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Hound Breeding

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Within the last thirty years the facilities for breeding fox-hounds of high class have been greatly increased. Before the Foxhound Kennel Stud Book was published, the task of the M.F.H. who wished to study the pedigrees of the inmates of other kennels was an arduous one, for unless he could obtain access to the kennel-books of the leading establishments, he had to content himself with the meagre hound lists that appeared from time to time in the sporting magazines.

Stud Books—Mr. Cornelius Tongue, perhaps better known as "Cecil," in his preface to the Stud Book, published in 1866, complained of the difficulties that he had met with in procuring reliable information from some kennels, but the publication is fairly accurate, and, if the time occupied in tracing a pedigree in his Stud Book compares unfavourably with the ease with which reference can be made to the recent volumes, compiled with such admirable care, yet no lovers of well-bred fox-hounds should forget the boon which Mr. Tongue has conferred upon them.

To quote from his preface, " The principles observed by successful breeders of race-horses in the selection of sires and dams that have distinguished themselves on the turf and in the stud, are identical with those laws of nature which govern the pro-creation of fox-hounds. It will invariably be found that those animalsare most to be depended upon for the perpetuation of their species whose genealogy can be traced in the greatest number of direct lines to great celebrities of olden times ; the most valuable strains of blood may be readily recognised by reference to the Kennel Stud Book, and they will be found to be most copiously diffused throughout those packs which are in the greatest renown. It is the peculiar faculty of a highly bred and highly endowed animal to convey his type to posterity. An inferior bred hound may evince great superiority in his work, but the qualities of his progeny will be very uncertain. Hence the importance of accurate records of pedigrees."

In the Stud Book which follows, lists are given of fifty-three packs of hounds, with an appendix of the most important sales between 1851 and 1865 ; in addition to these the appendix contains several interesting pedigrees of famous hounds of the day, including the great " Furrier," known as Mr. Osbaldeston's, which was, however, bred at Belvoir in 1820.

In the succeeding volume of the Fox-hound Kennel Stud Book, which covers from 1865 to 1885, it is to be regretted that no hound sales are chronicled ; but the book itself is far better arranged in other respects than its predecessor for easy reference, whilst in the volumes published in 1891 and 1896, valuable appendices are to be found containing particulars of sales.

Literature of the Foxhound—In 1854, Mr. Tongue enriched the literature of sport by his Records of the Chase, in which students of hound lore will find much interesting matter ; whilst other volumes more easily obtainable and of the greatest value are Beckford's Thoughts upon Hunting, Vyner's Notitia Venatica, and the Diary of a Huntsman by Thomas Smith (Craven Smith). In the last-named work, published in 1838, Chapter V. (on fox-hounds) is considered by many to be the best of all expositions on the subject ; indeed, in its excellent pages the whole question of hound breeding is summed up.

" A mute hound is unpardonable ; if he should be in every other respect perfect, so much the greater reason for drafting him," and " the two great points to attend to in breeding are stoutness and nose." If the hound breeder of to-day would treasure these, and, indeed, all other sentences in this admirable chapter, trite as some may seem to be, bad hounds would be scarce.

Another book containing most valuable information with regard to hounds is the Noble Science, by F. P. Delme Radcliffe, who was Master of the Hertfordshire Hounds from 1836 to 1839. In this work, Chapter III. deals entirely with the fox-hound, and what he should be in the opinion of the author and. others. This chapter is headed by an engraving of the stamp of hound which Mr. Radcliffe considered to be best suited to his country, and it is evident that he much admires the description of the hound by Somervile a century before. He advocates: strong in hounds if the services in the field of good workers can be so early dispensed with; on the other hand, if a bitch valuable for breeding comes early in season, to miss such a chance is surely unwise. It is far better, even at the risk of having to hunt a rather short pack in the spring, to put all the best bitches to, than to be obliged to bring up more whelps than the bitches can manage; few bitches should suckle more than four whelps, and, if their whelping has been severe, it is preferable to let them bring up three whelps, or in some case; even two, properly, than to find, when the time comes to send the puppies out to quarters, that they are weedy and sickly.

The anxieties which devolve upon the hunts-man are considerable ; the bitches must have liberty both before and after whelping, the numerous risks thus entailed being better than the almost certain disasters which result from shutting them up. Should a bitch slip her puppies, to be on the safe side it is advisable to separate her at once from the other matrons of the kennel. However heavy a bitch may be, her skin should be loose ; when it is tight there is trouble in store for her. In short, one shrinks from rehearsing at length all the dangers that attend the rearing of fox-hounds; they are familiar to all kennelmen who know their business, and without such men, breeding hounds is an impossibility.

Welsh Blood—During the last ten years there have been found many advocates for an infusion of the Welsh fox-hound blood into the English kennels. The excellence of the sport which this breed of hounds afford in wild and wooded districts is admitted, and there are many who hold that by crossing the English and Welsh strains the nose and tongue of the former would be improved. As to the value of the cross the opinions of those who have tried it are conflicting; nor is this surprising when one considers the variety of the circumstances under which the experiments must have been made. Though an inspection of the most recent volume of the Stud Book shows that the only pack in England into which the Welsh blood has been freely introduced it the Blackmore Vale, it is to be met with in many other kennels not included in the book; and, when a new departure in crossing strains of any breed has been made, it is as well, if possible, to see the result of other people's experiment.

Harriers In some parts of England there are packs which hunt the fox, but cann )t be said to be pure fox-hounds, being crossed with " harriers," though, after the voluminous correspondences that have been carried on is to "What is a harrier?" the word can hardly be written without misgiving; perhaps the )reed alluded to may be better defined as that with which the hare was usually hunted before dwarf fox-hounds were generally adopted for thepurpose. As for the hare-hound of the present day, from the old Southern hound to the draft from the fashionable pack of fox-hounds, the variety of stamp is so great that the so-called scientific system of breeding is in many cases not feasible. If the action of promoters of the " Harrier" Show at Peterborough, which follows that of the fox-hounds, in directing that the exhibits should be judged purely on fox-hound points has been criticised unfavourably by some old-fashioned hare hunters, it cannot be gainsaid that the emulation which the Show itself provokes is beneficial, so long as working qualities are not lost sight of thereby.

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