LEAPS OF KNOWLEDGE
Toni maneuvered his little sedan as deeply into the area as pos- sible, opened the trailer, and at that moment the hunt began. We saw no leashes; the dogs are controlled verbally. Methodical and tenacious use of scent is highly appreciated—and Dama was a pro. The dogs spread out in an animated but not excited manner. They may begin with a dry, cold trail until a fresh one is revealed, lead- ing to where the rabbit may be in deep cover, or in walls, not so much burrows, in this terrain. The Alternativa states that the alert bark is for hearing or seeing the rabbit and is disruptive and never desired for just finding a hot trail. If the rabbit is detected in or pressured into cover, the lead dog will alert and then attract its pack mates, not by continuing with a specific alert vocal sound but rather by its body language. While awaiting help, the lead dog maintains a still, high-alert, “point- like” pose, with the exception of the wildly expressive, high tail. The pack then arrives to assess the situation and take strategic posi- tions around the cover area, remaining still with the exception of extreme tail movement. Otherwise, the dogs are all silent. We wit- nessed this repeatedly on our outings. If the rabbit decides to bolt, the dog nearest the exit point will assume the lead. If it remains in cover, I will use the term “honor” in the sense that the pack honors the lead dog that will initiate the next move. This is a suspense- ful and entertaining part of the hunting and one where the dogs are listening for any movement of the rabbit within the dry cover. Throughout all of our outings, all humans were careful not to be talking loudly or walking too heavily through the dry vegetation so as not to distract the dogs.
If the rabbit remains in cover, usually the lead (but perhaps another—but only one—who is confident of the position of the rabbit) will attempt to seize. Failing that, he will startle it from cover—a technique that those who live with this breed I think will recognize right away: The dog rises up and “punches” (my term!) down into the cover with its forelegs, and then may pin down and/ or seize the rabbit with its jaws. If unsuccessful, a strategically posi- tioned pack member will try to take the startled and pressured rabbit just as it exits cover. Alternativa states that about 25 percent of the captures occur right at the surrounded cover in this manner. If the rabbit escapes without the dogs’ knowledge, they abandon that area and begin to search again by trying to pick up the scent. I gained a deeper understanding that there is so much more to these amazing hunters than spectacular jumping and dramatic chases. When the pursuit becomes more open, the pack assembles stra- tegically to flank the lead dog, and the lead will alternate as the rabbit dodges or feints. From Alternativa , italic emphasis mine: “In chase the dogs do not run barking as hearing is still a significant factor.” A further point regarding hearing: Jumping over brush rather than attempting to go through or around is less likely to hide the noise the rabbit makes in running away. “The chase is the most spectacular phase of the hunting because high jumps of more than two meters over bushes or walls are very frequent,” the Alternativa reminds. Two meters is more than six feet, and this may account for the height of the dogs we saw, the smallest being mid-standard and most near the top. This may not be representa- tive of the breed throughout its range in its homeland, but it was the norm here.
Once the rabbit is found, great care is taken not to make a sound (above). While ‘showing’ and awaiting the pack, the dog stands shock still, except for an excitedly moving tail (below).
232 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MARCH 2022
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