Harlequin gets his gold watch

Harlequin, as captured by Peggy Manness of Maness Photography

Harlequin, a nine-year-old son of Shamrock Xray '96 and Bicester Harmony '97, as captured by Peggy Maness of Maness Photography

THEY call Harlequin “the boomerang.” Two times Iroquois drafted him out to another hunt, and two times he came back. How lucky that turned out to be for us!

“He was a difficult puppy. He didn’t respond to authority well,” is how Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason puts it.

But the boy sure turned out to be a good hunting hound. When Iroquois got him back the second time, MFH Jerry Miller decided it might be best to try neutering Harlequin, and that helped. So did the passage of time.

“As with a lot of hounds, I think he was just immature,” Lilla says, “and as he hunted more, he matured and became a really good hound.”

One creative training strategy Jerry used to correct Harlequin whenever he was errant was to leave him home from a hunt when Harlequin misbehaved.

“He was frustrated when he saw his pack mates leaving to hunt, and he would straighten up very quickly in order to be invited back out hunting next time,” Lilla recalls. “Hounds really do understand when everyone goes out to hunt. They know the pattern of a hunt day: you get drawn out, you get your tracking collar put on, you get loaded into the hound trailer. They know what all that means, and they know they’re missing it when they’re left behind. They realize that they’re part of the pack, and I think they get humbled. The cockiness that made them errant is dashed in the disappointment of not being invited to participate.”

This year, when they open the kennel gate at Iroquois to load the hounds up for the first meet, Harlequin will stay behind. He’s the newest member of the shuffleboard-and-golf set, living out the remainder of his days with his new pack, the Iroquois retired hounds. He can rest on his laurels now, and there are plenty of those. Despite his rebellious beginings, this good-looking young tough with those jaunty spots–a sort of Rebel with Four Paws–became a leader of the pack.

“I can tell you he was a good leader,” Lilla says. And I’ll turn the mike over to Lilla to tell you how, because she tells the tale better than anyone, having seen it first hand:

“One time hounds were in a covert in Possum Hollow, and it had been a blank day up to that point, dry and hot, one of those days in the drought. It seemed hopeless. But we got in Possum Hollow, and one hound spoke, then two hounds spoke, and then they just erupted. At the very west end of Possum Hollow, out popped a coyote. There just happened to be a medium-sized cow standing there eating by itself. It had obviously gotten out of the field where it belonged. When the coyote came out of the covert, the cow took off and ran down the fenceline. The coyote got right underneath it and ran along with it for about 200 or 300 yards. Then the coyote turned right under the cow and went straight west while the cow continued on north.

Many thanks to Peggy Maness for these beautiful portraits of Harlequin! You can visit her at manessphotography.com

Many thanks to Peggy Maness for these beautiful portraits of Harlequin! You can visit her at manessphotography.com

“That particular day, we had a few older hounds and a lot of younger hounds, because the fixture was a good place to bring younger hounds. One of older hounds was Harlequin. The hounds came spilling out of covert in full cry, but when they got out they quickly had a check, I suppose because they could smell that cow. We’d all seen the coyote come out, but the cow had foiled his scent. So the hounds swirled around and around, and it was Harlequin that left the group and went up and down that fence line, up and down, again and again. You could see he smelled smething but wasn’t sure. But then he struck off on the line right where the coyote had split off from the cow, like he was saying, ‘Here it is! Here it is!’

“He was that kind of hound: he would rely on himself to help. He puzzled it out, and he was the one who went back on his own to do that. And that does a lot for the puppies coming along, when you have a seasoned hound like that to lead your puppies. That what makes your puppies.”

Harlequin, a Crossbred, was bred at Iroquois out of Harmony, an English bitch Iroquois imported from the Bicester. Harlequin was entered at Shamrock, before he boomeranged back to us the first time. He’ll have a home for life here at the Iroquois kennels now under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund. Incidentally, like pretty much everybody’s 401(k) these days, the hounds’ retirement fund can always use support, so we encourage y’all to donate.

Thank you, Harlequin. Happy retirement!

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Paper plays–and learns, too (with video!)

Having fun and learning, too

Having fun and learning, too

WE’VE been watching Paper’s progress with interest this summer as he’s matured from lolloping puppy to full-time pack member. His debut on the hunt field is nearing. The morning hound walks are accompanied by hunt staff on horseback rather than on foot now, a big step toward the cubhunting season, which will mark Paper’s formal entry into the hunting pack this fall.

For now, Paper has been performing well in his lessons, learning to stay with the pack, come when he’s called, wait patiently with the huntsman when required to do so–even when the cool pond beckons to him on a humid summer morning! He’s learned three key things: that he is a member of a group, that he also has an individual identity within that group and must respond when addressed, and that the huntsman is the alpha dog of that pack.

Paper stops to smell the flowers

Paper stops to smell the flowers

All are crucial facts that each hound must absorb and fully understand. As paradoxical as it might sound, it’s helpful if hounds have both a pack identity and an individual identity. Because if one hound is about to stray from his work out hunting, by calling down the individual, the huntsman can prevent the pack as a whole from following suit. It would be less effective to warn or rate an entire pack if there’s only one miscreant–far better to stop the troublemaker in his tracks before he has a chance to do wrong. But that’s much harder to do unless each individual hound knows his name and knows that, when he’s called by name, it’s important that he personally respond.

The summer exercises we’ve seen at the pond and the hound truck, in which Lilla and Jerry have required the hounds to wait before dashing in, have reinforced the notion both of pack and individual discipline. For Paper, the lessons seem to be taking very well. The real test, and more lessons, will come when he joins his older colleagues on the hunt field.

But hound walk is also about exercise and the sheer joy of being out, and Paper has enjoyed that aspect, too. Being a puppy, he’s full of beans, and the walks give him some time to play while he learns and gains new experiences. We thought we’d share some of Paper’s less formal side, too.

Paper

Bedtime Stories: R. S. Surtees

Felix asleep

An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

“Riding one day along the Calais road, I heard the unwonted cry of hounds, and, pulling up to listen, presently saw a slipshod-looking hare cross before me at a leisurely pace, as if she were not in any great fear of her pursuers. The hounds soon came yap-yapping, yough-youghing up under the cheering influence of a portly elderly gentleman in a lowish-crowned hat with a green frock coat and topboots, riding a good-looking bay horse. His servant, similarly attired, was also well mounted. Field there was none.

“It was a hot, very sunny afternoon, and there was a very bad scent. The hounds dwelt and hesitated a good deal at the road. ‘She’s across,’ at length cried I, jerking my head the way she had gone. ‘Thank you!’ replied the sportsman, holding them over, when they again took up the scent at a very languid pace, which presently ended in a general surrender. Puss was reprieved.

“This gentleman was Mr. Sackville Cresswell, a native, I believe, of Wiltshire–a gentleman accustomed to his comforts, of which a pack of hounds was one. They were chiefly dwarf foxhounds from Mr, afterwards Sir Henry, Oxenden’s kennel in Kent; and he had some seven or eight showy horses, which he kept constantly recruiting by importations from England. Indeed he was a patron of the Turf as well as the Chase, and had established a villa and what he called a race-course in a sort of rabbit-warren among the sand-hills at an out-of-the-way place named Hardelot, near the coast, some seven or eight miles to the west of Boulogne.  And here there was just going to be a great gathering. All the hacks in Boulogne were engaged, and entered for some real or imaginary stake.

“I, of course, went, and was much gratified at the way in which the English imported their manners, even down to the betting-post of Newmarket Heath. It had all the attributes of a race-meeting except jockeys and horses–refreshment booths, a band of music, gendarmes, gentlemen and ladies in carriages who had come by the overland route, seeing there was no regular road to the place. The worthy promoter was an equestrian, despising wheels.

“The course, which formed two sides of a square with an acute turn over a sand-bed, had a pond in the middle and a high sand-hill just beyond the winning-post, into or up which the intrepid horsemen could cool or burst their refractory steeds.

“The beauty of the sport was, of course, its extreme badness, but, as in all amateur performances, the actors are thoroughly satisfied, so the Boulogne gentlemen were well pleased with their equestrian exhibition; and at the close of the splendid sunshiny day Mr. Cresswell announced that his hounds would meet there at half-past ten o’clock on the following morning–being the 13th of August!

“I need not say that the crops in France were all garnered at that date; still, hunting on the 13th of August sounds rather oddly to English ears. As has been shown, however, this was by no means the first day of the season with Mr. Cresswell’s hounds. Unfortunately the promised meet did not take place. While at the zenith of his fame and apparent inexhaustibility of riches, there came a sudden collapse, and the worthy gentleman was walked off to what the French facetiously call the Hotel d’Angleterre, from the circumstances that it was chiefly inhabited by our countrymen–viz., the Boulogne gaol for debt. This, too, at the beginning of his hunting season. Though Mr. Cresswell was in daily expectation of large remittances from England, somehow they never came, and his continued incarceration seemed highly probable.

“Now a pack of hounds is of no more use to a gentleman in gaol than a riding-master to the Doge of Venice, as Geoffrey Gambado says; and the hounds, in stable parlance, were eating their heads off. At length Mr. Cresswell gladly gave them to Colonel, afterwards General, Charitte and myself, to be converted into a subscription pack.

“We encountered a little difficulty at the outset. The before-mentioned servant in green having bolted, nobody knew the name of a single hound, and as we could not bring the late owner to the hounds, we were obliged to take the hounds to him at the Hotel d’Angleterre to be christened. This we did in detachments of five couple, and were very courteously received by the gaoler, who conducted us upstairs to the late master’s apartment, who gave us the names.”

From Robert Smith Surtees, Creator of ‘Jorrocks,’ 1803-1864 by Robert S. Surtees and E. D. Cuming (1924)

Musings from the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show (with video)

Some 1500 hounds from more than 100 hunting packs converged for the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show in England on July 22

Some 1500 hounds from more than 100 hunting packs converged for the Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show in England on July 22

It was all about the hounds at Peterborough in England late last month as hunting folk and hound lovers gathered for the Royal Foxhound Show.

American hound show buffs might have been surprised by the setting. Peterborough’s show takes place not in a stately grass ring on some storied estate, but in a concrete-floored indoor arena. That’s actually better for the participants, some huntsmen point out, because the concrete floor harbors fewer natural scents than grass does. Grass rings are more picturesque, but by the time several dozen hounds have shown in their classes, the grass also becomes cluttered with lost bits of biscuits, which then can distract later hounds in their own classes.

(One note regarding scent, though: at Peterborough, our correspondents and quite a few competitors and spectators noticed an interesting thing. The bitches, who showed in the afternoon, did not seem to show nearly as well as the dogs had in the morning classes, and a number of people ringside theorized that this might have been due to the fact that a ringkeeper mopped up the concrete floor after each class, clearing away waste with what appeared to be water and disinfectant. If the water was mixed with disinfectant, could the accumlating chemical scent have put hounds in later classes off their game? We wonder!)

The Beaufort hounds, including the show's top dog, were relaxed in their kennel on the showgrounds

The Beaufort hounds, including the show's top dog, were relaxed in their kennel on the showgrounds

Peterborough has the flavor of a national fair for hunting people. There are row upon row of kennels housing the most beautiful hounds in the world from some of the sport’s most revered packs. There are also stalls to tempt your wallet, selling everything from antique hunt whips to gleaming hunting horns to sporting art, ancient tomes, kennel coats, custom Patey helmets, and handsome tweeds. But even those delights could not compete with the show ring itself for the crowd of dedicated hound aficionados.

For huntsmen, Masters, and hound breeders, Peterborough is a useful chance to see what everyone else’s breeding looks like and to compare notes with others about what crosses work best on the hunt field. One thing that stuck out to the Iroquois Hunt contingent was the dominance of the Duke of Beaufort’s stallion hound Bailey ’03, whose get filled the classes. Some breeders at Peterborough expressed concern that Bailey’s popularity eventually could shrink the pool of available outcrosses, which could become  problem in for future breeding. But there was no denying his influence in the pedigrees.

It’s interesting to see the trends in a hunt’s breeding, and regular Peterborough attendees who view packs year after year can spot when a hunt’s breeding program is on the improve as well as when it hits a bump in the road. One indication that all is not well in a breeding program, for example: loss of hounds’ size and scope. But spectators’ eagle eyes aren’t just looking for flaws, they’re also picking up signs of the next great stallion hound or brood bitch–perhaps with thoughts of breeding their own stock to that line in the future. 

Green the dominant color

Speaking of dominance, the Duke of Beaufort’s and the Heythrop continued their historic rivalry in the show ring, piling up rosettes between them. When the seasoned sporting writer and Peterborough historian Michael Clayton noted that “Peterborough has become very green,” he wasn’t referring to environmental friendliness–he meant that the dark green coats worn by both the Beaufort and Heythrop staff had come to seem unbeatable. The Beaufort, in fact, took the big prize of the day when its doghound Farrier ’07, winner of the stallion hound class, went on to take the doghound championship; that was the Beaufort’s eighth Peterborough doghound championship, and their dog Gaddesby ’07, reserve champion in the stallion hound class, finished third in the championship, too. Gaddesby, by the way, is the sire of current Iroquois puppy Driver, out of Dragonfly.

Cottesmore's hounds, shown here with huntsman Neil Coleman and the Peterborough judges, showed well all day

Cottesmore's hounds, shown here with huntsman Neil Coleman and the Peterborough judges, showed well all day

The Cottesmore finished second in the stallion hound class to the Duke of Beaufort’s eventual doghound champion Farrier with Cottesmore Badger ’07. Badger got an especially loud round of applause, partly, we imagine, because he represented an unusual incursion by a non-Beaufort and non-Heythrop hound.

We had a rooting interest in the Cottesmore hounds, having a long relationship with the pack and some of its bloodlines in the Iroquois pack. Their outstanding doghound Stampede, in fact, is the sire of nine puppies out of Cottesmore Baffle, whom we imported this spring. So Iroquois had good reason to celebrate along with Cottesmore huntsman Neil Coleman and whipper-in Jack Bevan!

Luminaries, old friends, and good hound stories

Legendary Cottesmore Master and huntsman Capt. Brian Fanshawe also was on hand to enjoy his pack’s successes, and he pronounced himself “very proud” of their performance.

Speaking of Capt. Fanshawe, here’s an interesting story he told. One of the reasons Fanshawe is famous (and there are many!) is for bringing the highly successful ST Carlow bloodline from a disbanded Irish pack to the Cottesmore, launching one of the great hunting bloodlines in the United Kingdom. (“They are terribly easy to handle, nearly like pet dogs,” he once told Michael Clayton for a history of the Cottesmore. “They need plenty of hunting, but they are biddable, and they have what Sir Peter Farquhar called ‘fox sense.'”) 

One day, Fanshawe explained at Peterborough, he met up with a huntsman from Melbourne, Australia, who mentioned that he, too, had some old ST Carlow blood in his pack. Fanshawe was understandably skeptical. But it turned out, Fanshawe said, that the Australian was right. It was little known that a single male from the Irish STs had indeed been shipped to Australia sometime in the 1800s, where his blood lives on! The Iroquois pack also has this wonderful blood through our importation of Cottesmore, Bicester, and North Cotswold hounds. We would love to know more about the original Australian ST Carlow hound, and we’re putting out the call to anyone who knows the tale to share details with us. In the meantime, we’ll see what we can find out on our own and try to get back to you with the  more complete story.

Philip Stubbings, far right, was a whipper-in at Iroquois in the 1990s and is now huntsman at the Blankney

Philip Stubbings, far right, was at Iroquois in the 1990s and is now huntsman at the Blankney. Philip and friend Sara, far left, met up with Iroquois MFH Jerry L. Miller and huntsman Lilla Mason at Peterborough.

Also on hand at Peterborough this year and seated ringside throughout the day was Fanshawe’s cousin, Capt. Ian Farquhar, Master of the Beaufort. Others seen and noted: the Berkeley Hunt’s Henry Berkeley, sporting photographer Jim Meads, and Philip Stubbings, formerly of Iroquois (about 10 or so years ag0) and the Belvoir and now professional huntsman of the Blankney in England. We were especially pleased to see Philip again. He appears to be doing very well at the Blankney. He also made our day by mentioning that he had seen an article in England’s Horse and Hound magazine about the Hound Welfare Fund the week before the show. Philip said he was especially pleased to see old Stamina’s picture accompanying that story. One of our most beloved retired hounds and an import from the Cottesmore when she was a puppy, Stamina died last year.

“Woollies” proving more popular
 
Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason and Master Jerry Miller noticed an interesting trend at Peterborough this year: there seemed to be more  “woolly” hounds, the rough-coated type you often get with the Welsh blood we also have at Iroquois. Woollies are sometimes less popular in the show ring than the smooth-coated hounds, although (at the risk of tooting our own hunting horn) our loveable and highly talented woolly, Iroquois Sassoon, won the 2008 Mid-America Hound Show’s grand championship. “You’d love him if they threw a bucket of water over his coat!” one judge memorably chided another, who liked Sassoon but not his wool, before they both chose him champion.
An outstanding woolly, Iroquois Sassoon, who won the 2008 Mid-America grnd championship. Woollies like Sassoon were more in evidence this year at Peterborough.

An outstanding woolly, Iroquois Sassoon, who won the 2008 Mid-America grnd championship. Woollies like Sassoon were more in evidence this year at Peterborough.

 “It was really striking, the number of different hunts that have woollies now,” Lilla said. “I think there were four or five hunts that had woollies at Peterborough this year. Of course, the Bicester and the Cottesmore had woollies, but there were three or four other hunts that also brought woollies, and that was eye-opening. Woollies haven’t usually been fashionable in the show ring, and we wondered if that trend is slowly changing.”

One thing the Iroquois group particularly liked was a small but pleasing tradition: the winning hounds’ puppy-walkers were invited to accept the hounds’ trophies on behalf of the winning hunt. That’s a nice touch that reminds us again that bringing a puppy along often really is the work of a team.

Peterborough was only the start of a brilliant week for our intrepid Iroquois correspondents, who also attended a major game fair at Belvoir Castle, visited kennels, and went roading hounds through the English countryside with the Cottesmore. More on that in a later post!

 

Becoming leader of the pack (with video!)

The Clear Creek Beagles: They like their walks!

The Clear Creek Beagles: They like their walks!

NOTE: For those who had trouble viewing the Iroquois hounds video below, my apologies! I mistakenly had it listed as “private broadcast,” but it is now public. Please try again!

It was a houndful weekend here at Full Cry, and while we apologize for missing our self-imposed deadline of posting these words over the weekend, we must beg your indulgence and hope you agree that time spent with hounds is generally happier than time spent in front of a computer!

We started this weekend walking with the Iroquois hounds in Lexington, Kentucky, on Saturday and ended walking with the Clear Creek Beagles in Louisville, about an hour and a half to the northwest of Lexington. This is the ideal summer weekend, as far as we’re concerned.

At Iroquois, the hound walks are almost ready to make the shift from the ground to horseback as huntsman Lilla Mason and the whips mount up in preparation for the season. But, for now, everyone is still accompanying the hounds on foot, and the training emphasis, Lilla said, is on “getting the hounds’ eyes.”

Remember the dog biscuits? They’re still a training tool, but Lilla is feeding fewer of them these days, preferring instead to reward good behavior with pats and attention,which make the hounds equally happy. Lilla also has subtly changed some of the biscuit-feeding routine. These days when she stops mid-walk to toss a few cookies to the hounds, she doesn’t say anything to them to let them know she’s stopping. This tests their attentiveness. If the hounds ahead of her have let their minds drift, they’ll miss the crucial moment when Lilla has halted and silently started throwing out treats to the hounds that have stayed close and kept an eye on her, waiting for just this opportunity.

This trains the hounds to keep their focus where it always should be, on the work of the pack and the location of the huntsman, the pack leader.

“The biscuits make them learn to watch you,” agreed Buck Wiseman, joint-Master of Beagles and huntsman at the Clear Creek Beagles.

But it’s not just about the biscuits

Biscuits are a great tool for huntsmen (and dog owners!), but they are not the sole source of a hound pack’s loyalty to its huntsman. Building that loyalty is a pretty complex thing, we find when we ask huntsmen about it.

Consider this anecdote from Neil Coleman, professional huntsman of the Cottesmore hounds in England (whose bloodlines, incidentally, are to be found in the Iroquois kennel).  Coleman arrived as a whip at Cottesmore in 1981 when the renowned Capt. Brian Fanshawe became the hunt’s joint-Master of Fox Hounds and amateur huntsman. Working so closely with Fanshawe and the hounds, Coleman saw first-hand how hounds form attachment and loyalty to a huntsman–even when biscuits play little role in the relatonship. Coleman has said that, at the end of each hunt season every spring, Fanshawe would head off to other business, returning again in the fall to take up hunting the hounds again. Despite the fact that they rarely, if ever, saw Fanshawe throughout the summer months of hound walking and training, when the hounds heard the engine of Fanshawe’s car pulling into the drive to the kennels again each autumn, they went nearly beserk with joy. Why? He gave them their sport, and his arrival heralded the opening of hunt season again, something hounds appear to value at a “price above biscuits,” to paraphrase the old saying.

Keys to the pack: mutual respect, affection, and a common language

Keys to the pack: mutual respect, affection, and a common language

Visiting the Clear Creek Beagles, we had a chance to get another huntsman’s perspective on this, too. Buck, who’s been hunting hounds since he was a 13-year-old in Virginia, says a close connection between huntsman and hounds sometimes seems mystical and is, in fact, exceedingly difficult to explain. Whether or not a huntsman has a magical way with hounds, he’s got to develop a language that both he and his pack can use to understand each other. That language is verbal, but it also has to do with body language and setting rules and routines that the hounds can understand, and that they expect the huntsman to play by, too.

“You’ve got to encourage them,” Buck said as his pack of about 15 couple leaped and bounded at the hem of his kennel coat. “You’ve got to make cheerful sounds when you want to be cheerful. You’ve got to sound truly gruff when you want to get their attention. It’s more art than science.”

Walking with the Clear Creek Beagles looks much like walking hounds at Iroquois, but on a smaller scale. The emphasis is the same: to reinforce hounds’ focus on the huntsman, to provide exercise, and to build pack rapport (especially for the puppies that form the upcoming season’s new entry, or first-time hunters).

Individuals make up a pack, of course, so a huntsman has to get to know individual hounds and their personalities,  quirks, and habits in order to help that hound make a place in the pack successfully. Buck points out a bitch named Eve that Clear Creek had sent to another beagle pack as payment for a stud fee to one of its doghounds.

“She was miserable there,” Buck said. “They couldn’t get their hands on her. So they sent her back. But she’s just as happy as she can be here. We have others, like old Mason here, who are great with me, great with Jean (MacLean, Clear Creek whipper-in), and are fine out hunting, but they don’t like strangers in the kennel much.”

Is it time for our walk?

Is it time for our walk?

A huntsman can’t hunt very well unless he has the loyalty of the pack, and that means having the loyalty of its individual members. Jean got an early lesson in that when she first started working with the Clear Creek Beagles in college. When Buck was away and needed her to walk the hounds out, she discovered that the young hounds she’d helped raise from puppyhood merrily packed up with her when she opened the kennel gate for morning exercise. But the older hounds that had been there before she arrived were so skeptical that they would sit just outside the kennel and refuse to come along with her. They were, she realized, waiting for Buck. To them, she wasn’t the real deal, and no amount of biscuit-tossing could convince them to follow her.

Clear Creek Beagles puppy Hadley starts off feeling a little shy but soon joins up

Clear Creek Beagles puppy Hadley starts off feeling a little shy but soon joins up

As we walked along, surrounded by a pack of wagging, panting beagles, there were few obvious quirks in the Clear Creek pack at the moment. There were only two I could spot. One was Hadley, a shy puppy who hung back well behind us as we walked with the pack through fields and along Buck’s dirt and gravel drive. Buck and Jean kept an eye on Hadley but didn’t push him to join up with the pack, even when he would stop, tail down, and watch the pack recede for a long while. Left on his own, he’d then gallop forward again, always remaining some yards behind the pack, Buck, and Jean. At one point, an older bitch, Salute, trotted back and rounded Hadley up, bringing him back into the pack with her. Eventually, about halfway through a walk of just over a mile, Hadley had screwed up his confidence enough to stay mid-pack, where he trotted along, holding his tail up cheerfullyand casting glances at Buck.

“He’s joined us, but I still have some work to do with him,” Buck observed. “I’ll put him in a yard, pick him up and put him over a wall into his yard. That’s important, so they get handled. He’s not in a yard right now where he’s getting handled so much, so I’ll move him. I’ll just keep picking him up and playing with him every day.”

The other unusual personality was Sancerre, an independent-minded five-year-old bitch that Buck and Jean say they’ve kept in the pack because she’s such a good hunter. Otherwise, she can be aggravating, because she likes to play tricks like hiding in long grass until Buck and the pack have passed, then scurrying off on her own for a private hunt. (She also, incidentally, loves to swim, which doesn’t generally present a problem)

“Sancerre is biddable, she’s just … rebellious,” Buck explained, laughing.  He sounded like an indulgent father describing why he had left a delinquent child in his will.

“Right,” said Jean. “Sure.”

“Sancerre is tolerated,” Buck said with a smile.

“Sancerre is smart,” said Jean. “She likes to fake him out sometimes.”

The creek is a favorite stop on the Clear Creek Beagles' hound walk

The creek is a favorite stop on the Clear Creek Beagles' hound walk

It all looks very informal, this little pack of hounds busily traveling up the farm road together, stopping for a swim in the creek, scouting for biscuits in the grassy verges. But there’s training going on, as Buck pointed out.

“Every time I stop and toss biscuits and talk to them, that’s training for control,” he said, echoing Lilla back at Iroquois. Also like Lilla and Jerry Miller at Iroquois, Buck likes to let his hounds walk and hunt in a looser pack formation rather than in a tight little squad around him.

“I’ve always believed that anyone who has to keep them around him in a little bunch doesn’t really have control of his hounds,” Buck said.

So how do you create the loyalty that leads to real biddability, that makes the hounds want to be with you, even when you’re in the middle of an open field on a sleeting hunt day, when your hounds are some ways distant and you need to call them back to you, with not even a biscuit to use as a lure? Sure, you can breed for a certain amount of biddability, and Buck has stuck with old English and American pack bloodlines to maximize biddability. But that’s not the whole story, not by a long way. The golden thread, that perfect sympathy and communication between huntsman and hounds, is hard to describe.

“To some degree it’s the breeding, and to some degree it’s walking them out every day,” Buck acknowledged. “But the rest of it, I don’t know. They just listen.”

Sancerre, one of the beagle pack's more challenging characters, catches biscuits mid-swim

Sancerre, one of the beagle pack's more challenging characters, catches biscuits mid-swim

Like Lilla, Buck spends a lot of time communicating with individual hounds, stopping to give them a pat or a biscuit and speaking to them by name–Hazelnut, Sweetbriar, Snuffbox, Harlequin, Mister, Mermaid, Socket, Matchbox–they all leap to attention or look in Buck’s direction and wag their tails when he speaks to them.

Buck places a good nose and a strong desire to hunt at the top of his “must have”  list, but biddability is a close third.

“If you can’t take them out and bring them back, particularly if you’ve got a day job, your life is hell,” said Buck, an attorney in his non-beagling life. “You’ll spend the week recovering hounds all over your country.

“You know, it’s kind of a two-way street. They’ve got to trust you, and you’ve got to believe they’re going to respond. Because if you don’t believe in them, they’ll know you don’t. But how do you build that? I don’t entirely know. That’s the magic.”