A specialized sniffer, in the nation’s service

At agriculture's service? Eider thinks he could do the job!

IF you’ve traveled internationally, you’ve probably seen them: the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beagle Brigade. They’re cute and friendly, and they’ll bust you if you’re bringing illegal plant or animal products into the country, whether an alligator skin from the Amazon or a ham sandwich from Heathrow. Officially called “national detector dogs,” they’re also helping to sniff out invasive species like the Asian longhorned beetle, a culprit in tree deaths from the Northeast coast to Ohio. Specially trained beagles are key to the USDA’s efforts to eradicate this pest–or at least prevent their expansion–because the beagles’ highly sensitive noses can detect the frass, which is basically the sawdusty leavings of a hungry Asian longhorned beetle.

Many thanks to Heather Houlahan of the Raised By Wolves blog for passing along, via Facebook, an interesting USDA blog post about the beagles and their jobs, including some neat video showing Beagle Brigade training. There’s also an interesting National Geographic story about them here.

The Beagle House hounds are probably a little too undisciplined for Beagle Brigade service.

The houndbloggers were pleased to read that the USDA often adopts homeless and at-risk beagles into their program. According to the USDA, many of the beagles are adopted by their handlers at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service after the hounds’ careers, which generally run six to 10 years. The USDA also says it offers retired brigade members (or those who don’t make the cut during training) out for adoption, and that none are returned to animal shelters. We hope that’s true and that it always remains the case.

Think your hound might have what it takes? The USDA’s National Detector Dog training program has produced a video featuring some tests you and your dog can perform to determine his or her suitability. You can see that video here. You also can view or download a PDF copy of the National Detector Dog Manual here.

Saddle rack, saddle rack, small wooden box

That’s what the houndbloggers bagged at today’s Old Habit auction in Virginia. It looks like there were some outstanding deals to be had, and we hope you foxhunters, hunting history lovers, and sporting print fans got in on a few of them. Still, we’re sorry to see the passing of The Old Habit, which has clothed many a foxhunter, beagler, and basseter for a lot of years.

"Whaddaya know! I have a new box for my Vetrap!"

Incidentally, we were acting as agent for Sassoon in purchasing the small wooden box: he’s been looking for a nice place to store medicines and Vetrap while he’s recovering, and, as an added bonus, I can use this box to stand on while, you know, pulling that terribly long mane.

The brass and wood saddle racks, long coveted by one of the houndbloggers (me!), were strictly for us.

Get well soon, Dave!

Regular hound blog contributor Dave Traxler, whose photos we’ve all been enjoying for the last year or so, will be away from hound walk for a while as he recovers from having his appendix out. But he’s in good hands: the Beagle House hounds will be taking good care of him!

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2 thoughts on “A specialized sniffer, in the nation’s service

  1. Get well soon Dave T!

    I think me and Buckley should practice to USDA work, his nose is much more active than any hound I’ve lived with. Bassets, included!

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