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Though so handy to cast and so patient to stoop,
Here is no “dryasdust " catalogue description--no enumeration of numerical points of value ; but here, tersely and thrillingly, are the points of the ideal foxhound.
A hundred years ago, when most of the forefathers of the present-day occupants of the show-bench were struggling in what we should call—to coin a phrase-mongreldom, the foxhound was an aristocrat with a lineage which left nothing to be desired which permitted no doubt to be cast on it. For over 130 years Lord Leconfield's family has hunted the Sussex, while Lord Portman, Lord Eglinton, the Duke of Beaufort, the Duke of Buccleuch, and Sir Watkin Wynn are the names of a few men who for successive generations have represented, as the heads of their houses, sporting supporters of time-honoured family packs. Many of these packs had their own distinctive virtues, and “the race of Rutland and the nose of Yarborough” indicate two of the many received axioms of kennel creed.
Mr. Scarth Dixon, who, I know, from personal experience, has forgotten as much about hounds as the average man has ever learnt, and whose conversation, when in a reminiscent vein, is as full of information as a Dick Christian's might be, tells us in the Sport of Kings how, “forty years ago, except in a few packs, the questions of straightness of shoulder, feet and bone, were very little thought of. Even famous provincial packs were a very unlevel lot, and, to use the words of the famous Bramham Moor huntsman, Charles Treadwell, they were all uncles, and aunts, and cousins. But now, all over the country, hounds are more level, straight hounds are to be found in every pack, and the result is that hounds wear better than they did years ago. Of what use, it may be asked, is a hound with the finest of noses if his shoulders are so upright that they give way in his first or second season ?"
To-day the foxhound is bred with a main eye to speed, scenting, and staying powers, and he must be able to carry the line when behind him comes, like a fierce tornado or cavalry charge, the cream of the Leicestershire. He must be able to flash across grass land, when scent is breast high, with the speed of a racehorse. He must be able to follow his quarry across cold-scenting plough or fallow, to kill twenty miles from home, and perform the return journey to his kennels without undue fatigue. Such
an aniinal is the foxhound of to-day. His speed in the provinces may not be equal to that of his brother in the shires, but then, of course, it is not necessary. Where small woodlands abound, or where plough predominates, it stands to reason the pace cannot be so great as it is where the land is principally grass. But in every country there comes a day in the season when, with a straight-legged fox in front of them, hounds run far and hard. Then it is that pedigree tells its story, and when the final whowhoop goes up, the huntsman relates how Blue Maid, by Javelin out of Beautiful, held throughout the pride of place. When we pass across to look at Blue Maid we are struck by the mus. cular development of her body, the depth of her chest, the straightness of her limbs. As we note the well-sloped shoulders, the powerful back and loins, and the enormous length from hip to hock, the shortness from hock to foot, we cease to marvel at her premier place.
The popular idea is that the kennel must be the foxhound's home. Why it should be so it is difficult to say, for a more intelligent companion or better friend man could not desire. His voice alone makes him worthy of the friendship of home; a richer tongue of welcome no wanderer returning could desire. I remember one-a friend of eight years-who could do anything, from retrieving a rabbit or wounded bird to guarding the baby's cot, not his proper duties truly, not the avocative custom allotted him ; but nevertheless they were included in his accomplishments soon after he had been cast from the pack because of lack of speed. However, it happened that he joined his friends of old time again ; they ran hard that day, and as the keen wind cut my face I had the unexpected joy of feeling that I was somewhere about the right place. Away to the right—well ahead of me-was Hector, and if there were hounds in front of him there were as many behind when a good fox gave up his life. But these are reminiscences not wanted here, so I will put down my pen, and drink the old Oxford toast,
Hounds stout and horses healthy,
No dog is called upon to perform harder tasks than the foxhound, and probably none can excel it in the ability to do what is asked of it, or in staying power. Its working hours are frequently eight to ten; its work is mostly at a gallop, or what is perhaps even
harder, hunting thick coverts ; and the end of its legitimate duties sees it oftentimes many miles away from its kennels, as the beginning has seen it travelling many miles to get to the scene of action. The feats of endurance credited to the foxhound are almost beyond belief, whilst their speed is a revelation. A mile in three minutes is what an average hound is supposed to be capable of accomplishing ; and, for distance, runs of fifty miles and more have been recorded ; whilst for individual courage we are told that Colonel
Thornton's Lounger ran a fox for eighteen miles, singlehanded, and killed it by himself.
The size of hounds varies almost as much as the number in the various packs spread over the country. Twenty-seven inches is the maximum and 18 inches the minimum, but the average is 23 to 24 inches for dog packs (the sexes are always separated and hunted by themselves), and a couple of inches less for the “ladies," as the bitches are generally termed. As for the numbers in the various packs, they range from 75 to 10 couples in the latest list. The foxhound is so far exempt from the cropping edict that he is allowed to have his ears “rounded,”—a very necessary
operation where thick coverts have to be faced, and close grown fences scrambled through. The pecuniary value of hounds varies a great deal ; common drafts may be picked up at the annual auction sales at very low figures, sinking even to a sovereign for a couple. In 1884, Mr. Rawdon Lee tells us, 21 couples of the Haydon hounds were sold for 15 guineas; per contra, Squire Osbaldeston's famous pack, which he bought for 800 guineas in 1806, was sold for 6400 guineas in 1840. But there have been no prices like this paid in late years.
The following Standard of Points, published by the National Dog Club fifty years ago, affords an interesting comparison to the more modern description of the foxhound that follows it :
The head should be light, very sensible, and at the same time full of dignity, with a certain amount of chop, and the forehead a little wrinkled; the neck long and clean, with no approach to dewlap or cravat ; the ears set low, and lie close to the head ; the shoulders should be long, and well sloped back; the chest deep and wide; the elbows in a straight line with the body; the fore legs quite straight-large in bone and well-clothed with muscle; the pasterns must be large, strong, and straight, without turning in or out; the feet round, and rather flat than arched, with the division between each toe just apparent; the sole of the foot hard and indurated. The back should be straight, wide and muscular, the loins strong and square, the back ribs deep, and the hindquarters powerful. The tail should be carried gaily, but not hooped or feathered at the end. In colour the foxhound should be, for choice, black, white and tan. When the colours blend the animal is said to be pied. The best pie colours are hare, badger, red and yellow. The coat should be dense, smooth, and glossy, though many a good foxhound is seen in a rough garment. Altogether the foxhound should be symmetrical-muscular, without fat-- strong, active, and sagacious. It is only when we closely examine his limbs and feel his muscle that we can appreciate his strength and powers of speed; only when we contemplate his expressive head, large nose, wellwidened nostrils, and his intelligent eye, that we can understand his value ; only when we see him at his best that we can appreciate his cast-forward and true hunting, the ease with which he recovers a scent, and the speed and endurance which enable him to find the fox, and hunt him to a kill.
The following is the modern description :
STANDARD OF POINTS OF THE FOXHOUND Head.-Should be of full size, but by no means heavy. Brow pronounced, but not high or sharp. There must be good length and breadth, sufficient to give in the dog-hound a girth of fully 16 inches in front of the ears. The nose should be long and wide, with open nostrils. Ears set on low, and lying close to the cheek.
Neck.- Must be long and clean, without the slightest throatiness. It should taper nicely from the shoulders to the head, and the upper outline should be slightly curved.
SHOULDERS.-Should be long and well clothed with muscle without being heavy, especially at the points. They must be well sloped, and the true arm between the front and the elbow must be long and muscular, but free from fat or lumber.
CHEST AND Ribs.— The chest should girth over 30 inches in a 24inch hound, and the back ribs be very deep.
BACK AND LOIN.-Must both be very muscular, running into each other without any contraction or nipping between them. The couples must be wide even to raggedness, and there should be the very slightest arch in the loin, so as to be scarcely perceptible.
HINDQUARTERS, or propellers, are required to be very strong, and, as endurance is of even more importance than speed, straight stifles are preferred to those much bent, as in the greyhound.
ELBOWS. -Set quite straight, and turned neither in nor out. They must be well let down by means of the long, true arm above mentioned.
LEGS AND Feet.-Every master of foxhounds insists on legs as straight as posts, and as strong,-size of bone at the ankles and stifles being specially regarded as all-important. The feet in all cases should be round and cat-like, with well-developed knuckles, and strong pads and nails are of the utmost importance.
COLOUR AND COAT.-Are not regarded as important, so long as the former is a hound-colour, and the latter is short, dense, hard, and glossy. Hound colours are black, tan and white, black and white, and the various “pies” compounded of white and the colour of the hare, badger, or yellow or tan. In some strains the blue mottle of the old southern hound is still preserved.
STERN.Is gently arched, carried gaily over the back, and slightly fringed with hair below. The end should taper to a point.
SYMMETRY.-Is considerable, and what is called “ quality” is highly regarded by all good judges.
Weight. - Dog hounds, 70 to 80 lbs. ; bitches, 60 to 70 lbs.