Getting your Beagle ahead of the rest…

This past Sunday the Western Cape Beagles had their first hunt of the season at Anura.

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After the first line I soon realised that my Beagle must be extremely out of practice and very unfit.  After the second line as just about gave up on him being a winner but realised that he is just in the mood to socialise.  My husband however is very competitive and since it was the first time he joined me on the hunt he couldn’t understand why our little guy and quite a few of the others didn’t have that urge to finish the lines and “hunt” the drag.  I decided to do some digging and research how I can train our guy to at least recognise the scent and do something from our side to help him with the hunts.  Walking behind the Beagles at the hunts I always hear a quite a few other parents being just as baffled as us about the lack of hunting instinct in their kids:)

So…if you would like to know a little bit more about drag hunting and how you can improve those noses for hunting, here is a bit of info I found on thebeagleclub.org

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The Scent

This is made from Aniseed Oil and Vegetable Cooking Oil. The mixture normally used is one part of aniseed oil to twenty of cooking oil. It is sometimes useful to start the season with a slightly stronger mixture and work down to the1:20 ratio but anything stronger than 1: 10 will drown those very sensitive noses. Hounds can be worked successfully on a mix of 1:40.

The Drag

This is made from some old material, preferably natural fibre which retains the aniseed mixture, toweling is a good example. A strip of an old bath towel about eight inches wide and 36 inches long may be folded twice to make a pad say 4 inches by 18. A length of cord, orange nylon garden line is good, about 30 feet long is tied (securely!) around the middle of the pad. A loop may be tied in the other end to act as a handle or to go round the shoulder. The pad should be initially well wetted with the mixture and it is advisable to keep the pad in a plastic bag as the mixture tends to make things a bit sticky and oily. In use very little of the mixture needs to be added to the drag at any time. It usually takes some time for the drag to get to its best when good and dirty.

When out on muddy fields, the drag will usually pick up a fair amount of mud and this may be dislodged by dropping the drag in puddles or streams. This also appears to re-vitalise the aniseed mixture.

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The Drag Line

This is the line taken by the drag layer and may be anything between one and three kilometers in length, It is normal to start the season with shorter lines and work up during the season as the hounds improve. For training much shorter lines may be used. The line will often be laid within the confines of a single field, but as hounds become more competent, efforts should be made to include routes through hedges and streams.

The line taken should not encourage the hounds to think that they are just out to run straight round a field. The intention is to emulate the movements of a live hare which will often change direction sharply. Hence it is advisable to include various changes of direction. It is also useful to pick the drag up now and again to break the line. This will cause the hounds to cast about and really work to find again. It is suggested that the drag may be carried for about 20 meters.

The line taken should preferably start off running into the wind and should finish about 50 meters downwind from the start point. The last 50 meters back to where the handlers have released their hounds can be covered while the main part of the line is being worked.

The hounds are released on the instruction of the Field-master, usually by a blast on a whistle or horn. Normally we release the hounds in two groups, the proven working hounds first and the novices when the first group have run about 30-40 meters. The natural tendency will be for the novices to follow the workers and thus, hopefully, get the message about what they are hunting.

A few people are always needed to “whip-in”. They should be posted at various danger points around the area being dragged such as gateways and gaps in the hedges. Although beagles can be trained to hunt the drag line very well, we will always have the problem of those hounds who feel that the grass may well be greener, (or the plough muddier!), in the other field. There is also the possibility that a hare, rabbit or even a deer may be around and any of these may seem preferable to the hounds. Whippers-in are needed to encourage any wayward hounds back onto the line rather than to run off screaming at hounds that escape or berating them. Whips if carried are only used to “crack” and never to be used to strike a hound. Most hounds will respond to the sharp crack rather than to shouting. Whippers-in must never walk across the field thus crossing the drag line route.

Okay – here is the part we are all waiting for:) 

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Training

As with any training, plenty of patience is required and for drag hunting a fair amount of physical effort is needed as well. Training must be carried out at home; it is no use going to a meet and expecting that your hound will know immediately what is expected of it. He will instinctively know about hunting but his only experience of aniseed will probably be from “doggy-chews”. Pure aniseed oil is not always easy to obtain and is very expensive but a little goes a long way. Substitutes may be found such as aniseed sweets which can be boiled to produce a weak liquid to mix with cooking oil. Similarly the “doggy­chews” mentioned above may be boiled and the aniseed extracted. A friendly high street chemist may however be persuaded to provide some pure aniseed oil more because of their surprise at the reason for the requirement than from professional interest. Remember that 100 mls of pure aniseed will give a whole litre of the required mixture.

Initially training should be done in the garden away from distractions, but as your hound gets the idea of what is expected drags can be laid in local fields or parks. You may feel very silly running round a local park towing a length of cord with an old rag attached, it is surprising how many people will show an interest! In the garden, lay short lines for a start ending at a suitable point such as a tree or bush, beneath which some of the hounds favourite treats may be placed. Walk the hound along the line you have laid on a short lead, encouraging him to “find it” or some other suitable phrase. He will soon get the idea that by following this evil smelling line along the grass he will find the treats you have put at the end. Don’t always finish at the same place as the clever little fellow will realise that there is a quicker way to get to the treats!

When you then take your hounds to a drag meet you will find the rewards of your efforts at home in the way that your hound will hunt as a member of a group. 

2 Responses to “ Getting your Beagle ahead of the rest… ”

  1. Leonardo says:

    Great read, thanks for your effore Nicola

  2. Shana says:

    Very informative and interesting, thanks!

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