The Amazing World of Hounds: Harriers, Beagles, & Foxhounds

A pack of hunting beagles

A Brief History of the Trio

Once upon a time in merry old England, three hounds shared a common ancestry: the Harrier, Beagle, and English Foxhound. They were all bred for different game, with the slower-moving, superbly nosed Beagle on one end and the hard-running English Foxhound, who often overran its nose, on the other. In the middle, you’ll find the versatile Harrier.

The Harrier: A Hound with a Rich Legacy

Believe it or not, the Harrier is the oldest of the three. Even if you ignore its Greek origins, the Penistone Pack was formed in 1260 and lasted for more than five centuries. Talk about longevity!

A close up pic of the Harrier Hound
A close-up pic of the Harrier hound

Beagles: Small but Mighty Hunters

The Beagle became the most popular small hound in England during the Middle Ages, and its history dates back to the reign of Edward III in the 14th century. The name “Beagle” came into use in the 15th century from the Old English word “begle,” meaning small. And small they were, indeed! Queen Elizabeth I had a pack of six-inch Beagles.

Tri colored Beagle
A tri-colored Beagle

English Foxhounds: The Ultimate Pursuers

As for the English Foxhound, they were selectively bred for large game hunting on horseback. They became faster and more agile over time, thanks to the introduction of Greyhound blood and interbreeding with the old Spanish Pointer.

The English Foxhound

The Art of Breeding: Mixing and Matching

Over the centuries, all three breeds have been interbred to improve their characteristics. William Somerville (1675-1742) got some of his best Harriers by crossing Cotswold Beagles with Southern Hounds. Even the famous dog Trojan in 1780, a top foxhound stud, was a reject from a Harrier pack.

America Welcomes the Hounds

The Beagle made its way to America in 1642, and the first pack of English Foxhounds was brought over by Robert Brooke in 1650. Interestingly, his pack was used in the development of today’s Black and Tan Coonhound.

Our founding father, George Washington, was an ardent admirer of foxhunting. In the 1770s, he imported English packs, and later, in 1785, he received some French staghounds from Lafayette. He also added hounds from Ireland, and the resulting Virginia hounds became the ancestors of today’s American Foxhound.

Modern-Day Hounds and Their Clubs

If you’re interested in learning more about these amazing breeds, check out these websites:

The Comeback of the Harrier

Although the Harrier may have fallen out of fashion for a while, with the Beagle dominating the small, foot-handled game scene and the English Foxhound taking on the larger game handled on horseback, the Harrier’s unique qualities are not to be underestimated. In fact, the Quarme Pack was perhaps the last of the typical and pure West County Harrier packs, as many packs had become a combination of Harriers and small English Foxhounds.

Breeding Techniques: Perfecting the Hounds

The continuous process of refining the hound breeds didn’t stop at interbreeding. Greyhound blood was introduced to the English Foxhound gene pool to increase their speed, and the old Spanish Pointer was introduced to improve both breeds. While the Spanish Pointer was heavy and cumbersome, it possessed a great nose. The English Foxhound gave the Spanish Pointer more mobility, and in return, the English Foxhound gained scenting ability.

The Hounds’ Enduring Legacy

From their humble beginnings centuries ago to their modern-day presence, these hounds have been an essential part of hunting history and canine culture. Today, they continue to make an impact on the lives of people who admire their unique qualities, athleticism, and lovable personalities.

The Hounds in Pop Culture

These hounds have also left their paw prints on pop culture. The Beagle, for example, has become a beloved character in the form of Snoopy from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip. The English Foxhound and Harrier have also made appearances in various movies, books, and television shows, capturing the hearts of audiences with their endearing looks and determination.

In Conclusion: A Celebration of the Hounds

As we look back on the incredible journey of the Harrier, Beagle, and English Foxhound, it’s clear that these hounds have played a significant role in the history of hunting and the development of modern dog breeds. From their ancestral roots in England to their adventures in America and their influence on dog lovers worldwide, these hounds have left an indelible mark on our hearts and the canine world.

So, let’s raise a toast to the Harriers, Beagles, and English Foxhounds: a trio of charming, hardworking hounds that have been bringing joy, companionship, and excitement to dog lovers for centuries. May their legacy continue to inspire and delight future generations of dog enthusiasts. Cheers!

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