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Date: 14 July 2019. Running the Hounds.
Guest author Captain Sid Tracy.

This walk down Memory Lane is for The Writer's Block. It is response to request I made. In the vignette Hunting Nowadays I told how hunting is no longer stalking through the woods ala Daniel Boone. I asked for remembrances from my readers. Today Captain Sid tells about the world of dogs "back in the day" and currently as well. I was fascinated and hope you enjoy his writing too.

Hi Janice, Here are a few thoughts about a man and a woman’s best friend in response to your query:

I read your entry about hunting dogs some time ago and thought maybe I could respond with some bits and pieces that I have read and experienced over my 81 years. Since it is a rainy day here in the Northwest, it is a good day to get this out of my system. These are not all my original thoughts but gleaned from other folk’s writings and some from my firsthand experience.


First, I have read many times that all dogs, from the small, like yours, to the large are still 98% wolf. In the remaining 2% of their genes men and women have experimented, bred, developed and tweaked the characteristics to develop animals that suit our selfish purposes. In spite of what some preach, we have developed special breeds for herding, pulling sleds and pursuing wild game. Some learn to guard, to rescue, or to assist those in physical need, while others just provide us with loving comfort. Still, all dogs are 98% wolf.


Aside from Janice: In researching, the actual DNA shows a 99.96% match between domesticated dogs and the grey wolf. It is amazing to consider my miniature Papillon at five pounds shares such a rich heritage. The fact that on occasion Skipper believes herself a Rottweiler is thus explained!



Snopes at https://snopes.com/fact-check/dogs-99-percent-wolf/


from UCSB Science Line http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=5474


There seems to be some confusion on whether the wolf came to man first or if man went to the wolves first for hunting assistance. Whatever, whoever, made the first advance into our unique partnership is moot. Wolves/dogs are our oldest domesticated friends. They are older friends than the bovine, the horse, the turkey and especially the cat. The cat has not given up many of its wild instincts.


European grey wolf at the Prague zoo.

The hunting breeds are often referred to as hounds, except for bird dogs. Trailing hounds pursue other animals by their scent and are used for everything from squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, fox, even boar and lions. Sight hounds pursue the animals by sight such as cats, stag, running birds and sadly sometimes their own ancestor the wolf. Hounds do not bark. They bay.


Illustrations from The Best of James Herriot:

 A Labrador Retriever is a trailing hound.

The Greyhound hunts via sight.

Compiled by Reader's Digest, The Best of James Herriot is a selection of the very best vignettes that Dr. Herriot published in his many books over the years. It provides a wonderful overview of the country veterinarian's life.

This is one of my favorite books. My duo gifted it to me one Christmas decades ago. Quite frankly, I prefer this gem to the "real" books. That is because of the additional information provided in the pages of The Best of James Herriot.

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Illustrations, maps, photographs and even a few recipes add to my enjoyment of the stories contained within the nearly 500 pages of this gem. It explained the characteristics of various animals, and provided line drawings. Blips about plants, flowers and more made this particular book a Keeper. J.


There are many “voices,” of different hounds. There may be a rapid chop, a bawl mouth--long and mournful, or a high squall. Sometimes hounds will even run silently. Their human partners have learned and can identify the difference between their hound’s voices/tongues. If the hound is on a cold scent, a running hot scent or when the quarry has climbed a tree or gone to earth they will act and bay accordingly.

Heather's dog Shelly enjoys water. She'll be a great boat dog one day.

Bird dogs may trail and flush or be used only to retrieve. My favorites are those who trail and then point. The point is a method of stalking and the dogs are trained to find, go on point and by intimidation hold the bird in one place until I can catch up. I then flush and hopefully shoot the bird. My partner then retrieves, hands me the bird and we both rejoice. Pheasant under glass and a fine glass of wine will follow for me. Of course my partner gets a reward also.


Those men and boys of whom you speak in your article Hunting Nowadays have probably joined together just to listen to the hounds with their boisterous and raucous voices, and to experience the thrill of the chase.

They love to listen to the voices of “Ol’ Blue, or maybe Sounder, Beck, Bell, Guy Crow, maybe even Blizzard.” These were some of the names of my father’s hounds. The cry of the pack will raise the hair on the back of your neck and takes us back to our earliest roots and the pursuit of wild game. It is known as a blood sport.


Hobo and Dog painting by Norman Rockwell, circa 1924.


I was raised in Iowa. My father raised, hunted and competed in field trials with his Walker Fox Hounds. There is nothing like hearing a pack of hounds with their variety of voices on a cold snowy winter morning to put a rush in your heart. A time or two his or a neighbor’s hound would start running silently.

For what reason we would never know. But Yankee ingenuity led to putting a bell on those particular hounds. From then on deep ringing tones added to the chorus.


In my 40’s I was living in Colorado and started “riding to hounds,” with the Arapahoe hunt. On fleet horses we went out on the Phipps Ranch (now known as “the Highlands,” a housing development) with a pack of English Fox Hounds. There were two packs of hounds, a female, “bitch” pack and a male “dog” pack. Each comprised of 20-30 hounds. We did not hunt the two together. We did the “Tally Ho” bit and chased coyotes.

We had many a good rousing race around the ranch. There in the high desert the undesirables pursued the inedibles.

From the Reader's Digest book Joy of Nature, a pair of coyotes:


In the wintertime, some friends and I would go to Ireland and England where we hunted fox and stag. Riding hired horses, wearing top hats, red coats, and with the mandatory morning stirrup cup of brandy, we were off and well over the stone fences and hedges that still cover and separate the fields of Ireland and England. It was the whole nine yards of tradition.

From the Reader's Digest book Joy of Nature, a picture of a fox kit:


Ah, what I would give to be young again and to ride with the hounds once more, to hear and see 30-50 well-bred hounds doing what they did so well and to hear the sound of the huntsman’s horn. We rarely caught a fox or stag but the fun was in the chase and listening to those hounds!

Photo of The Best of James Herriot chapter Dales and Moors.

What began as a hunt for wild game, a natural food source, has changed drastically over time. But the bonds between us and our dogs have grown stronger. Due to private lands and barbed wire fences in the South, most hunting there is now done with short wave radios and pickup trucks.

Of course the hounds are there too and the fun is still in the chase. For most, it is far more profitable to hunt in the halls of Safeway. But in some the instinct to hunt burns as strong as ever, for both man and beast.


I hope this is as entertaining and enlightening for you to read as it was for me to remember and write. I hope I have introduced some new thoughts and helped in you to understand hound lore. Due to my poor health I am now limited to some fall bird hunting. My hunting companion is a Wire Haired Pointer. He is a rescue dog, probably the most intelligent dog I have ever known. He is totally tuned to my every thought and wish. My memories help me get through the days and nights. And of course my best friend is always by my side.


The End

© Sid Tracy aka as 1Sunseeker@Frontier.com

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