A hunt’s puppy show is usually one of the most prestigious events of the summer hunting calendar. Puppy shows are traditionally held to thank those who have walked hound puppies and to show their progress since they came back into the kennels after being out at walk.
The format of the day is that there are usually two invited judges who come to assess the young hounds and give their verdict on their conformation and movement. The judges are often a Master and a professional huntsman, although this can vary. Similar to judging horses, they will look at the overall picture of each hound, check they have good feet, shoulders, backs and also see how freely they move.
Apart from the puppy walkers who really are the guests of honour, the guest list can be made up of any number of people and it is seen as a great honour to be invited to attend. Depending on each pack’s own criteria, those invited may include farmers and landowners, hunt committee members, those who organise functions and fundraising events, meet hosts, subscribers, joint-masters and members of hunt staff from surrounding packs, hunt supporters, representatives from the press and perhaps the local MP.
Some packs hold their puppy show as part of their annual kennel open day where everybody is welcome to attend.
Showing hounds is quite an art form so the hunt staff will have spent a lot of time over the weeks and months preceding the big day preparing the young hounds to ensure they show themselves off to their best advantage.
The young hounds – often referred to as the “young entry” - presented to the judges at a hunt’s puppy show are those that will start their hunting careers in the autumn and tend to be about one-year-old (usually born sometime between January and July of the previous year). There may be up to six months difference in age between litters born early in January, and some that aren’t born until July. This is something that will be of particular note to the judges.
Studbook foxhounds and other types of hounds from registered packs can be shown at a series of hound shows throughout the country during the summer months. Dogs and Bitches are generally judged separately and there are classes for unentered hounds (which will start hunting this season), entered hounds (already hunting), and hounds used for breeding.
The purpose of hound judging, normally undertaken by two current or former Masters, is to assess the conformation as well as the quality, movement and balance of the hound. The judges will be looking to see if the hound has generally good conformation.
- Hunting ability cannot be judged on conformation alone but other important attributes such as scenting ability, voice and drive can only be properly assessed out hunting
- Generally, it is thought that hounds with better conformation will have more stamina and are able to stand up to a full day's hunting without taking too much out of themselves
different types of hounds
Before the Hunting Act 2004 came into force, the quarry was the hunted animal such as the fox, hare or deer, depending on the type of hounds. However, since the implementation of the Hunting Act 2004 (which came into force on 18 February 2005), hunts conduct lawful hunting activities which comply with the law, with the majority of packs taking part in trail hunting where the hounds follow an artificial scent which has been laid across the country for them to follow.
We take a look at the different types of hounds which have been carefully bred over hundreds of years to hunt in the most effective way possible according to what will suit that particular hunt and their different countries.
Fox and Fell hounds
- Traditionally the quarry for foxhounds and fell hounds was the fox
- Fell hounds have feet similar to that of the hare with long claws
- Fell hounds are lighter and more athletic than foxhounds which helps when crossing the steep, rocky country of the Lake District. They also spend much of their time trail hunting unaided so independence and self-reliance are vital
- Hounds each have a stud book and their pedigrees are very important. Huntsmen will know the pedigree of each and every one of their hounds almost better than they know their own families!
- With over 180 registered packs in Great Britain, foxhounds are the most recognisable of the hound breeds
Beagles, bassets and harriers
- Traditionally the quarry for beagles, bassets and harriers was the hare
- Beagles are small hounds, standing between 14 and 16 inches at the shoulder, and are normally followed on foot
- Harriers stand up to 21 inches in height. They are generally followed on horseback
- The harrier is smaller and lighter in weight than the foxhound with a finer build – this makes them particularly good at hunting in thick cover and over difficult terrain
- Bassets hunt at a much slower pace and are followed only on foot
- The season runs from April – September
- Hounds will be put into the river to hunt a trail, rats or flush a mink to a waiting gun
- Otter hunting ceased in the 70s when hunts realised that the population was in dramatic decline and therefore hounds were passed to newly formed mink hound packs
- The mink hound is a friendly, tough, sturdy hound with a thick coat and is a good swimmer
- Mink were released into the wild by animal rights activists, necessitating management