, the consequences are usually the same. Leaving the line, losing the rabbit, running hit and miss, allows for a sight chase, and more often, a true riot. James McAleer clearly describes the spirit of competition necessary for the field trial performer. It is worth the read.
For the remainder of this article, please refer to the December issue page 12!