with Horse and Hound

Mediocre or Superior Hounds: A Choice

nodh.klmKaren L. Myers photoEach year we hear grumblings at the hound shows questioning whether those hunts that consistently win all the ribbons are being sportsmanlike by continuing to show their hounds in all the classes. Truth be told, I have been guilty of those grumblings, but I was flat out wrong.

On the flip side, I have even heard some winning Masters express hesitation about entering their hounds in certain shows because they feel funny about dominating the ring. They shouldn’t. They are doing us a service.

If the premier breeders of foxhounds don’t persist in putting their best hounds in the ring for all to see, how will we acquire the visual standard—that mental picture—to guide us in our own breeding programs?

True, more hunts would win ribbons, and members and Masters might feel better, but what would happen to the foxhound as a breed when lesser examples pose with their trophies? We need a North Star—a constant standard—toward which to strive if we want to breed the best foxhounds we can.

The better question is why do certain hunts consistently breed the winning hounds.

It’s really not a matter of luck or privilege; it’s just hard work. These breeders study pedigrees night after night to find bloodlines that will nick with their hounds. They talk to other Masters and top breeders to find mates that will strengthen faults they recognize in their own hounds. They think nothing of jumping into the truck on a snowy morning with a female in season to drive eight or fifteen hours to the stallion hound they have chosen because her window of breedability has come. They visit other kennels and they stand at ringside comparing what they see to what they have at home. They watch the championship classes and retain mental images of the finalists as standards toward which to strive.

Someone once said, If you don’t know where you are going, you’re likely to wind up someplace else. Without a mental picture of the ideal foxhound in one’s head, how can any breeder produce a foxhound that will please the eye and structurally stand up to its work in the field?

If we love foxhounds, let’s praise those Masters and huntsmen who are sufficiently committed to breed the benchmarks of quality toward which all hunts should aspire for their own kennels. Let’s thank them for their hard work and congratulate them for their success in maintaining standards for us all.

Posted June 10, 2014