Our Breeding Philosophy
Our vision is of the perfect beagle…One with the hunting ability, conformation, intelligence and temperament to suit any serious hunter. To reach for that vision, we breed hounds along “dual” lines, meaning that we breed for both hunting ability and conformation. From long established field lines, our hounds get their hunting instincts. By crossing these lines, over a 35 year period, with carefully selected show beagle lines, we have been able to improve conformation to a level very uncommon in American hunting beagles.
Around 1940, show beagles and field beagles rapidly started to become separate groups. The boom in brace field trialing after World War II made the differences even more pronounced. As brace winners became slower and slower on the track, their breeders became less and less likely to use hounds with show bloodlines, since improved conformation could only lead to more speed and less of a willingness to track rabbits “footprint to footprint”. Breeding practices since then have widened the gap until today they are practically different animals.
With the return of the “gundog” in the 1970s, revolutionary breeders like Tom Dornin (Little Ireland), Frank Reese (Gay), Larry Carter (Valar), and John New (New City) used show beagles to improve their hunting stock. Today, the pendulum continues to swing in the direction of the “dual bred” hound, and there can be found a few breeders here and there striving to combine show and field lines into one animal. The majority of field trialers, however, see no benefit from using show lines, since improved conformation beyond a certain level is unnecessary for winning a trial.
We breed our Woodpont Beagles along “dual” lines, partly because we believe it is the right thing to do for the breed, but also because we understand the value of good conformation to a field beagle. By crossing the heavier boned show hounds on the lighter, racier field lines, we are creating a beagle with just the right amount of bone to carry muscle and weight, but not one so heavy and cumbersome that field work is compromised. We also can get better feet, legs, shoulders and backs this way. The Woodpont hounds have been bred from “dual” lines continually since the 1970s. There is just something special about watching a beautiful pack of hounds working in the field as they were meant to do.
We believe hounds should be bred “for the country” in which they will hunt. In other words, we breed for hounds that perform well on our local cottontail rabbits. Hounds that do not are not given a chance to be a part of the gene pool. (An exception to this would be the occasional need to breed to a show bred hound who may never have had the opportunity to hunt but may improve the conformation of the pack). Modern communication systems and methods of travel have very nearly made breeding “for the country” an obsolete concept among show and trial breeders, since nearly everyone is now using the same bloodlines. We stick to our longtime favorite bloodlines, and avoid some of the more popular lines, such as those bred primarily for hunting a different game, like snowshoe hare. Hounds that do well for us have good speed on the line, but work relatively close on their losses, so that we can expect an exciting chase with a successful conclusion.
Each year we sell a few of our extra puppies to new owners all over the country. We generally make our first “cuts” based on conformation, size, and other factors, and the puppies selected to be retained are entered into our hunting pack when old enough. Occasionally one is culled and not sold or kept. We are selective in choosing new owners for the puppies we decide to sell. Buyers frequently are in contact with us for extended periods before getting their new puppy. After selling, we often get calls and emails telling us how others are saying what a beautiful puppy they have, etc. And we especially love the emails that rave about their hunting ability.
As time goes by, we continue to develop and refine the characteristics found in our hounds. Continual improvement is the goal, always reaching toward our vision of what a beagle should be. We judge our progress based on the performance of our year ‘round hunting pack of 16 to 18 hounds. Every hound selected for breeding must first be a contributing member of the pack, without compromise, unless from a rare outcross to another kennel. As our hounds get closer and closer to our ideal, it gets more and more difficult for us to find outside hounds to use in our breeding program, so more attention is being paid these days to developing our own male and female lines for breeding within the kennel. You can read more about our female lines elsewhere on this website.