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Why so many hounds?

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  • Why so many hounds?

    The thread on neutered/spayed hounds made me think.

    Why do hunts have so many hounds? Looks like 20-30 each hunt.

    My backwoods ancestors in Tennessee and even out here in the West hunt 'coon, bear and cat with only 4-6 hounds.

    Why so many just for one little fox?

  • #2
    I'm sure others will chime in with the real answer, but for me.... I love going out with a large pack and hear them in full cry. It is moving to hear all the different voices sing in the chorus.

    Comment


    • #3
      Yes, a part of having a lot of hounds is to increase the cry so that you can hear them and stay with them. Another plus is that in a check, more hounds can fan out over a larger area and they have a better chance of finding the line again. We have so many for "one little fox" simply because the hounds are so fast and they need to be loud in order for the field and others to locate them! Going out for a fox hunt would be pretty boring if you had no idea where the hounds were!

      Now, that being said, the number of hounds is also dependent on the country. Generally speaking, the smaller the country the smaller the pack because you have less chance of them running straight out of country. And there just as many theories about size of packs as there are huntsman!
      It's psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I'll get a saw.

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      • #4
        Well, a big part of it is also that the actual hunting by the hounds is very much a team sport. When you watch the pack dynamics, you'll see some more talented at finding the scent, others more talented at staying with that scent once found, still others who- when they lose the scent- are able to recover the line more quickly. You can also notice the interrelationship amongst hounds in the pack- if a first season hound finds something and makes a little noise, rest of the pack won't necessarily 'honor' unless or until another hound they know they can rely on verifies the find. If, on the other hand, 'old reliable' finds first and opens, you will see all others FLY to that spot and honor. The more you have on 'the team,' the more thorough a job they can do of finding in the first place, and then sustaining a longer run.

        Mind you, you can have a whole lot of fun with just a few hounds, but in general- within reason and subject to the particular country hunted, as noted- the more the merrier.

        Another issue related to country- and for this reason Red Rock tends to take out 60 to 70 hounds at a time- is that if the hounds run their quarry to a place you cannot go, an impassable mountain ridge, say- you might still be able to get enough hounds back to you to continue hunting with 'some' hounds until the rest finish their fun and get back to you. And, packs split if two foxes or coyotes running together split- I know as a whipper-in in Virginia, often enough I got sent with half while huntsman stayed with the other half- you won't get a good American hound on a red fox to quit hunting easily!- and when, for example, 'my half' ran their fox to ground or lost the scent, I'd take them back to the huntsman who was meanwhile hunting the other half for the enjoyment of the field.

        I highly recommend that anyone interested in pack dynamics read 'Hounds for a Pack' by Comte de Vezins. A slim little book but gives really good explanations of what a huntsman is looking for in building a good pack.

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        • #5
          Partly for all the reason others stated and partly for some other issues.
          Depending on how often your hunt hunts 2, 3, 4 days a week or whatever, some hounds need a break.
          Then you might have a hound injured and off for a while, or one come up lame, or you might have a kennel fight and a couple hounds out from that, or some older hounds that you are little more conservative with, and then you might have several hot bitches that throw a monkey wrench in things. And then some hounds might be puppies/young entry that you don't want to blow their minds their first season.

          So it's funny how quickly your kennel of 30-40 hounds can drop down to 20, 15 or even 10 in a hurry.
          "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Kyzteke View Post
            The thread on neutered/spayed hounds made me think.

            Why do hunts have so many hounds? Looks like 20-30 each hunt.

            My backwoods ancestors in Tennessee and even out here in the West hunt 'coon, bear and cat with only 4-6 hounds.

            Why so many just for one little fox?
            Because a fox is very clever in "hiding" their scent, or creating such an evasive trail that it would be difficult, and very slow for just a few hounds to find, maintain, track, and run the line.

            In foxhunting the more hounds that are out to hunt, the better chance of finding scent. If you watch a pack of hounds hunting,when being cast the hounds instinctively fan out to cover their own section of ground, each one searching for the scent. The more hounds, the greater amount of land covered.

            Once a hound finds, it alerts the others with a cry, which (if the other hounds know it is a hound worthy to "honor") the ranks will close in and all the hounds will converge to the "strike hound's" location to find the scent the strike hound said was there. If the scent is strong enough to follow, the pack will close ranks to run shoulder to shoulder to the point where it becomes almost one - wherein the phrase "tight enough to throw a blanket over them".

            Because the fox is also a very fast, very cagy quarry, it can lay a difficult line to hold at speed. Thus, the greater number of hounds that are on site to help hold the line and/or recast to re-find a line, the quicker the sport moves along.

            Coon, and bear will tree themselves when pressured rather than run. So will a cat. A fox will generally run and dodge and twist to lose the hounds - the greater the pressure the faster and longer the run to outwit the hounds. With only a few hounds a fox could easily be rid of the pack in moments. With a greater number of hounds, the opportunity to cast off the pack quickly is lessened and provides a longer run.

            Thus, the greater the number of hounds, the better...and easier... to find and hold a line longer at speed.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Kyzteke View Post

              My backwoods ancestors in Tennessee and even out here in the West hunt 'coon, bear and cat with only 4-6 hounds.

              Why so many just for one little fox?
              Different forms of hunting.

              You're comparing apples and oranges.

              All kinds of dogs/hounds are used for hunting.

              The number and type/breed depends upon the animal(s) hunted, terrain, territory, form of hunting (driving versus scent/tracking, versus flushing), club or owner preference, whether hounds are trenchers or owned by a club.

              But what really dictates the type of number of hounds is the species hunted, the form of hunting (they've evolved differently and each has its own culture, history and traditions) and how the hound(s) is bred and trained to work with its handler.

              There is a terrific book called, Hunting Hounds, The History, Training and Selection of America's Trail, Tree and Sight Hounds by David Michael Duffy

              It could use an update but it's a good read, for folks interested in how hunting with hounds evolved in the US. Talks about hounds ranging from a Tennessee Treeing brindle to Mountain Curs to Redbones to Walkers to Bassets and Beagles. You can probably find it online from a place like Alibris or Abebooks.
              Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
              Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
              -Rudyard Kipling

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Very interesting replies.

                Yes, the hounds out here who are popular for cat/bear are Plotts and black & tans mostly (not that i'm any expert, but my neighbor is and he hunts).

                But give the vast expense, maybe it would make more sense for some hunts to switch quarry?

                And if it's a drag hunt, can't you use ANY drag scent? Naturally, I realize you'd have to use different hound (breeds), but it would be more economical for all concerned.

                And of course, these days most of the hound guys use tracking collars on all their dogs so that's how they follow them.

                I can see the Master now -- his little GPS screen on the front of the horse...

                Comment


                • #9
                  You can train a hound to follow whatever scent you like for a drag hunt. We used to use fox urine until it got expensive and hard to find then we switched to anissette liquer.

                  As far as switching quarry, you hunt what's in your territory. If coyote come and run out the fox then you adapt.

                  we have tracking collars but they are not the kind that have a GPS. Too rich for our hunt. Ours allow us to triangulate to attempt to locate a lost hound but not to just follow along. I cant imagine why anyone would want to do such a thing anyway.

                  I know of one hunt that has the GPS tracking collars, but they use them after the hunt to download the info to see where the hounds went and how far. Sometimes the distances are staggering. They also use them after to track a missing hound, but not while hunting.
                  "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jaegermonster View Post
                    Partly for all the reason others stated and partly for some other issues.
                    Depending on how often your hunt hunts 2, 3, 4 days a week or whatever, some hounds need a break.
                    Then you might have a hound injured and off for a while, or one come up lame, or you might have a kennel fight and a couple hounds out from that, or some older hounds that you are little more conservative with, and then you might have several hot bitches that throw a monkey wrench in things. And then some hounds might be puppies/young entry that you don't want to blow their minds their first season.

                    So it's funny how quickly your kennel of 30-40 hounds can drop down to 20, 15 or even 10 in a hurry.
                    Very valid points. That would have been my first response too. We keep around 22 couple of hunting hounds in kennels (that excludes puppies and unentered hounds) but still we usually only manage 16 or 17 couple out on any given day due to the reasons you mentioned.
                    "A babbler amongst the followers of a pack of hounds is just as great an evil as a babbler in the pack" The Complete Foxhunter 1908

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