Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

C H A PT E R V.

THE BEAGLE.

This is perhaps the only variety of hound that has profited by the institution of dog shows. He has done so because he is small and affectionate, pretty and docile, and in many respects admirably suited to be a "pet dog." Unfortunately, he is so true to his instincts of hunting the rabbit, and even the hare, as to prove rather a nuisance than otherwise in country places, where his bell-like, melodious voice will be continually heard in the coverts where the little hound is bustling the game about, much to the annoyance of the head keeper and his under strappers.

The beagle, by some writers said to be the "brach" of past generations, can boast of ancient lineage. Perhaps he was one of our original British dogs, but, as an old writer very truly observes, "his origin is lost in the mists of obscurity." Whether he actually was the "brach" or "brache" is quite a matter of question, for this name was applied to any dog which hunted by scent; even the bloodhound was so called. The earliest appearance of the word appears in the Arthurian legend of Garvaine and the Green Knight (1340). "Braches bayed, therefore, and breme (loud) noise made." Markham uses it as applied to a bitch, thus: "When your bratche is near whelping," &c. Caius does likewise. Shakespeare and other writers use the word in varying senses; Jameson, in his Scottish dictionary, defining it as a hound which found and pursued game by scent. However, it does not matter much whether the "brach" was the original beagle or not, but the latter came from under his cloud about the time of good Queen Bess, who was said to be the fortunate possessor of a pack of hounds so small that they could be carried in a lady's glove. Well, either the hounds must have been far smaller than the least of our toy terriers of to-day (which is extremely unlikely), or the glove of more capacious dimensions than a "fives Dent and Aldcroft" of the present time (which is extremely improbable), or the story an exaggeration (which is perhaps true). So there is only one conclusion to be arrived at, that these so-called "singing beagles" of our virgin queen were somewhat of a myth, or that one of them, and not the whole pack, could be ensconced in "my lady's gauntlet." William III. also kept a pack of beagles, and when, in 1695, he hunted them during a visit to Welbeck four hundred horsemen were out, a number which is not approached at the present day, when such hounds are usually followed on foot.

Approaching more modern times, George IV. had a pack of beagles of which he was so fond that one of the best portraits of himself was taken in their company, he being surrounded by his merry little pack; and most typical hounds they are, full of character, and almost better than any we know at the present day. Colonel Thornton hunted with them on Brighton Downs, and expressed himself surprised with the pace they could go, and found a good hunter more useful than a pony in following them. A good beagle is slow but sure; he dwells on a cold line until he puzzles it out, and, throwing his musically sweet voice, calls the remainder of his fellows to him and away they gallop and cry, crawling through fences or topping stone walls, on the scent of poor puss. Beagles run very keenly, but are not so savage on the line as a foxhound.

The author of "Thoughts on Hunting," having heard much of the excellence of a certain pack of beagles, sent his coachman to fetch them, in order that the diminutive hounds might be given a fair trial. The coachman was evidently not the

« ForrigeFortsett »