Trials and Shows Haven’t Fostered Better Hounds
By T. Ross Alexander
There is not anyone who likes field trials and bench shows better than I; and there are not many hunters
who attend more than I. I think the sociable and fellowship part of such an affair is one of the grandest, and
the meeting of old friends, and the making of new is one of the best through the years.
When you spend a few days with the hunters at trials, you really get to know your hunting friends, almost as
well as you know your neighbor hunters. There is no better way on earth to know a man than to have some
all night hunts with him. You know him like a brother.
Now my opinion is that field trials and bench shows have not improved our foxhounds. One reason is that
when a field trial or bench show winner comes along, he is bred to so extensively, and before anyone
knows what he will produce. The average hunter will fall for him and breed regardless. Then if he is not a
producer, the country is full of those hounds, and of course they will keep and not kill them; just go on
breeding and rating them highly and perhaps selling them. Consequently there will be more and more of
A winner on the bench or in the field does not prove he is a producer. A stud hound should be a known
producer before put in the stud. He should be bred to several ******* and have produced running hounds
that are foxhounds.
It is so much easier to breed for type than it is to breed for foxhounds. Some of the greatest foxhounds I
have owned would not produce. Of course it did not take me long to find it out and when I did, I stopped
Some of the very best bred hounds, that are bred just to your order, will not produce. That is something we
cannot understand. Perhaps if we knew every hound in the pedigree, we would find there a weak link. It is
strange, but a weak link will carry on it seems, much farther than you could imagine. I could mention so
many, to my knowledge, but I might harm someone, which I do not want to do. Very few hounds of today are
bred good across the board. I have examined many pedigrees in the last few years and failed to find one in
which all the five generations were or are foxhounds.
When I carried a pack of Bill Bristol hounds, and I carried them over several states, I found many weak
links. Bill was bred to extensively, but all the matrons were not tops by any means, and all his get were not
tops. He crossed wonderfully on some blood lines. He did sire hounds as good as he, which is a grand
My theory has been to wait and see what kind of a producer he is before breeding. This is not so with many
hunters. They fall for a winner and breed everything they have, and then it is too late. A kennel full of sorry
hounds…and it costs a lot of money to raise a litter of puppies, besides the stud fee.
Many hunters blow a hound to the sky that any other hunter would not have. A hunter has to have running
hounds at least two to two and one half years old before he or anyone else knows what his get will be.
Most any young hound will try to kill himself when 9 to 20 months of age, and when he becomes 2 years old,
go to quitting or go bumping all night. Then his owner perhaps will try to sell him and try something
else…and so he is in another kennel. I do not feel sorry for the older hunters…they should know
better…but I do feel sorry for the younger ones who do not.
There are of course many more good hounds today than 30 years ago, as well as many more sorry ones, as
there are 100 hounds now to one 30 years ago. Some kennels are raising scores of hounds now to one
litter years ago.
I do not think any hunter has 10 or 15 good brood ******** but they will breed every female and sell the
puppies…recommend them to make foxhounds when they know nothing about what they will make. So
many litters bred from your choice females have only a limited number of good foxhounds in them. Seldom
do you find an entire litter like you want and hoped for.
As to field trials…we have been running under the National Rules for 32 years that I know of. They have
been changed occasionally but to no great extent. Back when I was field judging, when a pack of hounds
was found running, we scored them as long as the fox stayed on top. But not so today. If you do not have
any good running until 11 A. M., your hound can run his heart out after a fox until 6 P. M. and get nothing for
it, but the lucky hunter who gets his hound kenneled at 11 A. M. Do you think that hound’s endurance is as
good as the hound’s that ran 12 hours? Now I know any judge will keep his eye on his watch for 11 A.M. and
of course turn in immediately toward the casting ground. I would do the same if I were judging under such
Now as to running rules…Your hound gets just as much credit for hunting, trailing and endurance as he
does for speed and driving, which is not correct according to my opinion. I personally have seen as many
as 50 to 100 hounds going like wild-fire…90 per cent of them just following the front hounds and perhaps
the front hounds just trying to stay in front of the rear hounds. Under the National Rules any judge can
score those hounds equally;…and perhaps some stray hounds are off to themselves hunting a fox and no
judge seeing them. Eventually they jump their fox and run it directly into the wild hunting pack of hounds
which take over and get the credit while the hounds that have jumped the fox get no score. The others
have 100 points for hunting, while the real foxhounds get none.
The same thing applies to trailing…A foxhound can go get a cold trail, and the hound that opens the most
freely will get a high score for trailing…when the hound out in front keeping very quiet and so getting close
to his game…more than likely leaving the hound to work out the old cold trail. Every hunter knows if a
hound opens freely he will not get close to his game, like the more silent mouth hound that gets on his
game and makes him run much sooner.
Now as to endurance…there is no one rule to score for that, correct, unless the hound has been in speed
and driving and gets far behind…then you know he lacks endurance and is not up to par. Speed and
driving is the only way to find a hound’s endurance. A hound can trail and hunt for several days and not
show his endurance. I have had 8 to 10 month old puppies do that many times. Go back next day and find
them running rabbits and they are not tired, but when you put them at speed beyond their gait, their
What I am driving at is, why should a hound get the same credit for hunting, trailing and endurance…the
same as for speed and driving. My theory is that a hound’s speed and driving should get more credit
points for speed and driving than for the other 3 classes; (for which each class gets 100 points)
I do not ever remember of a hunt where a hunter carried his hound out just to see or hear him hunt or
trail… or see about his endurance, as the slowest hound living should show more endurance. All the hunts
I have ever been on…and that has been many…every hunter went all out for speed and driving, and did not
have anything else in mind.
I for the life of me, could never see why the sorriest hound could not have endurance. Now the rules say
that a hound cannot be scored for more than one-third of his total score, for endurance, which, if a hound
ran his heart out all day and never got any hunting or tailing, means a very low score for endurance.
I hereby repeat that a hound should not be scored as highly for hunting, trailing and endurance as for
SPEED and DRIVING.
I have never been a Director of the National, nor made any suggestions, but I repeat…the National Rules
have not improved the foxhound, so far.
As I have run many winners and their offspring, I think I know a foxhound. Our North Carolina hunters think
nothing of going on a camp hunt and hunt and run every day for a week and catch many fox with their
packs. Four days running means nothing as stud hounds. When a hound has proven that he is a great sire,
he is eligible for stud and not before.
Now a few lines about the U.S.O.
I for one would like to know wherein the U. S. O. is being run any differently than any other hunt. It is strictly
run under National Rules except for 4 days running, but Mr. Finley’s idea was to have one or two entries
only, from any kennel or any one hunter. That has not been complied with.
The first hunt in 1946, I believe, was won by one of the two entries, and the 1950 hunt I supposed was won
by one of the two entries of the top hounds owned by one hunter. The other hunts were won by hunters or
kennels running from three to ten hounds each.
Now when a hunter or kennel does not know his top hound, he is gambling on several for his luck. So my
opinion of the U. S. O. is just another field trial. I am not knocking the U. S. O., and I think the 4 days running
is O.K., but when a hunter can afford to enter and pay fees for several hounds (which many cannot) the
chances are not equal; and it was not Mr. Finley’s idea of a different hunt.
I attended the first U. S. O., but after that when I found the hunt running under no different rules or entering
than any other hunt, I have not attended. I am not saying that I have had any hound that could have won
under the rules, but I am saying that it is no different from any other hunt.
At the first hunt I saw the judges leave a pack of hounds in full cry at 11 A. M. I and many other hunters did
not get our hounds until 6 P. M. and then caught them off a race. I would not ask any judge to follow them
that long, but modified rules would have permitted the judges to get more scoring, while many of the other
hounds were lying in their kennels resting for the next cast. Those hounds still running should have
something for endurance. I also caught off one of my hounds and several others the fourth day at 3 P. M.,
but none were winners.
In the last 30 years winners of field trials…be it National, Futurity, U. S. O., or State Hunts, have been bred to
extensively. Personally I have owned and run many of their offspring (also winners) and so far I have not
seen any improvement, and many not as good. I would like to know of anyone who has owned a better
hound than the sire. If not, there is no improvement in breeding to them. I do think a winner is
handicapped by inexperienced breeders. So many think a winner should bring top hounds from any female,
which is not correct. I think the matron is the surest way of getting top hounds. Some male hounds are
tops when it comes to breeding, and some are not; some never get a hound in their class.
If a hunter would wait to see if a hound produces before he experimented, he would save himself much
effort and expense.
I am for the better breeding of foxhounds.
Very interesting and accurate article. One that still holds true today.
Thanks for posting Heath.