Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lane Batot on Trailhounds: Part 2

Although growing up around relatives' and neighbors' trailhounds, I did not acquire my own first hound until I was well into my 30's, and even then, quite by accident. A horribly starved, wretched little Black-And-Tan hound showed up at the place I was employed at the time--a small game farm/zoo in Tennessee, where the bossman tended to shoot any dogs that wandered onto the property on sight. We several employees had an underground system where we cooperated to smuggle any dogs off said property before Mr. Trigger-Happy could plug them. Having a soft spot for hounds especially, I ended up with this one, but it wasn't a simple matter of calling the owner(no collar; no I.D.), or just getting her off the property--she was very close to death. I have seen a lot of starved, pitifully abused dogs in my day, but this little hound was in the WORST condition I've ever seen. Every rib, every knob of her backbone stood out in stark relief. She was so weak, she could only stand for a moment, and would then keel over sideways. All four feet were bloody raw--pads worn right off--this poor hound had come a long way. And of course she was eaten alive with fleas and ticks. Despite her wretched condition, she still managed to look up at me in a hopeful manner with those imploring hound eyes, and manage a weak thump of her tail in friendliness--that characteristic coonhound good temperament to the last.

When I got her home, I was afraid to give her solid food right away--she was that bad--so for a few days I fed her soups and broth. During her first night at my place, with a wide variety of choices for dog houses to shelter in, she went straight to one of the plasic barrel doghouses I had, staggered inside, and collapsed in the straw with a big sigh of relief. Obviously a "barrel dawg!" She recovered rapidly from her starved condition as soon as she was on solid food. She is still a neurotically, crazed, and ravenous eater--more so even than a typical trailhound! I have always been lenient with her about this food obsessiveness, even when she managed to jump fully on my kitchen table and bolt down several of my own meals when I would foolishly turn my back for a second!--as I remembered her shocking condition when I first laid eyes on her. She filled out quickly enough on her two meals a day, plus whatever else she could steal from the rest of us, and in good condition and not overweight tipped the scales soaking wet at 50 lbs. However it took MONTHS for her raw, pitifully worn feet to heal completely. Meanwhile, I had been advertising for her owner(in case she had been lost or stolen) in the local papers, but there never were any responses to the adds. That she had once been someone's hunting dog was obvious--her ears had even been notched for identification just like a hog's or horse's ears used to be notched by old timers--a rare sight these days, even in the isolated locale in the Appalachians where I was living at the time. And they were definetely I.D. notches--not hunting injuries(also common in hunting hounds), and this unusual, old-fashioned quirk had me calling her "Notches"--which inevitably became her name.

When Notches' feet were up to it, I began to let her accompany me and the rest of my pack that I had at that time(6 sled dogs, 1 Catahoula, 1 Saluki, 1 Azawakh, and 1 Basenji) on our daily runs in the mountains. She dearly loved this, baying in excitement, but, very unhoundlike, staying glued to my side, not wanting me out of her sight for a second! One day, my pack jumped a raccoon out foraging, and ran it up a tree. Despite the frenzied jumping and excitement exhibited by all my other dogs, poor Notches cringed in terror--literally cowered on the ground--she wanted nothing to do with that raccoon! I shook my head at the sight: I had wanted to try and pawn her off on one of my coon hunting cousins, but this behaviour would never be tolerated by him. But by this point, I had had her for quite awhile, she had gotten along perfectly with all my other pack and been accepted by them(not an easy thing for another adult dog to do with my eclectic collection of canines!), and I had(sigh) grown terribly fond of her. So I wasn't exactly too disapointed to reach the conclusion that I was stuck with her!

Next; training a raccoon phobic coonhound! To be continued.........


retrieverman said...

In this part of the world, there are two breeds of black and tan scent hound. They are related, but they are a bit different.

The oldest of these is the black and tan foxhound, which is a strain of American foxhound. It is a very old strain of American foxhound, and it is quite rare these days. My grandfather's favorite varmint dog was half collie/half black and tan foxhound. He really had a good nose and very good instincts to work squirrels and rabbits.

The other breed is more famous. It is derived from the black and tan foxhound, just with the addition of the old-strain of bluetick and bloodhound. We call it the black and tan coonhound. It is a bigger and heavier dog than its foxhound ancestor, but the working form is somewhat smaller and more gracile that the show form of coonhound.

I don't know whether Tennessee allows hunters to use dogs to hunt deer, but in a lot of Southern states, this practice is legal. Most deer hounds are selected from culls from other breeds of working scent hound. In West Virginia, where it is illegal to run deer with dogs, it is not uncommon for Virginia deer hunters to come up and buy beagle and foxhound culls for their packs. The dogs are run only a few years, and then they are abandoned or shot.

Maybe that's what happened to this poor black and tan dog. Either that or some coon hunter tried to using really hard methods to turn this poor black and tan into a coonhound.

Anonymous said...

Ha retreiverman, you just said a lot of stuff I had planned for my next post on this subject! I have read that the AKC version of the Black-And-Tan "coonhound" is actually derived from the old time Black-And-Tan foxhound that you mentioned, and never really was an actual treeing coonhound breed(not that they can't be trained for that, just hardly anyone I've ever heard of does!)--typical AKC inaccurate categorizing. They were used for a very specific type of fox hunting, mostly in the Northeastern U.S., where a single hunter(or perhaps with a partner or two) took out just one of these hounds, and let it track and run the fox, while they took up stands to wait for the fox to run by, to get a shot at it. This required excellent knowledge of local fox habits and territory usage, and a slow, sure trailing hound. As with most of its conformation breeds, the AKC has practically ruined this hound for actual hunting. They have been bred overlarge, have all manner of genetic problems now, and the breeders' focus is often on ear length and other useless characteristics, rather than hunting ability. The UKC version, by far the most common, healthiest, and most functional type, is the true, treeing type coonhound. And they are much smaller, leaner and athletically built, without the exagerrated ears or loose skin of the AKC version. My little hound( she's still going, too!) is definetely of this type. She was likely trained to be a bear hound(typical in that area where I was), and severely punished for working coon, or, like you said, trained using brutal methods to hunt coon which turned her against the process--I'll get more into that(and what I think happened) in my next post. Deer hunting with hounds is EXTREMELY taboo in every area where I have lived in the South--Tennessee, North Carolina(west and mid-state), and North Georgia--nothing worse a hound can be caught doing, and they are often shot on sight if they are seen trailing deer. However, there ARE areas, usually very thickly brushed, swampy, coastal areas where hunting deer with hounds is THE thing! And all the coonhound breeds are utilized, as well as beagles(like you mentioned)--human subcultures are interesting and often make no sense! I personally have listened to and witnessed many a blasphemous deer race, and can elaborate extensively on the subject! This might be a future post all by itself!....L.B.

retrieverman said...

How you describe that version of foxhunting is exactly how it is done in West Virginia, where I live.

Although now, the fox is less likely to be shot, simply because red foxes can be a bit scarce.

I've seen some working black and tans, but they far outnumbered by blueticks, English, rebones, and Treeing Walkers (which are derived from the Walker strain of American foxhound-- virtually all American foxhounds are Walkers, including nearly every American foxhound in the show ring).

In West Virginia, it actually illegal to run deer with dogs, and any dog caught doing so can be shot. In Virginia, there is an actual tradition of hunting deer with dogs, which is why deer hunters from Virginia come into West Virginia to buy those beagle and foxhound culls.

In West Virginia, bear hounds are almost universally plotts, curs, or Airedales. If not those, then some tougher strain of bluetick or Treeing walker. I remember reading about a pack of black and tan bear hounds that were crossed with dobermans to make them tougher on bears. This was in the very high mountains of West Virginia.

Anonymous said...

Fox hunting in the areas where I grew up(and have lived) was the type where the hunters selected a hilltop that allowed one to hear for some distance in all directions, built a campfire, loosed the hounds, and then sat all night listening to "hound music"--never was a fox killed! Individual foxes even became well known, and experienced hunters could tell, not only that their hounds were trailing fox, but WHICH fox! Although I never got to participate in one of these hunts, I often heard the hounds passing by, and found hounds that had been lost or left behind--always with I.D. collars, and returned them to their owners, refusing any monetary rewards(which were usually offered). Sadly, this form of fox hunting is getting very rare, mainly because of the overdevelopment of the land(and increased auto traffic--deadly to the dogs), and anal property owners who will not allow hounds to cross their land. A modified version of this type of hunting continues with foxes kept in huge pens of sometimes many acres in size, but it is just not the same as in the "good old days"......L.B.