Thursday, February 14, 2008

Field trials Defined

Have you been thinking of taking your beagle to a field trial? You've seen all these ads for trials but are not sure which ones are for you? What do all the different formats mean. I thought I'd make a quick run through of the types of trials that could be available for you to enter. There's a good article on attending your first field trial that you probably need to read before getting ready to go. I'm going to try and do my best to explain the different trials.
Some things are command to all formats and other things are different. Let me first mention some things that are common to all the formats discussed here. Beagles are divided up into four classes. 13" and 15" dogs and 13" and 15" bitches. Each class is assigned two judges. Game for all beagle field trials is rabbit or hare. Game is never released in front of the hounds and is found in it's natural habitat or semi natural habitat of beagles clubs where the ground is "farmed" or specially cared for to enhance the game population. The AKC publishes a booklet detailing all the rules and regulations. I would advise reading through this book as a top priority if you are interested in competing in a field trial
Brace Trials (traditional)
The first types of field trials held in the U.S. were run in the brace format. You may see these simply called brace trials or referred to as traditional brace trials. At a brace trials entry's are split into braces or pairs for head to head competition. The two judges follow each brace and agree on how to score each hound. After all braces are ran, the judges determine which dogs had the highest performance and call those dogs back for a second series. The second series is divided up into braces again. The judges run these dogs in a modified tournament type format until they derive at a winner.
Large pack on Hare
Another type of field trial is called Large pack or Large pack on hare. Almost all of these trials are held in the northern most part of the country. The game is nearly always the Snow Shoe hare. In this format the entire class of hounds is released and ran for several hours. The judges do their best to view the hound work and score dogs according to their ability and contributions to the chase. I have no personal experience with this type of trial so I can offer very little input.
Small Pack
The Small pack format was authored by John Landrum of Skull fork fame and adopted by the AKC in 1957. In this format hounds are divided up into packs of 4 to 7 dogs and judged. After all the pack are evaluated, the judges bring back the ones they scored the highest to compete in a second series. Additional series' are held until the judges have reduced the number of hound to 5 - 7. This final group is called the winners pack. Judges choose the top dog from the winners pack to be the field trial winner. This small pack format was a better test for a hunting dog as most rabbit hunters hunted their dogs in small packs. These small packs naturally trailed a rabbit faster than just two dogs and put more pressure on the hounds. Faults that are not evident in the brace format are more easily seen in this format.
Small Pack Option
In the 70's beaglers and rabbit hunters began a movement to find a method to compete and evaluate their hunting dogs. After several years of working on this it was finally decided to use the same rules as Small Pack (listed above) but with a few exceptions. Hounds would be cast to search for game and would be tested for gun shyness. Today most field trailers' who also rabbit hunt compete in this format. You will hear this format referred to as SPO.
Gun Dog Brace
In the 90's their was a strong up rush of gundog folks wanting to run in the brace format. These trials late became known as Gun dog brace. They run under the same rules as Brace (listed above) but hounds are cast to search for game and tested for gun shyness.
More History
Originally, beagle owners competed with the same hounds they rabbit hunted with. As time progress more and more importance was placed on trailing accuracy until nearly all ability to circle the rabbit for a gun shot was lost. Small Pack trials normally run the same type of hounds as traditional brace trials. The inability to account for game disenfranchised most rabbit hunters and led to a steady decrease in field trial entries. The decline in entries worsened up until the time SPO trials gained popularity.

Scott Wilson

No comments: