Breeding: The Choices Made
By Sheri Buston

Photo, Blue Ridge Rambler ’18, courtesy of , Joanne Maisano

All the puppy shows, and the seasonal annual hound shows are over. Now, we watch and gaze out the kennel doors and anxiously await the cool mornings of the season to see how the young entry will enter. Did I make the right cross? Time will tell. Time always tells! Years of breeding, choices made, some good, some bad…a land mind of choices and opinions! The choices made are all around you on hound exercise – grandparents, parents, siblings – and this year’s young entry progeny of last year’s choices! Already looking at lineage, thinking of next season before this season has begun hunting, again all so many choices to make – all the year round!

For the most part, people discuss foxhunting for its sport. A select few people discuss foxhunting cause it’s their career, their way of life, their future investment. An even smaller group discuss hounds.

Our hounds are everything to do with choice. Building a pack of hounds for the season that will live together, eat together, exercise together, train together and hunt together takes knowledge and choice. Knowledge of the hounds you have in kennel. The knowledge to watch a pack of hounds for their qualities, their attributes, and their faults. What is missing? What is working out? Learning to watch hounds, and not just follow hounds, is knowledge. Knowing your pack, knowing your quarry, and knowing your hunt country will help make your choices for breeding. Choices you make affect your pack, your next season, and its future.

What is essential? The discussion will go around the world and back and will always be the same answer: a good hunting hound. What to breed for? Every staff that has ever been asked the question will have different preferences. Much like a football team manager – you want good players to make a good team. Literature will always tell you pedigrees and how it is done, but you cannot ever disagree with opportunity to watch and listen and choose what you want – and choose what you like and want and need. Do you have it in your pack? Or maybe you need to look around at another pack.

A breeding policy should be based on working abilities. The best way to judge this with hounds or stallion hound or brood bitch is to watch them in the field working. Borrow the stallion hound if you cannot get out to see the hound working. Try him in your hunt country. Or look at the offspring and siblings of the broodbitch or stallion hound. Never overlook longevity, it’s a genetic characteristic to consider. A hound’s working characteristics of toughness, drive, voice, and nose ability far outweighs its beauty in the show ring.

In keeping with our Flashback to July 1998, there’s an article from the Horse & Hound magazine, dated July 2001. It reads as follows: ““Fox sense,” the quality Capt. Ronnie Wallace often extols, “is vital and can be inherited through selective breeding. It means that a hound works out quickly and accurately just what its quarry is likely to do and where it is likely to be found. Hound hunting deer and hare need the same ability.” Once again it comes to choices made, choices about to be made: what hounds to breed from?

These intriguing questions only arise to the people involved in the breeding program of hounds but always make for interesting discussions. If I had recordings over the last 20 years of listening to hound men from UK, Ireland, USA, and Canada discussing hounds, I would have probably run out of shelf space by now. Sharing this knowledge is very important for the future of our packs and future staff in the sport to learn to have a keen eye, watch, listen and understand pedigrees.

The truth is never as publicly displayed as the show ring. It is all very well winning rosettes, but the hounds the huntsmen cherish the most are those that work hard to produce top quality sport on the day. We are blessed when they are good at both!