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“ Beagles," and amounting to about sixty, you find included beagles, stud-book beagles, pure-bred beagles, beagle and harrier cross, beagle-harriers, foot-harriers, pure harriers, stud-book harriers, and harriers simple, not to mention a couple of basset-hound packs—the whole ranging in height from 12 to 17 inches, and, in the case of one variety, known as "pure Kerry beagles," to 23 inches. From this conglomerate list, thirty-eight packs of beagles proper, ranging in height from 12 to 16 inches, with an absolute standard of uniformity in this respect for each pack, can be selected, two-thirds of them being 15-inch packs and over.
The beagle is closely allied to the harrier, as its classical name indicates. The former is the Canis Leverarius Minor, the latter Canis Leverarius; they are both hare-hounds, and a deviation from these hereditary duties has created somewhat a schism in the beagle world, as will be gathered from the observations of some of my contributors following later. For there is a variety of small, or as it is called “pocket," beagle, which has come to be used for rabbit-hunting, and the hare-hunting beagler has not taken kindly to this innovation, considering it implies a dereliction of the proper duty of the breed. But the pocket beagle, which measures from 8 to 10 inches at the shoulder, has many ardent devotees, who are able to defend its merits as fiercely as they have been assailed, and find in it joys, perhaps, unsuspected by its detractors.
It is rather curious to note that the sporting merits of this stauch little hound have particularly endeared the breed to our American cousins, and a writer over the water chronicles the existence of over 150 packs kept by private individuals in the United States, and mentions the fact that there are nearly a thousand fanciers of the breed. The standard of height is rigorously limited to 15 inches, and the hound is chiefly employed for hunting the “cotton-tail” or American hare. But it is also used for driving deer and it is distressing to read) foxes to the gun. Whilst this is altogether opposed to our English ideas of hunting foxes for sport, it may be in accord with the economy of a country where they are valued for their pelts, and methodically trapped.
Although with the institution of the Peterborough Hound Show, the Beagle Club, and the Beagle Stud Book, a great improvement has taken place in the type of beagles, it is still very divergent. “When buying hounds," wrote Mr. William Macfie, the master of the famous Rock Royal beagles, "I found great difficulty in getting beagles of hound type. Each master had a different idea of what a beagle should be ; some had hounds with heads and ears like fox-terriers, others like pups, and some like miniature foxhounds. So when I was asked to support a Harrier and Beagle Show at Peterborough I cordially entered into the idea. From that show has sprung the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles, and the foundation of the Stud Book. I hope, in time, this may result in a type as clearly defined for beagles as the foxhound show has fixed type for foxhounds." This anticipation has not yet been fully realised, though great progress has been made in the direction of uniformity. There is a great cleft, however, between the hare-beagle and the pocket beagle, which it seems, in the opinion of experts, impossible to bridge. Moreover, the variations all round are great, and do not admit of adaptability to one uniform standard. In the first place, the height ranges from 8 to 16 inches, whilst in the Kerry beagles, which still survive in the Scarteen pack in Ireland, and once represented a hound of 26 inches, the average height is 23 inches. Then there are rough or wire-haired beagles, which must remain under a different category. But whilst these giant and rough species of beagle may be allowed to retain their own type, as impossible of being brought into line with the ordinary type, the divergence in the latter opposes an almost insuperable obstacle that apparently demands the adoption of two different standards to be successfully overcome.
The outline sketch I am able to give of Reinagle's
beagle shows what the hound was like a hundred years ago. It is, perhaps, the least pleasing of all that artist's representative dogs, more especially in the head, which is far from fascinating to look at. But Reinagle was singularly good at heads when he had a good model, as a glance at his staghound, foxhound, old southern hound, and wolf-hound will indicate. And if his beagle is an ugly-headed beast, I am afraid we must take it that the beagle of his model was not beautiful. Another illustration I reproduce, by an unknown artist,
depicts the beagle of fifty years ago, and is certainly an improvement in type on the older picture, though the long head is not in accordance with modern taste. Granted that these represent fairly individual units of the breed in the past, it is not difficult to understand the want of uniformity in the present.
Before I turn to the contributions I have received on this breed, I must find room for the following extract from the interesting Report of the Beagle Club for 1902, which is full of beagle lore, collected from the dog-press or contributed by experts. This particular excerpt is from an article on “Foot Hunting," which originally appeared in the Stockkeeper :
What size beagles will show us the best sport ? That is a very moot question, but the answer must depend upon the nature of the country we propose to hunt. Speaking generally, beagles are divided into three great divisions :
First, Pocket beagles. The smaller a perfect specimen can be obtained, the more valuable it is, for the great difficulty is to preserve the characteristics of a good hound,—the straight legs, short back, and powerful loins, in such an exceedingly small compass, for the outside limit of height allowed is 10 inches. Under certain circumstances a pack of pocket beagles is invaluable. If you are not so young as you were, if your health is doubtful, if you love to see hounds hunting but care little about the actual kill, then nothing can be better. Old, middle-aged, young-men, women, and children can see and enjoy the whole proceedings. Some of these little packs are as keen as mustard, and afford untold pleasure and interest. If hares are unknown, or space is very limited, rabbit-hunting can, under proper management, afford excellent sport.
Next comes the 12-inch pack, and these usually include the hounds most truly typical of the breed. A good working lot in a suitable country will account for many a hare, and show beaglehunting in perfection. Fairly capable cross-country performers can see all there is to be seen, and the “have beens,” by calling upon “experience” to assist their physical powers, can enjoy most of the sport and never be far from the little pack. Twelve to 14 inches is a very favourite size with many practical beaglers.
The final division takes us to even 16 inches, the extreme height allowable in the beagle, but sometimes found useful when the master, whip, and followers are all young, the country difficult, the distances great, hares numerous, a great number of kills important, and a mounted field objected to by the landowners. Young and healthy men, in regular hard training, can for the time being perform great feats of endurance almost without knowing it, and such have enjoyed many a day with a full 16-inch pack.
The master of one, well known as being as hard as nails and always in the pink of condition, invited the master of a “pocket" pack to come and stay for “a nice home meet." The invitation was accepted. On the morning in question a start was made in a blinding snowstorm, and a stiff five-mile walk, done in the hour, brought the masters to the “home” meet by 11.30. Without a pause hounds were cast off, up jumped a hare, and away they went. For the first few hours the pocket man was in surprising form, and the field was reduced to himself, the master, and the whip. But when a third and very fresh hare jumped up, and apparently made for the next county, with the master and pack in close attendance, the visitor sank into a walk, and was soon out of sight, and before long out of hearing, not a creature or human habitation within sight, snow falling, and an absoluteiy strange country. He thought fondly of his pocket pack at home—they never treated him like this! But before absolute despair claimed him as a victim, a vigorous and prolonged horn-winding from a hill some two miles distant gave him renewed strength to struggle in that direction, and eventually reach the pack.
“Lost her," said the master, despondingly.
“Glory be," said he of the pockets, sinking on the ground almost on the top of the lost one, who made off like a giant refreshed with wine, master and pack once more in close attendance !
By a superhuman effort the visitor, determined never again to be lost in that country, kept within hearing of the pack, until a welcome cessation of the music announced that something had happened.
“ Just five o'clock," said the master; “so shall we go and find just one more hare? I should like you to see them kill. Or would you rather go home ?"
“Home," said the visitor.
“ All right,” said the master ; “I know a short-cut from here, over the downs, that will bring us right home in less than eight