This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
"And now as to their babbling when casting for a line. I think I speak correctly when I say that this fault is rare. I have often seen Welsh hounds mad to begin work, hardly restrained by the whips, throwing their tongues all the way from the meet to the first draw. Allowed to go, I have often seen them rush with a crash of music, at the fence of the covert. Once inside, silence reigns until one of them crosses the drag. Let us have a clear understanding as to the difference between speaking on a drag and babbling. The Llangibby master desires me to say that any hound that threw his tongue while casting for a line would cease to be a member of his establishment, for that, in his oninion no fault could be worse. Speaking to a drag is an entirely different thing. This the Welsh hounds do, and, in fact, often hunt the drag of a fox for a considerable distance, with abundance of music, up to where he is lying.
"The practice in vogue years ago was to draw a mountain side or other likely ground very early in the morning, and allow hounds to follow the steps a fox had taken in the night until he was unkennelled. I have heard old sportsmen say that this drag work was the prettiest part of the day's hunting.
"Nowadays, when hounds meet at ten or eleven o'clock, and when foxes are far more abundant than they used to be, the drag-hunting system is not often tried. Nevertheless, it has been quite common in recent years, and fairly late in the morning, to hear such hounds as old Llangibby Wiseman and Mr. Blandy Jenkins's Charmer, or the present Llangibby Danger, speaking to the line of a last night's fox, and their bell-toned comrades joining in one after another, until a crash of voices, hoarse and heavy, long-drawn and deep, shorter and higher pitched, where English ancestry comes in to modify, proclaims that an old traveller is on foot to try conclusions with the relentless foes, 'the yell of whose war cry is borne on the breeze.'
"But let all houndmen interested in my favourites take notice that they are a dying race, as every year passes fewer in number, more and more crossed with English strains. Soon they will be 'improved off the face of earth,' unless more lovers of such antiquities are found. The policy of crossing with English blood has been admirable up to a certain point; but the difficulty now is to find a real Welsh hound to maintain the balance of qualities. They are nearly all half, quarter, and eighth bred. Nevertheless, there is sufficient of the old-fashioned blood in some South Wales kennels to preserve the old reds and grizzles well into the next century, if someone would stick to breeding them without further admixture of English blood."
Another correspondent, signing himself "Welshman," wrote: "I am quite ready to admit that some people may have noticed peculiarities in the Welsh hound, such as 'speaking to a drag,' which must have astonished them considerably. In days gone by, when hounds were kept in Wales (as they are now in some of the more mountainous and unrideable parts) for the sake of destroying foxes, and foxes were scarce and very hard to find, this power of 'owning to the drag' of a fox was most essential, and I have not the slightest doubt that it was one of the most valued and chief characteristics of the old Welsh foxhound. Now things are changed, and there are very few packs in Wales where the Welsh hound has not been crossed with the English, and consequently their 'cry' has considerably diminished (in fact, it must have been with one of the few remaining pure, or nearly pure, Welsh packs that Lord Willoughby, who had written to the Field on the subject, can have noticed hounds speaking to a drag), and I think that so far as 'speaking to a drag,' or 'throwing their tongue when being cast' (this must be wrong at any time), is concerned, the loss is a step gained in the right direction; but here I must stop and claim, for the cross-bred Welsh hound, hunting powers superior to the best bred hounds in England.
"With regard to their showing symptoms of 'shyness,' I do not think it is a general trait in their character, but they would be likely to appear so, unless entered amongst large fields of horsemen, but this would apply to all hounds equally. Your correspondent does not state what other 'disadvantages' they may have, but goes on to say that 'the Warwickshire hounds when drafted into Wales develop all, or many, of the good qualities of steadiness and staunchness of the Welsh hound.' This is a sweeping assertion, and, if true, would (unless he claims for the Warwickshire hounds exceptional hunting qualities denied to other English packs) have caused the Welsh foxhound to have become extinct long ago, as there can be no doubt that, in other respects than hunting qualities, the English hound holds the field. As a matter of fact, 1 have heard from those who ought to be able to give a practical opinion (i.e., those who have entered the two sorts side by side in the same entry) that the only advantages the English hound has over the Welsh are looks and stoutness, and perhaps some would add steadiness from riot during their first season.
"There can be no doubt that the English hounds have for generations been fairly tried in many Welsh packs, and, with the exception of the above named qualities, they have been found wanting; whilst, on the other hand, I have never heard an instance where the cross-bred hound (for I do not believe in the pure-bred Welsh hound in any country except where riding to hounds is impossible) has been fairly tried and found wanting in England. If the English huntsmen are certain that the hunting qualities of their hounds cannot be benefited by the cross, their reluctance to try it is intelligible, for most assuredly the Welsh blood will not improve the appearance of their packs; but can they be thus sure without a fair trial? I think not."