This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
The modern foxhound is one of the most wonderful animals in creation, which is probably owing to the great pains that have been bestowed upon him for the last two or three centuries. Nu-merous instances have occurred where forty or fifty thousand dollars a year have been spent for a long time together upon a foxhunting establishment, and therefore, when this outlay has been united with the great judgment which has been displayed in the most celebrated kennels of the present century, it can scarcely occasion surprise that the combination has resulted in the most complete success. In breeding cattle and sheep, one man has. In more than one instance, daring his single life, effected a complete evolution in the animal he was engaged in improving; and therefore, when a number of gentlemen combine for one purpose, and spare neither time, money, nor trouble, we ought to expect the refillment of their wishes. In no department of rural sports has so much been written as on fox-hunting, and this not only of late years, but for the last three centuries, during which Markham, Somerville, and Beckford may be instanced as examples of truthful as well as clever writing on the subject Beckford, who wrote in the latter part of the last century, his first letter being dated 1779, is, however, the father of the modem school, and, with slight exceptions, the hound described by him is still that selected by our best masters, though perhaps they carry out his principles to a greater extent than he ever expected they would go.
Much has been written, it is true, since his time, but I am not aware that any one has deviated from his description without doing wrong, and therefore, as I like to give credit where credit is due, I shall extract his description entire, as contained in his third letter to his friend.
Fig. 8. - FOXHOUND, BLUECAP.
"You desire to know what kind of hound I would recommend. As you mention not for any particular chase or country, I understand you generally; and shall answer that I most approve of hounds of the middle, size. I believe all animals of that description are strongest, and best able to endure fatigue. In the night as well as the color of hounds, most sportsmen have their prejudices; but in their shape, at least, I think they must all agree. I know sportsmen who boldly affirm that a small hound will oftentimes beat a large one; that he will climb hills better, and go through cover quicker; whilst others are not less ready to assert that a large hound will make his way in any country, will get better through the dirt than a small one, and that no fence, however high, can stop him. You have now their opinions: and I advise you to adopt that which suits your country best. There is, however, a certain size best adapted for business, which I take to be that between the two extremes, and I will venture to say that such hounds will not suffer themselves to be disgraced in any country.
Somer-ville I find is of the same opinion:
' But here a mean Observe, nor a large hound prefer, of size Gigantic; he, in the thick-woveu covert, Painfully tugs, or in the thorny brake, Torn and embarrass'd, bleeds: but, if too small, The pigmy brood in every furrow swims; Moil'd in the clogging clay, panting, they lag Behind inglorious; or else shivering creep, Benumb'd and faint, beneath the sheltering thorn. Foxhounds of middle size, active and strong, Will better answer all thy various ends, And crown thy pleasing labors with success.'
I perfectly agree with you that to look well they should be all nearly of a size; and I even think that they should all look of the same family,
'Fades non omnibus una, Nee diversa tamen, qualem decet esse sororum."
"If handsome without they are then perfect. With regard to their being sizeable, what Somerville says, is so much in your own way that I shall send it you:
' As some brave captain, curious and exact, By his flx'd standard, forms in equal ranks His gay battalion: as one man they move, Step after step; their size the same, their arms, Far gleaming, dart the same united blaze; Reviewing generals his merit own; How regular! how just! And all his cares Are well repaid if mighty George approve:
. So model thou thy pack, if honor touch Thy gen'rous soul, and the world's just applause.'
"There are necessary points in the shape of a hound which ought always to be attended to by a sportsman, for if he be not of a perfect symmetry, he will neither run fast nor bear much work He has much to undergo, and should have strength proportioned to it. Let bis legs be straight as arrows, his feet round and not too large; his shoulders back; his breast rather wide than narrow; his chest deep; his back broad; his head small; his neck thin; his tail thick and brushy; if he carry it well, so much the better. Such hounds as are out at the elbows, and such as are weak from the knees to the foot, should never be taken into the pack.
"I find that I have mentioned a small head as one of the necessary requisites of a hound; but you will understand that it is relative to beauty only, for as to goodness, I believe large-headed hounds are in no wise inferior. The color I think of little moment, and am of opinion with our friend Foote, respecting his negro friend, that a good dog, like a good candidate, cannot be of a bad color.
"Men are too apt to be prejudiced by the sort of hound which they themselves have been most accustomed to. Those who have been used to the sharp-nosed foxhound, will hardly allow a large-headed hound to be a foxhound; yet they both equally are; speed and beauty are the chief cxcolleneies of the one, while stoutness and tenderness of nose in hunting are characteristic of the other. I could tell you that I have seen vcry good sport with very unhandsome packs, consisting of hounds of various sizes, differing from one another as much in shape and look as in their color; nor could there be traced the least sign of consanguinity amongst them. Considered separately the hounds were good; as a pack of hounds they were not to be commended; nor would you be satisfied with anything that looked so very incomplete. You will find nothing so essential to your sport as that your hounds should run well together; nor can this end be better attained than by confining yourself, as near as you can, to those of the same sort, size, and shape."
Thus then as to points, it will be evident from the above extract that Beckford was fully aware of all which are considered essential to the foxhound, except the depth of the back ribs, in which the modern hound differs from both of his supposed progenitors (the greyhound and old-fashioned hound), and which has been established by carefully breeding from sires and dams peculiar for this development. It is upon this formation that stoutness, and the capability of bearing work day after day, mainly depend; and hence all good judges both of the hunter and the hound insist so strongly upon it. Nimrod (Apperley) also remarks that Beckford has omitted to particularize "the length of thigh discernible in first-rate hounds, which, like the well-let-down hock of the horse, gives them much superiority of speed, and is also a great security against laming themselves in leaping fences, which they are more apt to do when they become blown and consequently weak." It may also be remarked, that though Beckford insists upon a middle size, he does not define what he means by the term, but as foxhounds vary from 23 inches to 20,1 should say 23 to 25 inches for doghounds, and 21 to 23 for bitches, would be about the hight meant by him.
In open countries, with thin fences or walls, a large hound may perhaps suit best; but in woodlands, the small size, if not too small and delicate, has many advantages, and will always beat the larger and heavier hound, who tires himself in driving through the runs, which will readily admit the small dog or bitch. Nimrod fixed the hight at "21 to 22 inches for bitches, and 23 to 24 for doghounds;" but I have given a little more latitude in the above estimate. The speed of the foxhound may be estimated from the well known match over the Beacon course, at Newmarket, which is 4 miles 1 furlong and 132 yards, and which was run by Mr. Barry's "Bluecap" (the winner) in eight minutes and a few seconds, Mr. Meynell's hounds being not far behind; and only twelve out of sixty horsemen who started with them being with them to the end. Colonel Thornton's bitch, "Merkin," is even said to have run the same course in seven minutes and half a second. This speed is accounted for by the greyhound descent, if it really exists; and that it does so I have little doubt, as it is quite clear that the old hound was deficient in those points which the greyhound alone would be able to give; but as this is only conjecture I have not insisted upon it.
The small rounded car of the foxhound is due to the rounding irons of the huntsman, who removes a large portion of the pup's ears in order to save them from the tears and scratches which they would inevitably encounter in "drawing," if allowed to remain on. The portion left is sufficient to protect the passage to the internal organ, but for which necessity it would be better to crop them closely, as is practised with dogs intended for fighting; just as the wrestler and the pugilist have their hair cropt as close to their heads as possible.
The prevailing colors of foxhounds in the present day are as fol-ows, placing them in the order of their frequency: - (1.) Black and white with tan; (2.) The mixed or blended colors, known as "pies," as red pie, blue pie, yellow pie, grey pie, lemon pie, hare pie, and badger pie, the last three very handsome; (3.) Tan; (4) Black; (5.) White; (6.) Red; (7.) Blue; each being more or less mixed with white. Foxhounds arc often slightly ticked, but rarely mottled, the "blue mottled hound," according to Mr. Apperley, being a true harrier or beagle, and most probably descended from the southern hound, which was often of this color.
It must be remembered that the foxhound is always to be looked at as part of a pack, and hence it is of no use to breed an exceptionally high or otherwise well made hound if it will make him run in a different style to his companions. Hence it is necessary to keep to such a model as can be produced in number sufficient to form the pack, which is another argument in favor of a medium size; and hence, in looking at a pack, together or separately, the lover of the foxhound is always on the look-out for "suitiness," or the resemblance to another in size and shape, which Beckford alludes to in describing a good-looking pack of hounds as appearing "all of one family."
In his work the foxhound is peculiar for dash, and for always being inclined to cast forwards, instinctively appearing to be aware that the fox makes his point to some covert different from that in which he was found. On the other hand, the harrier casts back, from a knowledge, instinctive or acquired, that hare has a tendency to return to the place from which she started, and will be almost sure to do so if she has time enough given her.