There are two different types of hound that have been bred over several centuries for their working qualities related to the hare. They are the harrier and the beagle. Beagles stand between 14 and 16 inches and harriers stand up to 21 inches in height. The qualities of a working hound are:
- Scenting ability – 'nose'.
- Stamina - which depends on their conformation.
- Bidability - their willingness to work and live as a member of a pack in and out of kennels
- Steadiness - that they are permitted to hunt hares and not other quarry
- Intelligence - their ability to understand the wiles of the hare
- Voice - which is the sign that they are hunting a hare - and only a hare.
All hounds for hunting are bred in kennels and are registered annually by their name in their own Association Stud Book. Each hound is either ear-marked or 'chipped' so as to provide its positive identification. Hounds bred from those which are not recorded in the stud book may later be so recorded through an 'appendix' system.
The AMHB each year approves shows during the summer months at which registered hounds may be shown. They are judged for their conformation by approved judges.
There are two distinct breeds of Harrier: the Stud Book Harrier and the West Country Harrier. The Stud Book Harrier is smaller and lighter than the West Country Harrier.
Pendle Forest & Craven Panda ‘04
Stud Book Harrier Bitch Hound Champion & Best Harrier in show,
Taunton Vale Hamlet ‘06B
West Country Harrier Champion Dog Hound,
Old Berkeley Famous’02
Dog Hound Champion & Best Beagle in show, Peterborough 2008
Hounds have been purposely bred to hunt. They are prepared for hunting in all conditions and over a variety of countries, with speed, ease of movement and stamina.
It is no coincidence, that a hound which has speed, versatility and ease of movement would not only be a hound that would last many seasons hunting without illness or injury, but also excel in the show ring. A hound with good confirmation will move easily and effortlessly. Alertness, bidability and intelligence are also factors which can influence the hound’s level of working and show ring success.
Nose, a hound’s scenting ability, is also a factor of breeding but cannot be judged in the show ring.
A near perfect harrier, the Pendle Forest & Craven’s Panda, Stud Book Harrier Bitch Hound Champion & Best Harrier in show, Peterborough 2008.
Illustration of Good and Bad Hound Conformation
The purpose of the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles is to oversee the promotion and proper management of Harrier and Beagle Hunts. The Association promotes the highest standard of horse and hound management in and outside kennels.
The Council of Hunting Associations’ produces a booklet “The Code of Practice for the Welfare of Hounds in Hunt Kennels” which describes best practice in kennels. All hunts hold a copy in kennels.
The AMHB has a panel of inspectors who visit all kennels and undertake a formal inspection at least once every three years to ensure high standards. A formal report is sent to the Director of the Association following each visit. The current panel of inspectors include two serving Masters of Hounds, a retired police inspector and a vet.