CHAPTER XXI. THE HARRIER AND THE BEAGLE

The Harrier is a distinct breed of hound used for hunting the hare—or rather it should be said the Association of Masters of Harriers are doing their utmost to perpetuate this breed; the Harrier Stud Book bearing witness thereto: and it is to be deplored that so many Masters of Harriers ignore this fact, and are content to go solely to Foxhound kennels to start their packs of Harriers, choosing, maybe, 20 inch to 22 inch Foxhounds, and thenceforth calling them Harriers. It is, indeed, a common belief that the modern Harrier is but a smaller edition of the Foxhound, employed for hunting the hare instead of the fox, and it is almost useless to reiterate that it is a distinct breed of hound that can boast of possibly greater antiquity than any other, or to insist upon the fact that Xenophon himself kept a pack of Harriers over two thousands years ago. Nevertheless, in general appearance the Harrier and the Foxhound are very much alike, the one obvious distinction being that of size.

Opinions differ as to what standard of height it is advisable to aim at. If you want to hunt your Harriers on foot, 16 inches is quite big enough—almost too big to run with; but if you are riding to them, 20 inches is a useful height, or even 19 inches. Either is a good workable size, and such hounds should be able to slip along fast enough for most people. Choose your hounds with plenty of bone, but not too clumsy or heavy; a round, firm neck, not too short, with a swan-like curve; a lean head with a long muzzle and fairly short ears; a broad chest with plenty of lung room, fore-legs like gun barrels, straight and strong; hind-legs with good thighs and well let down hocks; feet, round like cats' feet, and a well-set-on, tapering stern. Such a make and shape should see many seasons through, and allow you to be certain of pace and endurance in your pack. It is useless to lay down any hard and fast rule as to colour. It is so much a matter of individual taste. Some Masters have a great fancy for the dark colouring of the old Southern Hound, but nothing could look much smarter than a good combination of Belvoir tan with black and white. Puppies, as a rule, a week or two after they are whelped, show a greater proportion of dark marking than any other, but this as they grow older soon alters, and their white marking becomes much more conspicuous. As in the case of the Foxhound, the Harrier is very seldom kept as a companion apart from the pack. But puppies are usually sent out to walk, and may easily be procured to be kept and reared until they are old enough to be entered to their work. Doubtless the rearing of a Harrier puppy is a great responsibility, but it is also a delight to many who feel that they are helping in the advancement of a great national sport.

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There is nothing to surpass the beauty of the Beagle either to see him on the flags of his kennel or in unravelling a difficulty on the line of a dodging hare. In neatness he is really the little model of a Foxhound. He is, of course, finer, but with the length of neck so perfect in the bigger hound, the little shoulders of the same pattern, and the typical quarters and second thighs. Then how quick he is in his casts! and when he is fairly on a line, of course he sticks to it, as the saying is, “like a beagle.”

Beagles have been carefully preserved for a great many years, and in some cases they have been in families for almost centuries. In the hereditary hunting establishments they have been frequently found, as the medium of amusement and instruction in hunting for the juvenile members of the house; and there can be nothing more likely to instil the right principles of venery into the youthful mind than to follow all the ways of these little hounds.

Dorsetshire used to be the great county for Beagles. The downs there were exactly fitted for them, and years ago, when roe-deer were preserved on the large estates, Beagles were used to hunt this small breed of deer. Mr. Cranes' Beagles were noted at the time, and also those of a Colonel Harding. It is on record that King George IV. had a strong partiality for Beagles, and was wont to see them work on the downs round about Brighton. The uses of the Beagle in the early days of the last century, however, were a good deal diversified. They were hunted in big woodlands to drive game to the gun, and perhaps the ordinary Beagle of from 12 inches to 14 inches was not big enough for the requirements of the times. It is quite possible, therefore, that the Beagle was crossed with the Welsh, Southern or Otterhound, to get more size and power, as there certainly was a Welsh rough-coated Beagle of good 18 inches, and an almost identical contemporary that was called the Essex Beagle. Sixty years ago such hounds were common enough, but possibly through the adoption of the more prevalent plan of beating coverts, and Spaniels being in more general use, the vocation of the Beagle in this particular direction died out, and a big rough-coated Beagle is now very rarely seen.

That a great many of the true order were bred became very manifest as soon as the Harrier and Beagle Association was formed, and more particularly when a section of the Peterborough Hound Show was reserved for them. Then they seemed to spring from every part of the country. In 1896 one became well acquainted with many packs that had apparently held aloof from the dog shows. There was the Cheshire, the Christ Church (Oxford), Mr. T. Johnson's, the Royal Rock, the Thorpe Satchville, the Worcestershire, etc., and of late there have been many more that are as well known as packs of Foxhounds. One hears now of the Chauston, the Halstead Place—very noted indeed—the Hulton, the Leigh Park, the Stoke Place, the Edinburgh, the Surbiton, the Trinity Foot, the Wooddale, Mrs. G. W. Hilliard's, Mrs. Price's, and Mrs. Turner's.