Hares and Rabbits

by Donna Smiley

In order to understand some of the very basic differences that led to the creation of Harriers and Beagles as hunting hounds, you must first know more about their intended quarry.


To most people, the terms “rabbits” and “hares” are interchangeable as they both conjure up images of cute, furry hopping critters with big ears.  However, in actuality they are quite different.  And it is these very differences that the two hound breeds were created to match.


hareWhile rabbits and hares are in the same order (lagomorpha) and family (leporidae); they differ in genus.  Rabbits are sylvilagus whereas hares are in the lepus classification.  In the US, wild rabbit varieties include the Eastern Cottontail, the New England Cottontail and the Swamp Rabbit.  The most common hare varieties are Snowshoe Hares, and the Black-Tailed, White-Tailed and Antelope Jackrabbits.
Both families are very fertile and reproduce easily and often, as Mother Nature requires of successful prey species.   Hares have young that are born fully furred with eyes open and ready to run.  They do not have burrows below ground but rather have shallow depressions on top of the earth where they hunker down overnight.  Hares tend to be bigger than rabbits, with larger ears, legs and rear feet.  On the other hand, rabbits give birth to blind, naked, helpless young in cozy fur-lined nests dug underground.


Beagles were developed to hunt rabbits, as they are a smaller, slower hound.  They pursue rabbits tirelessly, but not with excessive speed; when a rabbit is pushed too hard or fast it will bolt down a hole in a split second, thereby ending the chase.   Harriers were developed to be a perfect match for hares, which are larger and faster and without any burrows for escape.   Rabbits are overmatched with Harriers, and Beagles are usually too small to be very successful with the larger hares.


220px-JumpingRabbitHares and rabbits both tend to run in large circles when pursued, most covering several acres of their home territory.  When hunted, they don’t bolt for miles as do foxes or coyotes, but rather they will circle back to near where they started.   Through selective breeding, huntsmen created hounds that do the same thing when hunting – they circle back to the hunter in very large loops when searching for quarry.  “Foxhounds cast forward, harriers (and beagles) cast back” is an old huntsman’s adage, which is definitely true.  These characteristics were bred into the hounds to best match their quarry.


In the US, where most rabbit and hare hunting is done with a lone hunter, a shotgun and a couple hounds, this circling tendency is counted upon by the hunter to bag their bunny.  When the hounds are on a rabbit or hare and are speaking loudly, the hunter knows that the quarry will eventually circle back near where it started, so they try and position themselves to get a clear shot of the rabbit when it comes running back with the hounds in hot pursuit.


So now you know why Harriers and Beagles are the sizes that they are!






More than a pretty costume

by Donna Smiley

Everyone has seen paintings and photos of the classic foxhunt, with riders in scarlet coats following hounds across a bucolic countryside. What you may not realize is that those eye-catching costumes are more than just decoration. To those who understand the language, there is meaning to be found in almost every detail. Let’s start at the top. The black riding cap provides some protection for the head should a rider have an “unscheduled dismount”. On the back at the bottom rim is a black grosgrain ribbon tied in a small bow. The tails of the bow left down and hanging indicates the rider is a professional (meaning paid) huntsman or whipperin. Everyone else has the bow ends glued in an upright position. An entire chapter could be written on the intricacies of the hunt coat alone, but I will skip over a lot and speak in broad generalizations.

The hunt staff and Masters wear scarlet coats; packs other than foxhounds normally wear other colors, but I won’t get into that here. Hunt members and visitors wear a black coat with black buttons. Hunt members may earn the right to wear brass buttons engraved with the hunt’s logo, and may eventually earn the privilege of “colors”. Awarding colors means that the member is entitled to wear the scarlet coat with brass buttons and the collar covered in the specific color scheme that particular hunt uses, ie navy collar with grey piping. A member wearing the colors indicates that the person is very knowledgeable and experienced, one that the Master and staff can count on to be level-headed and helpful, a person that visitors and new members can turn to for assistance when out hunting. The scarlet coats make them stand out as mobile “help desks” in the field, basically. Tradition has it that female members awarded colors do not wear the scarlet coat, but instead affix the colored collar to their black coat to indicate their status. However, some US hunts have modernized things, and allow women to wear scarlet.

The number of brass buttons provides another code to decipher. Four buttons indicates the huntsman and staff. Five buttons are reserved for Masters who hunt their own hounds. All others wear three buttons The white stock tie worn under the coat is about 6 feet long, tied in a very intricate manner and affixed with a brass pin that looks similar to a large diaper pin. The tie can be used in emergencies as a bandage for horse or rider, or a sling for an injured arm. The pin has meaning also. Pinned vertically it indicates professional hunt staff; all others pin theirs horizontally. The tall black leather boots reach to just below the knee. Brown tops that cover the first 4 inches of the boots are worn by Masters and hunt staff. All others wear unadorned black boots. Traditionally, women Masters and staff wear black patent leather tops rather than the brown, but as with the colors, this isn’t always the case anymore. So the next time you see a painting or photo of a hunt, check out the details to see if you can decipher what role each person plays in the hunt, just by interpreting their fancy outfit!

Supporting Juniors

by Donna Smiley

Many exhibitors have children as well as dogs, and their kids show the family’s dogs in Junior Showmanship when they are old enough.   Sometimes the “dog show bug” skips generations, and you’ll see kids participating in shows with their grandparents.

Collin Steen and Motown

At the Novice Junior levels, most children will probably be showing whatever dog and breed their family or grandparent happens to have.


However, if the dog show bug bites them thoroughly, and they move up from Novice to the higher skill levels of Juniors, some kids may decide they want to strike out on their own and find a breed and individual dog of their own choosing.  Severing the grooming-smock strings if you will.


As breeders, this is where we can have a positive impact on the future generations as well as on our own breed.  Over the years, my co-breeder and I have provided Champion Harriers for Juniors on numerous occasions.

katelyn and dale

In every instance, this was the first exposure that the Junior and their family had in terms of living with and showing a Harrier.   We therefore take that responsibility very seriously, and will only place good quality examples with Juniors.


While Junior Showmanship is not supposed to be judged on the quality and merits of the dog but rather the handling skill of the child, we feel that it’s important that the kids have good breed representatives out there for all to see.  After all, many Juniors will also want to compete in the breed ring with their dog.  And with the scarcity of Harriers, there’s a good chance the Junior will be going to the Group often with their dog as a result.


laurelYears ago, a terrier family in another state approached me about getting a Harrier for their daughter to show.  We worked it out to meet at a show near them, and I brought class dogs as well as the finished Champion I had in mind for the Junior.  Girl & hound hit it off right away, winning the breed both days.  At the Sunday show, the new team earned a Group II placement, which happened to be the very first Group placement ever for the girl.  (They went on to have many more group placements, ranking in the top 5 All-Breed that year.)  To say they were thrilled is an understatement!  As we were packing for the long drive home, the mom caught me to tell me how pleasantly surprised they were that I would “give them a good one”.
That remark caught me off-guard, as it implied that it’s common for breeders to give Juniors mediocre – or worse – dogs to show.


Why on earth would any breeder pawn off subpar dogs on kids?   As everyone is always saying, we need to encourage younger generations to become involved in dog showing so that our sport continues and grows.  And you do that by giving them quality dogs to be competitive at the breed & group level, in addition to the Juniors ring.  This engages them in the sport, and in your breed, by having success in all three arenas.

Ashley Albro and Jaunty

Ashley Albro and Jaunty


My co-breeder and I go even further.  We include in our co-ownership contracts with the families a means for us to financially encourage them to do more.  We offer several hundred dollars towards expenses if the Junior wants to take their hound to the Harrier National Specialty, and also if they qualify for either Westminster or Eukanuba with their Harrier.  We won’t pay for the whole bill, but we can certainly help them get there.


So the next time a Junior approaches you about a dog, please do the right thing and make a positive impact in our sport.


Katelyn and dale casualKatelyn and dale at WKCAshley&Jaunty



The horn of a English Foxhound’s Foot…..

On the digital magazine, Best in Show Daily, Bo Bensington wrote an article on “Words we Say, Breed Standards”


I had a response to his article….and commented…see below for what I wrote




I read with interest Bo’s description of unusual terms in standards….especially interested as the English Foxhound is one of my breeds.    Beagles and Harriers the other.       I stopped suddenly when Bo described the ‘Horn” of the English’s foot as toenails.     That’s not what I understood!!      I quickly dashed an email off to Bo, saying no no no, you have it all wrong…it’s the pads of the feet…the horny callus that develops in a working dog……that enables him to travel 40-50 miles without getting bloody feet!


Well….this started an 12 hour adventure of phone calls, googlemania, and research.    Talking to fellow breeders – the comment was “of course it’s the pads…who cares about toenails in a working dog? “       I called a friend who is an huntsman of a pack of English Foxhounds – he’s never heard of the term “horn”, but agrees, the pad is utmost importance….he can recall times he’s hunted dogs that have pulled toenails and they run fine……a good hoof on a horse and pads on a dog for a huntsman.


So…here’s what the research shows – it’s a bit cloudy……but hopefully we can shed some light on the issue….


1867 – an author by the name of John Henry Walsh (aka Stonehenge) wrote a description of an English Foxhound and a point system.   He wrote:


“The bone cannot be too large, and the feet in all cases should be round and catlike, with well–developed knuckles and strong horn, which last is of the greatest importance.”


Later in 1878 he wrote In the Modern Field Spaniel :


“The feet are round and cat-like, well clothed with hair between the toes, and the pads furnished with very thick horn.


I think we can conclude by inference that he was referring to the same “horn” of foot in the field spaniel as the foxhound.


John Henry Walsh also wrote the basis for two other documents (maybe more)….the AKC Beagle and AKC Eng. Foxhound standard.     It’s from his writings that I find that all Eng. Foxhound standards (Kennel Club,  UKC, CKC,  AKC, etc etc) seem to derive from.


Interesting to note though as well, the Kennel Club altered there standard in the 2000’s to modernize the language…they changed the words “horn” to “toenails”


The United Kennel club (admitted EFH in 1905, 4 years earlier than the AKC) also modernized their standard in 2009.   The changed the terminology of “horn” to “pads”


To me, the icing on the cake is the quote, “ strong horn, which last is of the greatest importance.”     I simply can not bring myself to understand how that could reference toenails.      When I think of pads – it instantly makes sense to me.


Long ago, I was taught on a harrier and Eng. Foxhound, a good judge will lift the foot and inspect the pads…..nice soft pink pads means the specimen being examined is not a working dog and wouldn’t hold up on a hunt.     A hard “horny” pad would mean that the dogs would endure keeping up and surpassing the horses.


No hoof – no horse

No foot – no hound……


A hunting parable…



Yours respectfully,


Kevin Shupenia

Jackpot & Kingsbury Hounds

Eng. Foxhounds, Harriers and Beagles