Showsight Presents The Beagle

VOICES OF EXPERIENCE: THE BEAGLE

BY CLAIRE “KITTY” STEIDEL

B reeders do not always agree on an individual dog or the quality of a certain bloodline or the value of a particular stud dog or brood bitch. Yet if one asks for the basic necessities in their breed, for example a good Beagle, likely there is agree- ment. I have information from two well respected sourc- es I would like to share with those breeding, exhibiting and judging the Beagle. These are voices of experience. First a bit of history, next voices from long-time breed- ers with decades of experience—one East Coast and one West Coast. Finally their assessment of today’s Beagle and breeder biographies. SOME HISTORY The word Beagle appears to have developed from ancient Celtic, French and old English languages: beag, beigh and begle —all meaning small. Greek author, Xeno- phon, mentions small hounds hunting with man on foot in 450 B.C. In addition, Onomasticon , a Greek dictionary by Pollux, reports dogs alongside man in 1300 B.C. Further there is mention in Chaucer in the 14th Century of a small dog accompanying man hunting hare. During the Middle Ages, two types of hounds were prevalent in England—the Northern and the Southern Hound. They were rather large hounds yet it is suspected by some that the Northern and Southern Hound were bred with the Harrier resulting in the Beagle or that the Beagle resulted from miniaturizing the ancient Harrier. Necessary to understanding any breed is some knowl- edge of its history. His size, his temperament—most of the breed’s features contribute to doing a job. Even though there may not be a certifiable date of a breed’s origin, in addition to the job or purpose, clues may be derived from examining the environment and climate where a breed was developed. The Beagle’s origin is uncertain. Is it down from the Harrier, the old Southern hound or the Foxhound or both? We are not sure but we know he is a scent hound developed in Britain where he hunted rabbit and hare pri- marily in packs with huntsmen following mainly on foot or horseback. The local area—its terrain, climate and size of prey—determined the type of Beagle that evolved. Larger prey in England demanded a larger dog. Yet, eventually in the US, as the population of larger game declined, the

Ideal head: Skull fairly long, slightly domed at occiput, cranium broad and full. Eyes large, set well apart, fine in texture, inturning to the cheek, soft and hound- like expression—gentle and pleading.

(All photos courtesy of Lesley Hiltz)

Beagle’s purpose became centered on rabbit. FROM SURVIVAL TO SPORT

Out of necessity, very early man used the dog for sur- vival to hunt his food; however, eventually that hunting activity became sport, and pastime, particularly with the

1978’s Top Dog. Note overall balance, clean shoulders and musculature, no heaviness.

274 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A UGUST 2019

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