I spent two very enjoyable full days this week in Wilmington, Ohio, watching the judging of the 15 inch classes at the National Beagle Club’s Annual Specialty Show. This is the largest annual beagle show in America. This year’s event was the 50th Anniversary Show, having started in 1970 with the first show held at the Club’s home grounds at Aldie, Virginia. The show was very well organized, and a credit to the Club and those responsible for the event. The show lasted nearly a week (Sept 18-24), beginning with Obedience and Agility Classes, then Sweepstakes (money), and finishing with regular show classes for championship points. In the evenings, there were seminars, meetings, and awards dinners. There were auctions to support beagle rescue groups, and I was lucky enough to win a nice print of three beagles in a field at one of the auctions. Vendors were on hand to sell show items (leads, collars, etc) and apparel. In total, there were 374 entries from 224 different hounds at this year’s show.
The show moves around the country to various locations each year, but returns to the home Club grounds in Aldie every 5 years or so. This was the 5th time I have attended this event, starting in 1981 when I attended the show in Ravenna, Ohio, with Larry Carter. I well remember leaving my home in SE Ohio at midnight, driving across Ohio to meet Larry, then we drove north to Ravenna to arrive at dawn in time to watch the show. The first person we encountered that morning was the late Chuck Kitchell, who was breeder/owner of the Chardon Beagles from Iowa. In later years, I attended the show in 1993 at Louisville, in 1995 at Charlotte, in 2001 at Pigeon Forge (TN), and once attended at Aldie but cannot recall which year (maybe 1997?).
Pictured are the winners of the 15 inch Veterans in the Sweepstakes Class. 1st place at left is CH. Meadow Crest’s Just Call Me Sir, bred and owned by Annette Didier from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and 2nd at right is CH. Top Shelf’s Park It, bred and owned by Dr. Debra Wigal (DVM) from Valley City, Ohio. Both are extremely nice hounds. The next day, under a different judge in the regular show classes, Dr. Wigal’s dog was awarded Best Veteran and Select Dog in the 15 inch class.
I made several observations during my two days at this Show:
1. Since I had not attended in 19 years, I saw very few beaglers were left from the 2001 Show, making it obvious to me that show people have huge turnover just like the field trial people. There were LOTS of new people and kennel names at this show.
2. Movement by the hounds seemed better than before, and front movement looked better than rear movement to me. It seemed the strides were less choppy than in the past, although I found myself wishing I could see them at a gallop instead of just a trot. I am used to the pack foxhound shows where hounds are shown off lead and are made to gallop to retrieve biscuits thrown by the handlers.
3. Women greatly outnumber men at shows. I would guess something like 8 to 1. At field trials, it is the opposite. So, women show and men trial. For betterment of the breed, I wish we could get them together, although that is very unlikely to ever occur.
4. The show beaglers are way ahead of the field people in the use of genetic/health testing, using the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) for a wide variety of tests. There is a huge database of show beagles at ofa.org available for public viewing.
5. Show beaglers also are making more use of artificial insemination, and are collecting straws of frozen semen on favorite studs. I don’t hear much about field beaglers doing this, although surely some are. It is very common among show people.
6. While the America field beagles have been bred exclusively from American bloodlines for many, many years, today's show beagle is becoming more and more international in flavor. In the modern show beagles, we find lines from Finland, Sweden, Poland, Australia, England, Romania, and probably others. Most of these lines trace back to old American show blood, but there is definitely an overseas influence more recently.
7. Covid 19 was taken seriously at this event. Everyone had their temperature taken each morning and received a "Covid 19 Screened" wristband. Everyone had a mask. Excellent.
8. And my hounds need to improve. Despite my belief that my hounds, because of so much show blood already behind them, as a whole kennel would easily score better in conformation than most of the field beagle kennels in American today, watching the best hounds at this Show made me more aware of how much I still can improve. It is something I plan to address over time. Never be satisfied!
Next year’s Show is back at this same location (Roberts Center at Wilmington, Ohio), and I already am looking forward to it. If you want to attend an educational, entertaining event, I would encourage you to remember this event in 2021.