By Jessica Anderson
he diversity of a canine breed is rarely as strati- fi ed as that of the beagle. A devoted breed, the beagle has always served as a reliable pet for fami-
In 1916 a group of beaglers purchased the property as the Institute Corporation and this became the grounds of the National Beagle Club of America, Inc. Th e beautiful stucco building, which is the center of Th e Institute Farm, had fabulous historic value but required exten- sive repair. While the building underwent renovation in the early to mid-1900s, cabins were constructed in the immediate vicinity of the main building to accommodate the attendees of the newly relocated beagle tri- als. Th ese cabins remain part of the struc- tural environment and continue to be main- tained by the trial participants adding to the unique history of Th e Institute Farm. Competitions are held several times a year wherein clubs, which raise beagles to hunt in a pack format, bring their hard working hounds to the grounds to compete in classes which range six hunting hounds to sixteen hounds in a group. Th eir goal is successfully track a cottontail. It is only a tracking competition and there is no shoot- ing involved. Beagle packs are judges on their ability to work as a team and accu- rately trail the cottontail. In addition to the beagle pack trials, there are individual hound trials held sev- eral times a year on the grounds of the Institute Farm, as well as prestigious bench shows and basset pack trials. Raising a pack of hounds may seem an unorthodox way of a breed of canines, but a group atmosphere seems to ful fi ll the inner needs of the breed. And since the work detail of a tracking beagle is often more successful when assisted by another beagle they are naturally prone to a lifestyle which lends itself to a group dynamic and the element of teamwork. For those who have witnessed a beagle speak (bark) on the trail of a cottontail, there can be no doubt of their passion for tracking and pursuing their quarry. And to watch the enthusias- tic response of the second (or third) beagle upon hearing the cry of the fi rst hound is a demonstration of a team which instantly bonds as one unit to work the trail (often referred to as the line) of the cottontail.
Raising beagles with the intent of hunt- ing them in pack format takes particular training and, like any canine instruction, starts at a young age. It begins with a breed- ing program that focuses upon conforma- tional attributes which insure excellent stamina and physical abilities. Researching and breeding to a line with proven abilities to trail a scent (or ‘a good nose’ as they say in the business) is imperative. As a beagle pup, making certain that the young beagle respond to instruction and particular commands is vital. Most impor- tant is the ready response to general com- mands that implore the puppies return when called and steadfast encouragement that they remain in the proximity of the Hunts- man (person who instructs the hounds) as they search for game in open territory. Th is is done through name training and even com- mands from the time that they are weaned until about eight to ten months when they are introduced to the trade of tracking. Of course, trust, a constant rapport and hours of individual attention are the key to success. Trained puppies are then introduced to their elders where they will prove their abilities in the ranks and become members of the larger team. In almost all instances, a successful pack is comprised of the wise elders, the learned progenies and the inspir- ing youth. Th e group dynamic is ever chang- ing as hounds develop, learn, age and retire while the Huntsman continually evaluates their individual e ff orts and how each hound will fi t in as a member of a larger team. In the United States, there exist several dozen packs of beagles. Bloodlines date back well over a century and are tracked through a well-kept registry. Th ese packs are registered with the National Beagle Club of America, Inc. and they must maintain this status should they wish to compete in the aforementioned competi- tions. Drenched in history, the beagle is a breed of remarkable fi eld abilities which may be witnessed in a variety of formats. Additional information with regard to these organizations and competitions may be found on the website: clubs.akc.org/NBC
lies and is an excellent choice as a compan- ion dog for almost every variety of canine. And of course, the beagle is renowned for its excellent hunting and tracking capabilities. In fact, its ability to track a scent of a desired game has proven dependable for both sur- vival purposes and the competitive interests. Consider that grandfathers and great grandfathers have regaled the younger gen- eration with stories of hunting game with their beagles to provide for winter’s provi- sions. A reliable hunting beagle insured a steady supper on the table. In Europe beagles were hunted in groups, more com- monly referred to as packs, to control local wild game populations. Th e tradition con- tinues today and the beagle is still used to track game, traditionally the rabbit, as an individual and as part of a pack. In the United States there exist a multi- tude of beagle clubs speci fi cally designed for encouraging the single hunting beagle which include local competitions. Th ere also con- tinues to be a large draw toward hunting bea- gles in a pack formation and their history and competitive chronicles are quite remarkable. Th e grounds of the National Beagle Club of America located at the Institute Farm in Aldie, Virginia are often considered the ‘epi- center’ of competitive pack activity. Over 400 acres of conserved property are main- tained to preserve its historical farming attri- butes while encouraging a natural habitat for wildlife. It is a remarkable environment. Th e fi rst trial of the National Beagle Club of America Inc. was actually held in New England in 1890, but the environment was di ffi cult and trying. Th us, interested parties sought a new location to hold competitions. Th roughcircumstances theyuncoveredaVir- ginia property known as Th e Institute Farm in Aldie, Virginia. Th e Institute Farm was built in the 1850’s as an agricultural school and later a hospital during the Civil War.
190 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2014
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