The Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles (AMHB) was founded in 1891. In that year, the Association registered 107 packs of Harriers and 40 packs of Beagles. In 2016 there were 58 packs of Beagles, 18 packs of Harriers, 3 Hunt Clubs and 4 affiliated foreign packs.
The over-riding role of the Association, as it has traditionally been, is to act as the Governing Body of Hunting by packs of Harriers and Beagles in Great Britain. Despite the Hunting Act 2004, the Association and its members would like to maintain their commitment and amend the flawed legislation and to promote the management, welfare and conservation of the hare.
The Beagle and the Harrier have been bred over several centuries for their working qualities. Beagles stand between 14 and 16 inches in height and Harriers up to 21 inches. There are two breeds of a Harrier: the Stud Book Harrier and the West Country Harrier. All hounds are entered in the AMHB Stud Book which is published annually.
The qualities of a working hound are:
- scenting ability – “nose”
- stamina – which depends to a great extent on their conformation
- biddability – their willingness to work and live as a member of a pack in and out of kennels
- steadiness – their ability to stick to the line of the scent
The Masters of Basset Hounds Association was formed in 1912 exclusively with the Hunting Basset in mind. Prior to the Hunting Act of 2004 nearly all connoisseurs agreed that hunting the hare with a pack of Basset hounds represented the finest form of venery. They say that nothing quite matched the persistency; the tenacity at holding the line, the deeper scenting abilities and the cry of a pack of Basset hounds on a good day.
Most member packs of the Masters of Basset Hounds Association enter hounds at the Festival of Hunting. The Association also carries out kennel inspections for member packs in the UK and represents them at the Council of Hunting Associations.
The Masters of Bloodhounds and Draghounds Association represents all Draghound and Bloodhound hunting in Great Britain along with some packs in Northern Ireland.
Draghounds generally make use of the Modern English foxhound type breed for speed and persistence, they are large and powerful in build with large bones. The English foxhound makes an excellent Draghound as they are bold passionate hunters who love to follow a drag line.
The British Bloodhound first arrived with the Normans and the hounds became particularly popular to protect property against poachers and cattle thieves. Today all Bloodhounds are black and tan or red. The Bloodhound possesses the keenest sense of smell of any other breed and can track a scent that is many days old over considerable distances.
As long as the hunting ban remains in force, foxhound packs are continuing to provide a useful service to farmers by hunting foxes within the law, for example, by flushing foxes to strategically placed marksmen. Foxhound packs are also, in the main, simulating foxhunting as closely as they can by organising trail hunting.
Whereas most draghunt lines start in open country at a known spot and follow a pre-determined route, trail hunting involves simulating the search in cover for a scent to follow.
In the main ring at the Peterborough Royal Foxhound show modern Foxhounds are shown, and outside the Old English (OE) type are judged. In addition to this all other type of hounds are judged here too. There are fewer classes in the OE ring as there are fewer packs and since the advent of these classes at Peterborough, the quality of the OE appears to have improved.
The modern English Foxhound has evolved over the last 100 years and consists of a mixture of different types, with the “pure” or “old English type” regarded by some as not suitable for hunting, because the Peterborough fashion had become exaggerated with too much bone.
Fortunately the old English type has also evolved and become more active than the heavy hound of 100 years ago. So what are the differences which are barely discernible to the layman? The Old English (OE) may be smaller than some of the current modern hounds and while all tan, they appear to be slightly straighter in the shoulder with a shorter humerus bone than the modern. Supporters of the OE do not want to have a touch of what was regarded as tainted blood (modern) and they have managed by careful hound breeding and not breeding too close to maintain their type without losing their conformation, they certainly have produced a type and the OE packs are certainly well matched in levelness that is so important.
The modern initially were made up from the best of the OE and Welsh blood lines much lighter boned than the OE. Between the two world wars the FKSB was closed and it was not until 1955 that it was opened again to admit not only Welsh but also Fell and Hill hound blood. More recently American lines have been introduced. The reason for needing these out-crosses is to give the line bred modern foxhound a refresher of blood that provides extra hybrid vigour as well as increasing the gene pool.
A Working Terrier is a small type of dog which is used for locating its quarry underground in what is best described as an earth. The name dates back to at least 1440 with the most popular becoming known in the late 1800’s as the Parson Jack Russell, named after a hunting vicar from Exmoor. With the growth of interest in the management of the fox population either through hunting or other means in the 18th and 19th Centuries, terriers were extensively bred to locate the quarry, and either bark at it and bolt it free or into a net so that it could be humanely dispatched.
Terrier work in the 21st Century is conducted in Britain under the strict conditions of the Hunting Act 2004 and still plays a very important part of keeping the correct balance of the fox population. Whilst it is important to remember they are a working breed and as a result can get up to considerable mischief, they do, within reason, make good pets.
At the Festival of Hunting you will see some fine examples of the many different types of terriers that not only exist but play a most valuable role in all sorts of rural activities. For classes and entry forms please go to Competitors, Schedules, Foxhound and Terrier Schedules.