This blog update will tackle some rather controversial issues. These are my beliefs, and not necessarily those of many other beaglers. I will try to present my thoughts, and leave you to decide if you agree…
1. Hounds with No Show Blood – I firmly believe that anyone breeding hounds without significant consideration given to conformation should not be considered a serious breeder. And the surest way to improved conformation is by using stock bred for conformation. Without going overseas for help, our best source for improving conformation in American beagles is using the American show lines.
You will not likely see hounds in this kennel who do not have show crosses relatively close up. I rarely make a full show cross, but always have show blood close enough to maintain a sufficient level of conformation in every litter. It is just too important to be left to chance. The average breeder should not make full show crosses either, since some of us have already done that work for you. My most recent full show cross was in 2006.
Woodpont Beeswax: A nice mix of show and field lines can produce hounds like her.
2. Hounds with No Field Blood – The other side of my argument for conformation is that I am also not likely to keep hounds with no field blood. Our show beagles today are practically a separate breed, despite the fact that today’s show and field hounds trace back to the same English pack beagle imports made from about 1870 to 1935. While I have known some modern show hounds that hunted extremely well, the great majority will not compare to field-bred hounds in working ability. Usually voice, line control, grit, toughness, and check work are lost as more show blood is used.
During the 1930s, the show and field beagles began to breed in different directions; the show breeders concentrating on beagles bred from more recent English importations, while the field breeders diluted those imports with older established American and Canadian field trial lines, like Blue Cap, Yellow Creek, etc. As a result, most field beagles today have no close up show blood crosses for approximately 80 years, and show beagles have no field crosses during the same period of time. My hounds, and those of a small handful of other breeders, have both show and field lines. We started mixing both types over 40 years ago in an ongoing effort to combine and maintain field ability with proper structure (conformation).
3. Hounds in above ground kennels – I had Tom Dornin (Little Ireland Beagles) as one of my mentors. In his first book, Tom wrote “We don’t believe in standing our hounds on wire like a bunch of turkeys”. The Woodpont Beagles are kept in concrete or dirt kennels. Not many beaglers use wire flooring today, with so many nicer plastic options, but I still believe hounds are happier and better exercised on solid ground. I believe puppies especially need to be on ground to exercise and develop properly.
Happy Woodpont puppies raised on grass.
4. Filthy kennels – Kennels here, concrete or dirt, are cleaned at least daily. If you expect your hounds to perform well, you simply must take proper care of them. I have witnessed some others with appalling kennel conditions through the years, and once even declined to breed to a nice male because the man’s kennel was so horrible. I didn’t want my hound exposed to that!
Woodpont hounds in kennels.
5. Docked Tails – You will not see hounds in my pack with tails that have been altered. I believe we should be breeding for proper tails with a good “brush” that can stand up to thorns and briars. Hounds are supposed to have full tails that help with overall balance and act as an attention attractant to other hounds. A docked tail places limitations on this. And it just doesn’t look right!
I fully agree with the great Lew Madden’s thoughts on tail docking:
"I am not too concerned about an occasional beady eye or chopped off tail, etc. except that if we lead our new generation of beaglers into accepting or tolerating one deformity that is just a step toward acceptance of others. The normal beagle is a beautiful animal. It does not have to be show type to be handsome, but merely free from physical defects and not mutilated by having any of its parts cut off."
- Lew Madden
Hounds and Hunting
Photo shown of Lew judging beagles in 1936.
6. Enclosures – We have no enclosures here. Some people like them for convenience or security, or to start puppies hunting. But I do not. I start all my puppies by taking them with the pack beginning at about 7 months of age. It takes a little longer this way, but they learn important packing lessons in the process.
I never liked field trialing inside an enclosure because rabbits there run and behave differently than rabbits in more natural outside conditions. A good driving hound can be disadvantaged by twisty enclosure rabbits. I have found you can keep a satisfactory supply of rabbits on grounds without fencing if you maintain proper cover for them. It takes work to keep rabbits these days.
7. Common genetic defects – I don’t keep hounds with common defects, such as cherry eye, epilepsy, undershot/overshot bites, etc. After 40 plus years of breeding, at the same time culling out defects, I rarely see serious defects today. There is no reason to tolerate any serious issue in a breeding program. Any individuals with serious defects should be removed from breeding plans. Each breeder must decide where to draw the line, but I encourage you to set a high bar for your benefit and that of the breed!
8. Hounds content to “slot up” – My hounds, while not as fast as some of the hare-bred lines, still run at well above medium speed. They have gotten faster over the years as the breeding program has progressed, certainly as a result of crosses made. It has been my goal to maintain drive and yet keep hounds who work closely on their checks – not easy to balance! My hounds generally run with several hounds toward the front, with leaders changing constantly. Pack people call this "carrying a good head". I would not be satisfied with hounds who line up, each in its “slot”. This is not the way a good driving pack runs, and is not the way to pressure the rabbit. A slot up pack is merely following, not pressuring in a more natural run to catch style.
Field trial hounds "slotting up". Typical of hounds of a slower type who are influenced heavily by old brace field trial breeding.
9. Nighttime running – Canaan Perkins, who has a fine pack of foxhounds in Virginia, hunts foxes and bobcats on the outside (not in enclosures) all year long. His tagline on the Big Game Houndsmen discussion board is “Day Light and Eye Sight DON’T LIE”. (You can see his videos on Vimeo). I have always preferred being able to see my hounds while they are running. Breeding decisions demand this, plus I just enjoy watching them very much. I have fewer problems with lost hounds, trash running, theft, coyotes, and handling issues by working my hounds while I can see them. It has been many years since I ran hounds after dark.
10. Old kennel names – Folks, there are no Blackcreeks, Dingus, Gay, Patch, Weir Creeks, Yellow Creeks, etc. today. Those are old lines that ended years ago when the original breeder quit breeding and/or passed away. If you are breeding today, those are YOUR hounds, not Blackcreeks, etc. And I believe Don Bramlett has stopped breeding, so we can add Bramletts to this list if that is true!
My hounds are Woodponts, not Little Ireland, New City, Indian Hills, Northway, Echo Run, or any other lines used to create my strain. And someday, when I am no longer breeding, I hope that future breeders might say they have hounds that go back to Woodpont lines, but not that they have Woodpont hounds (unless their hounds came from me). Bottom line is this: When the original breeder stops, the line ends, since no two people think alike and make the same choices.
11. Slow hounds – John New once stated that if his hounds were not riding the fence at times toward being too “rough”, they probably were not trying hard enough to suit him. It takes courage in life to gamble just a bit, but the rewards can be great when the gamble pays off. I have never been content with slow hounds, especially those who were so independent they would not pull their heads up and go with faster hounds. Those who like slow hounds maybe have never seen a close running, driving hound.
I have, and it’s what I strive for.
The late John New from Kentucky with New City Cruz A Plenty. John was certainly one of the great all time American breeders of beagles with field ability AND conformation.