Beagle Hunting

I did this post on my old blog, but with the season coming up again, I am bound to start mentioning it more and more on Twitter – and some of my newer followers might still be a bit clueless as to what it all is! So, I’ve just copied the post from my old blog, added some bits and pieces here and there, and this is what Beagle Hunting is all about:

 

Beagles are scent hounds and originally bred to hunt small game like rabbits and hare. Beagles are the “poor mans hunting hound” and hunt with their humans on foot, not on horseback.

Here’s a little snippet on the breed, from Wikipedia:

The Beagle is a breed of small to medium-sized dog. A member of the Hound Group, it is similar in appearance to the Foxhound but smaller, with shorter legs and longer, softer ears. Beagles are scent hounds, developed primarily for tracking hare, rabbit, and other game. They have a keen sense of smell and tracking instinct that sees them employed as detection dogs for prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in quarantine around the world. They are popular as pets because of their size, even temper, and lack of inherited health problems. These characteristics also make them the dog of choice for animal testing.

Although beagle-type dogs have existed for over 2,000 years, the modern breed was developed in Great Britain around the 1830s from several breeds, including the Talbot Hound, the North Country Beagle, the Southern Hound, and possibly the Harrier.

Beagles have been depicted in popular culture since Elizabethan times in literature and paintings, and more recently in film, television and comic books. Snoopy of the comic strip Peanuts has been promoted as “the world’s most famous beagle”

Right – so back to the hunting.

Every second Sunday morning, in winter only, beagle huggers from all over Gauteng get together in the Schurveberg mountains near Zwartkops to let their beagles do what beagles do best… track a scent!

We use a bag of pilchards to lay the scent.

When we arrive, all the beagles get their bibs put on, with numbers – so when they come to the end, the guys who do the scores can tell who is who, and who comes in first etc… as I am so often told “all beagles look the same” hehe. So, they are all bibbed ;)

The huntmaster goes around to each beagle and scents them, giving them a whiff of the smelly lure of pilchards. The huntmaster and his small party head off into the hills and valleys for about a 1km walk… all the while, dragging the lure behind them.

Once they have reached a point where they can conceal themselves in a clump of trees or behind some rocks etc… they signal to us at the start, and we all line up.

The beagles go WILD at this point.. much howling, barking and baying… lots of excitement and adrenaline! There is a 3, 2, 1 countdown, a whistle is blown, and we release.

we all stay crouched down and quiet, while the pack runs off, noses to the ground, after the scent. The more baying and howling there is on the line, the better it is going. Noise = good!! They are on the scent. We watch them run up the mountain, or thru the valley, or whichever way the huntmaster has gone.

As they start coming in, the group at the end records who comes in where… they normally come in in groups.

Once all the beagles are off the line, we walk to the end point, meet up with the huntmaster and the beagles, we check that all the beagles are accounted for (sometimes they turn back on the line, or decide to go for a little walk… but we are all reunited within 10 minutes!) The scores are read, the beagles have a drink, and it starts all over again.

We do 5 lines in a morning. We start at 7am and are done by about 10am.

There is a lot of noise (as demonstrated by my little boy and hunting machine, Oscar)

a lot of running and very happy tired beagles!

During the season, we have a few breakfasts out in the veld after some hunts… the people are awesome, and i’ve made a lot of really cool friends from the hunts! :D

The beagles are so exhausted after hunting, they usually spend the whole of the following monday curled up and fast asleep

At the very end of the season, the ten beagles with the highest points are invited to do a Top ten Challenge. It is one long line, of about 5 to 7km, with just the top ten beagles of the group. Other beagles may come and watch, and socialise afterwards. In 2009, my little Oscar made Top Ten!! Harry *just* missed it (he placed 13th… out of about 100 beagles!!!!!!!!!!!!). In 2010, both Harry AND Oscar made the prestigious Top Ten!

 

 

We also have a swanky prize giving after all the hunts are done and scores calculated. The 2009 event was at Woodmead country Club, 2010 event was in Lonehill. We get to brush off the dust, pack away our dirty hunting clothes and get all dolled up! It’s a fancy dinner and certificates and rosettes and prizes and trophies!!

So… THAT is beagle hunting :) It is TONS of fun… i love it (apart from waking up at 5:30am on a Wintery Sunday morning) and i love my beagles… and i love other beagle owners… we are all so cool and friendly! hehe!!

If you have a beagle, or are interested in getting one, or know someone who has one… please stop at www.beagles.co.za and check it out!

We have become a very tight little (or not so little, with over 140 beagles on our database) group and i look forward to seeing all my beagle friends and giving cuddles to all the beagles :)

Comments (3)

AngelMarch 31st, 2011 at 6:25 pm

It sounds really cool!

alidaonlineApril 19th, 2011 at 11:00 am

This sounds like so much fun!

I know they do The Hunt every year out towards Nelspruit with horses and dogs and the whole works but I never knew that there are hunts just for the Beagles.

Very cool.

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