Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fell and Mooreland Swag

First of all, congratulations to the Midlands Fell and Moorland Terrier Club for putting together a web site! I firmly believe that one of the reasons terrier work has been pushed to the ropes in the U.K. is that not enough has been done to present it in a positive light. This web site is a small move in the right dirction. For example, look at the small collection of press stories about F&M rescues. Excellent!

Rescues are not always cheap, but raising cash and consciousness can be done at the same time with a little swag, and so F&M has a little of that too. For those making a purchase of caps, polo shirts, rugby shirts, fleeces make sure you have included enough to pay for postage to the U.S. -- U.S. prices are noted on some things, and a little bit extra does not hurt.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Hunting Dog Found 70 Feet Underground

Mountain Cur at full cry.

2005-11-17, by Thomas Fraser of The Daily Times, Maryville, Tennessee

Bryan Hepperly's dog is one tough Buck.

The 2-year-old mountain cur --named Buck -- disappeared over two weeks ago while Hepperly was hunting raccoons in Dry Valley. Buck was found stuck 70 feet underground in Panther Cave near Kelley Gap on Monday, not far from the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The dog was the subject of a technical rescue Tuesday by Great Smokies ranger Rick Brown after campers at Ace Gap heard barking from a hole in the ground.

The dog is ``very skinny'' and exhausted, Hepperly said, but in otherwise good shape. Buck is recuperating at the veterinarian. His prognosis is excellent, despite the fact the dog had nothing to eat for 16 days, ``unless something fell in that hole,'' Hepperly said.

He believes his dog was stuck in the cave all 16 days because there was no signal from his tracking collar, which can be detected reliably for miles -- but not underground. The dog was likely chasing a raccoon, which can run for miles, when he fell into the cave.

``I was really glad to get the news,'' Hepperly said, noting that Buck is one fine coon dog. ``Actually, I was going to put a $1,000 reward out for him,'' he said. He looked high and low for the dog ``every other day for 16 days,'' and had come to the conclusion Buck had been stolen.

Park visitors staying at campsite No. 4 off the Ace Gap Trail first heard the dog Monday and determined the animal was stuck underground some 300 yards from the campsite, according to Park spokeswoman Nancy Gray. With the help of a harnessed worker from the site of a nearby house under construction, they saw Buck about 40 feet underground.

Four rangers responded to the mouth of the cave about 10 a.m. Tuesday, and Brown lowered himself 40 feet down the first shaft of the cave. There he found that Buck had apparently fallen another 30 feet during the night.

He lowered himself into that chamber, fastened a makeshift harness and lifted Buck to safety.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Deben Mark III System

Deben has a new Mark III locator collar system which is set to replace the poorly received Mark II locator system which is being jettisoned after just one year. The old Mark I system is no longer being made.

The new Mark III system is getting good marks from experienced, no-nonsense ferreters. I have not tried the new Mark III system myself -- most of what I know has come from
Simon Whitehead's posts about the new collar and box.

Though the new Mark III collar is listed on the Deben web site (see the ferret side of the web site) no picture is offered. As you can see from the picture above, however, the new Mark III system looks much like the Mark II system (LED lights, water-resistant receiver, nylon collar) but the collar buckle of the Mark III is gray.

Simon Whitehead reports that "The Mark III has every thing the Mark II didn’t" and that includes the fact that the new Mark III box will pick up the old Mark I collar signals (but not vice versa, apparently). This is a big deal in my book.

One of the complaints with the Mark II collars was that the collar batteries drained pretty quickly, but that problem seems to be fixed in the Mark III collar. The new collar is reported to have 300 hours of useful battery life. The battery life for the receiver is said to be 30 continuous hours of "on" time, which is quite a lot if you remember that we generally have the box on for not much more than 10 minutes at a hole.

One of the nice things about the new receiver box is that it can track more than one collar underground at a time -- a big use to ferreters, and not a bad thing to have with the dogs. The locating range on the new box is 16 feet -- a bit better than the old Mark I (15 feet), but not as good as the Mark II which claimed 20 feet. While the old Mark I was good at locating to within a foot, the new Mark III is reported to track to within 6 inches.

The new Mark III does away with the dial on the Mark I, and replaces it with LED lights and a very loud clicker which speeds up the closer you are to the dog. With the sound signal and the LED lights combined, finding the dog is said to be pretty intuitive.

So what's the downside? Reportedly locating with the new Mark III rig is a little bit slower than an experienced hand with a Mark I can do. In addition, the new rig is about $180 for a complete collar and box set, as compared to $125 for the previous Mark I incarnation.

In actual use, the new Mark III system operates much like the old Mark I, with slow passes over the top of the ground used to narrow down the location of the dog based on the signals from the LED lights, and the clicking coming from the box.

The new Mark III box receiver is more-or-less waterproof, unlike the old Mark I box, and the new system also produces a louder and more irritating sound. Louder is better as far as I am concerned -- the old Mark I rig was often hard to hear on windy days.

The bottom line is that, with just a few weeks testing to satisfy the skeptics, the new Deben Mark III rig seems to be an improvement over both of its predecessors, and the transmitter remains small enough to use in a tight earth.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Update: The Mark III system is the kit being used by ferreters, but has proven too flimsy for terrier work. The Deben LRT or the Bellman and Flint collar and box sets are now the only thing recommended. For U.S. work, where pipe size is very tight, I like the Deben LRT, but different strokes for different folks.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

NEW American Working Terrier Book

This is the book on American working terriers you always always wished someone would write: Practical, common sense, terrier work for the beginner, laid out in a clear no-nonsense style with chapters on the history of working terriers in Europe and America, along with sections on introducing young dogs to work, tools, technique, American terrier quarry, hazards, and veterinary care for working dogs.

The sections on veterinary care and tools alone will save most people more money than the cost of this book, while the tips on digging, locator collars, skunk toxic shock, and handling quarry at the end of a dig, may save you more than money.

This book is about American working terriers, but if you show, breed or judge any type of terrier, you will find this book an eye-opener. Chapter One, for example, explains why (and how) the development of dog shows resulted in the elevation of linked structural characteristics that have resulted in breed after terrier breed disappearing from the working field, while Chapter Four explains what is really required in a good working terrier.

This book is quite unlike any other terrier book on your shelf, if for no other reason than this one actually talks about American wildlife and gives useful and practical information about hunting, health care, equipment and techniques. It also contains two chapters which cover the sweep of European and American terrier history from Thomas Malthus to Tony Blair, and from George Washington to PETA.

This book will be for sale on, Barnes and Noble, etc., sometime in the next two months.

A Very Happy Turkey Day


The wild turkey is America's largest ground-nesting bird. It generally requires a lot of forest -- 2,000 acres or more -- to mantain the food it needs to thrive. The reason for this is that in the dead of winter wild turkey depend on acorns and other mast nuts and seed for survival. This food is only produced in abundace by mature hardwood trees -- oak, beech, dogwood, cherry and gum.

A century ago, virtually all the stands of such trees had been logged out in the Eastern U.S. As the trees vanished, so did the wild turkeys.

The turkey was further pushed towards oblivion by rapid improvements in gun accuracy, and weak game laws that had yet to to catch up to the changing dynamics of landscape and technology.

By 1910, there were fewer than 30,000 wild turkeys left in America. Then, as incredible as it now seems, and amazing turnaround occured.

In 1900, the Lacey Act ended commercial hunting of wild animals. Probably no law has done more to improve the status of American wildlife, as commerical hunters bled the land white, shooting everything that moved. Wild game merchants sold pigeons for a penny apiece, and ducks for only a little more. Hunters using cannons loaded with shrappnel would shoot 400 ducks in a day in Eastern Shore marshes, while market deer hunters would set up bait stations near roads and shoot 20 deer in a night. The Lacey Act ended market hunting, which set the stage for the restoration of the game species necessary for recreational and sport hunting.

In 1911 the Weeks Act authorized the U.S. government to buy millions of acres of eastern mountain land that had been chopped clean of forest in order to obtain wood for railroads, paper, firewood and timber. This was one of the very first "big governmental bailouts" of industry. Unlike most of the others that followed, however, this bail out left America with a permanent and positive legacy: most of the National Forests in the Eastern United States.

With the Depression and migration to cities, more and more marginal farmland began to revert to woody plots. Spontaneous regeneration and Civilian Conservation Corps tree-planting worked together, and hardwood forests began to reclaim the land.

The 1937 Wildlife Restoration Act (aka, the Pittman-Robertson Act) initiated a new tax on rifles, shotguns and ammunition with the revenue raised going to fund wildlife conservation.

Pittman-Robertson Act funds enabled wild turkey eggs to be gathered, and poults were hatched and released into the wild. Unfortunately, pen-raised birds were quickly decimated by predation and starvation. Some thought the extinction of wild turkeys was only a matter of time. Restocking turkeys was not going to be as easy as restocking streams with trout.

New tactics were tried. A few wild turkeys were caught in wooden box traps intended for deer. They were moved to suitable habitat, but they too quickly perished. The reintroduction of wild turkeys was beginning to look hopeless.

After World War II, game managers began to experiment again. This time, cannon nets -- large nets propelled by black powder rocket charges -- were used. These net enveloped an entire turkey flock at once.

Moving an entire flock of wild turkeys seemed to work. The first few flocks that were relocated began to thrive, in part because regrown forest provided more food stock for the birds to live on. The millions of acres of mountain land purchased in 1911, thanks to the Weeks Act, had become stands of maturing hardwoods in the National Forest system.

Systematic restocking of wild turkey continued through the 50s and 60s, and by 1973, when the National Wild Turkey Federation was formed, the population of wild birds in the U.S. had climbed to 1.3 million.

With the creation of the National Wild Turkey Federation more sportsmen and private land owners were recruited for habitat protection and wild turkey reintroduction.

Today, the range of the American wild turkey is more extensive than it was in pre-Columbian times, and the total wild turkey population has climbed to 5.5 million birds.

Wild turkey hunting is now a billion-dollar-a-year industry, with 2.6 million hunters harvesting about 700,000 birds a year.

Today wild turkey still depend on oaks for food in the dead of winter, but they also glean corn and soy from mechanized fields where so much is left on the ground. Provided there are a woods and water nearby, and hunting is regulated, the wild turkey will continue to thrive despite all odds.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The AKC Embraces the Jack Russell

Conformation for people as well as dogs!

Sometime in the late 1990s, following the appearance of Jack Russell Terriers in a host of TV and Hollywood productions ranging from “Wishbone” and “Frasier” to “My Dog Skip” and “The Mask,” the American Kennel Club decided to add the Jack Russell Terrier to its roles.

As they previously had done with the Border Collie, the AKC ignored the strong and vocal opposition of the large existing breed club, and quietly assembled a covey of show-ring breeders to serve as the nucleus of a new AKC-friendly breed club.

The “Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association” (later called the Jack Russell Terrier Association of America, and now called the “Parson Russell Terrier Association of America”) petitioned for the admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the Kennel Club and, despite the objections of the JRTCA, the breed was admitted in January of 2001.

The admission of the Jack Russell Terrier into the American Kennel Club was a contentious affair, with the JRTCA standing firm on its long-held rule that no dog could be dual-registered.

What this meant is that breeders had to chose whether to remain in the JRTCA or to “get in early” with the AKC in order to get their dogs registered before the breed registry closed.

Some of the breeders that chose the AKC did so because they thought they could then sell their puppies for more money, others were eager to be “big fish in a small pond” at the beginning of a new AKC-registered breed. Still others were anxious to attend more dog shows and performance events, arguing that individual dogs were the same no matter under whose auspices they were registered.

On this last point, those pushing for dual registration were correct as narrowly defined, but wrong in every way that mattered.

While it is true that individual dogs were not changed by admission to the Kennel Club, the AKC goal -- right from the beginning -- was to get rid of the wide sweep of variation that existed in the working world of Jack Russell Terriers.

Towards that end, the American Kennel Club breed standard stipulated that an AKC Jack Russell terrier could not be under 12 inches in height or over 15 inches in height, and that the “ideal” dog was 14 inches tall and the ideal bitch was 13 inches tall. Ironically, this breed description effectively eliminated about 40 percent of all the American Jack Russell terriers that had worked red fox up to that time!

More importantly, this narrow standard eliminated the small dogs necessary to “size down” a breed — something absolutely necessary in order to keep working terriers small enough to work.

Of course the American Kennel Club has never been interested in working terriers, and the breed club they created has shown no interest in work either.

Under pressure from the working Jack Russell Terrier community in England and the U.S., the British and American Kennel Clubs eventually decided to jettison the “Jack Russell Terrier” name to more easily identify the non-working show dog they favored.

Now called the “Parson Russell Terrier,” the AKC dog is quickly getting too big in the chest to work — not that many of the dogs are actually taken out into the field to try.

After just three years in the Kennel Club, the “Parson Russell Terrier Club” tried to modify the show ring standard so that the AKC dog no longer had to be spanned at all. Though this move was defeated, it was an early and ominous sign that the Parson Russell Terrier is more likely to end up as a show ring dog than the honest hunting dog from which it is derived.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Brief History of AWTA

For all practical purposes, the story of American terrier work begins in 1971 with Patricia Adams Lent who founded the American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) to promote working terriers and dachshunds. Ms. Lent owned a 120-acre farm in New York State and raised Lakeland Terriers and Cairn Terriers as well as Border Terriers. She worried that “since there is no longer a need for terriers to actively take part in vermin control” that small Kennel Club terriers would loose their prey-drive and devolve to mere companion animals.

The American Working Terrier Association was, and is, a modest organization with about 100 members. It has no headquarters or paid staff, and produces a simple Xeroxed newsletter four times a year. Its web site (as of the end of 2005) has no information about actual hunting or wildlife, and is focused almost entirely on go-to-ground trial notices.

That said, AWTA is an important organization in the history of American working terriers, not only because it was the first “club” devoted to the sport, but also because Ms. Lent invented go-to-ground trials and the basic set of rules governing them.

Since 1971, go-to-ground trials have served as a kind of “on ramp” for actual field work in the U.S. The basic AWTA format has been widely copied, first by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (1976) and then by the American Kennel Club (1994).

The origin of the American go-to-ground tunnel can be found in the artificial fox earths first constructed in the U.K. in the 1920s, but which came into their own in the 1950s and 60s with the collapse of rabbit populations and warrens under the onslaught of myxomatosis.

In the U.K., artificial earths are generally constructed of two parallel rows of brick stacked three bricks high and topped by overlapping slates, or out of 9-inch clay or concrete drainage pipe laid end-to-end. The result is a very spacious and dry fox earth. If sited within 200 feet of a water source (it does not have to be large), far from houses, and on the edge of fields and small woods, the chance of a fox taking up residence is excellent.

The first artificial fox earths were constructed in order to guarantee that a fox could be found on hunt day, and to encourage fox to run along known courses away from roadways. That said, they also found favor because they proved easy locations for a terrier to bolt a fox from. Even an overlarge dog could negotiate the straight or gently curving unobstructed nine-inch pipes of an artificial earth.

The go-to-ground tunnels devised by Patricia Adams Lent were constructed of wood instead of stone, brick or clay pipe, but were equally commodious, measuring 9 inches on each side, with a bare dirt floor for drainage and traction.

From the beginning, AWTA’s goal was to be inclusive. Scottish Terriers with enormous chests were encouraged to join AWTA, as were owners of West Highland Whites, Cairns, Norfolks, Norwitches, Border Terriers, Fox Terriers, Lakelands, Welsh Terriers and Bedlingtons. All were welcome. The goal was not to replicate actual hunting, but to give people an opportunity to have a little fun with the dogs, and perhaps give Kennel Club terrier owners some small idea of what a terrier’s “prey drive” was supposed to be about.

In AWTA trials, wooden den “liners” are sunk into a trench in the ground. The tunnels are up to 35 feet long with a series of right-angle turns, false dens and exits. The “quarry” at the end of the tunnel is a pair of “feeder” lab rats safely protected behind wooden bars and wire mesh. The rats are not only not harmed, but after 100 years of breeding for docility, some lab rats have been know to go to sleep in the middle of a trial!

Without a doubt, go-to-ground trials have been a huge hit with American terrier owners. The interior dimensions of the den liners — 81 inches square — allow even over-large terriers enough room to negotiate the turns, and with nothing but a caged rat as “quarry,” the safety of a dog is guaranteed. In addition, since dogs only have to bay or dig at the quarry for 90-seconds, most dogs end up qualifying for at least an entry-level certificate or ribbon — an award for the owner, and a bit of encouragement to join AWTA and perhaps even take a dog out into the field for real hunting.

Though the die-hard hunter may discount large wooden “earths” and caged rats as quarry, the increasing popularity of go-to-ground trials should be seen as a welcome thing, as it has been a door to genuine field work for many people.

Owners of dogs that do well in go-to-ground trials should take pride in their dog’s achievements. Like all sports that emulate real work (lumber jack contests, bird dog trials, sheep dog trials), a go-to-ground trial is both harder and easier than its real-world cousin.

A dog that will exit a 30-foot tunnel backwards in just 90 seconds and on a single command (a requirement for earning an AKC Senior Earthdog certificate) is a dog that has been trained to a fairly high degree of proficiency.

Having said that, it should be stressed that a go-to-ground trial has little relationship to true hunting. In the field, dogs are not rewarded for speed. In fact, if a hunt terrier were to charge down a real earth like it were a go-to-ground tunnel, it would quickly run into quarry capable of inflicting real damage.

In addition, in a real hunting situation a dog must do a great deal more than “work” the quarry for 90 seconds. A good working dog will stick to the task for as long as it can hear people moving about overhead – whether that is 15 minutes or three hours.

The real division street between go-to-ground and earthwork, however, is size. And the real problem with a go-to-ground trial is not that it teaches a dog to go too fast down a tunnel (dogs understand the difference between fake liners and real earth), but that it suggests to Kennel Club terrier owners that any dog that can go down a cavernous go-to-ground tunnel is a dog “suitable for work.”

To its credit, the American Working Terrier Association recognizes the difference between a go-to-ground tunnel and real earth work, and implicitly underscores this difference in its rules for earning a Working Certificate.

AWTA rules note that a terrier or dachshund can earn a working certificate on groundhog, fox, raccoon, badger, or an “aggressive possum” found in a natural earth, but that “this does not include work in a drain or otherwise man-made earth.”

In short, a drain is not a close proxy for a natural earth, and terriers that are too large to work a natural earth do not meet the requirements of a working terrier.

The American Working Terrier Association issues Certificates of Gameness to dogs qualifying at their artificial den trials. Working Certificates are awarded to dogs that work groundhog, fox, raccoon, possum, or badger in a natural den provided that at least one AWTA member is there as a witness. AWTA also issues a Hunting Certificate to a dog that hunts regularly over a period of a year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Dangers of Driving and Tree Stands

When modern firearms season for white-tailed deer opened last Sunday, an estimated 190,000 hunters took to Kentucky's woods, but if past is prologue there will be few accidents.

Last year there were only 11 hunter incidents in Kentucky, and only three were fatal. Of those three, two were deaths attributed to heart attacks and the other was a self-inflicted wound which involved a treestand. So far this deer season, 69 days into the 135-day archery season, and including weekend muzzleloader and youth firearms hunts, there have been seven hunter incidents, two involving treestands, one of which was fatal.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that in 2003 the accidental firearms-related fatality rate (which includes hunting) was just 700, or 0.2 percent per 100,000 persons. That same year 44,800 people died in motor vehicle accidents, or 15.4 percent per 100,000 motor vehicles. Yes, yes, these numbers are phoney and compare apples and eggs, but even if you adjust for the time spent, hunting is far safer than driving.

The moral of this story: be careful in the woods this time of year, try not to mess up anyone else's day of deer hunting, and for God sake never climb a tree stand or drive in a car.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Carrying a Posthole Digger

To carry a posthole digger from the shoulder rings of your pack or from a leash strung across shoulder and back, drill a hole through one of the handles of the posthole digger and thread about 18 inches of parachute cord through the hole. Tie a a into the parachute cord that will just fit over the knob on the other handle.

Now, with the handle’s strapped together, take a longer section of parachute cord and whip a binding around one handle as close to the digging head of the posthole diggers possible. Tie a loop into the free end of the cord, and you will find that this loop is very close to the balance point of your posthole digger.

Using a carabiner, you can clip this loop to the D-ring on the shoulder strap of your pack or, if you prefer, to a doubled leash which is slung across your shoulder and chest.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Virginia Fox Hunting Tours for British

Warrenton Hunt, Date Unknown

By: Associated Press

WARRENTON, Va. -- Virginia tourism officials hope to lure fox hunters from England and Wales, where the activity has been banned.

"It's a high-end niche market. That's why we believe it will be very attractive," said Alisa Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Virginia tourism officials will be traveling to Britain this winter in part to see if package tours built around fox hunting are doable, Bailey said.

"Folks who have fox hunting amenities see this as a great way to increase their revenue stream." Bed and breakfasts and inns also would benefit, she said.

Decades of protests by animal rights' groups effectively ended fox hunting in the United Kingdom last winter. There, mounted hunts with hounds usually ended with the fox's death. In the United States, however, fox hunters emphasize the chase, and try to let the fox go free in the end.

The foxhound is the state dog of Virginia, and the Virginia Piedmont is the heart of the nation's Hunt Country. A mounted hunt there can cover thousands of acres of woodlands or farm fields, all within 30 minutes of Washington Dulles International Airport.

"There are liveries here already, places where people can rent horses to use for hunts," said Leslie VanSant, a fox hunter and executive director of Great Meadow, a 250-acre equestrian center and steeplechase course at The Plains, Va.

"The Brits could come over here and hunt a couple times or more a week, then make a horse-centered package of it by watching the (steeplechase or flat) races."

Virginia isn't as well known in Britain for equestrian sports as Kentucky is, Bailey said, but is "a center for steeplechase activities. We want to expand the opportunity into fox hunting."

"It's not a mass kind of sales job. Those folks can easily be identified. We'll work with specific kinds of tour operators who have that kind of clientele."


A Comment: This article is from the Associated Press (the photo from my collection), but the Virginia tourism folks show a profound ignorance of the fox hunting sitution in the U.K. Drag hunts are not yet the rage in the U.K. where fox can still be hunted (albeit with a few odd restrictions), while American mounted fox hunting is really just riding horses with a pack of dogs in tow, and while wearing a lot of fancy clothes.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A Brief History of the Patterdale Terrier

It’s amazing how mixed up and convoluted a breed history can become, and even more amazing that it can be confounded so quickly.

Consider, for example, the Patterdale.

First, there is the question of whether it is a breed at all, or simply a black smooth-coated Fell Terrier.

If one wants to argue that a Patterdale is simply a smooth coated black Fell Terrier, that’s fine. We could also say that a Jack Russell is a white Fell Terrier, couldn’t we? In any case, people who know Patterdales know one when they see one. Is there any other meaningful definition of a terrier breed ?

The use of the Patterdale name for a type of terrier goes back to at least the 1930s. Jocelyn Lucas notes that the United Hunt said it preferred to use Lakeland Terriers and “Patterdales from J. Boroman’s strain at the Ullswater Kennels”.

The characteristics of these 1930s Patterdales is not known, but it is worth noting that the Ullswater Kennels were famous for Border Terriers and the Patterdale breed, as we know it today, first sprang up in the 1950s in the breeding program of Cyril Breay who had been a Border Terrier breeder.

While the 1930s Patterdales are reported to have been shaggy black Fells, Breay’s early dogs are described as slape-coated black-ticked dogs with massive heads. Could these “Patterdale Terriers” have been genetic sports descended from a “blue and tan” Border Terrier? We will never know, as Cyril Breay kept no records, though he swore there was no Bull Terrier in his dogs.

Breay was a slight man and did not work his dogs himself, leaving that part of the job to his friend Frank Buck. Buck’s own line of dogs were descended from the Ullswater terriers kept by Joe Bowman (no doubt the “J. Boroman” noted by Lucas), and the dogs of the two men began to devolve to a type as lines were crossed and condensed.

Whatever their origin, the dog that showed up in the field in the 1960s, and continuing today, is a smooth, hard-coated dog of variable size and looks, and with a good track record of honest work. Patterdales have a reputation as being enthusiastic self-starters.

Though still a pure working dog, the future of the Patterdale is precarious. On one side are the show ring pretenders who value looks over utility, while on the other side are young fools crossing Patterdales with Bull Terriers and Pit Bulls, resulting in dogs that are too big and overly hard.

The good news is that there are a handful of breeders trying to keep the dogs right-sized and well-balanced between the ears. Some of these breeders have been breeding good dogs for decades, but it is a tough job and it is not clear that the next generation of terriermen is up to the task. Time will surely tell.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pups from Proven Worker Available

The two puppies, pictured above, female and male, are out of a nice terrier I have hunted with quite a bit and which does the job well and consistently. The dam of this litter is Mapypole Pip (the dog I have hunted with) and the sire is Little Eden Strut. For more information, contact Beth Kleinfelder >> Littlefieldsjrt@aol.comz but get rid of the z at the very end of the email address as it is there to spoil spammers and spambots. These should grow up to be solid workers if Pip is any indication.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Distemper Cured by Fox Hunters

The development of the distemper vaccine was a three-species affair, involving ferrets, fox hounds, and fox.

A few key dates:
1905: The viral cause of distemper was first described by H. Carre in France.

1923: `The Field Distemper Fund` was set up by The Field magazine, the largest field sports publication in the U.K., after distemper swept through several hunt kennels devastating a large number of young dogs. The money raised was given to the Medical Research Council which initiated a vaccine project at Rhoads Farm, Mill Hill, London, where Patrick Laidlow, a pathologist, and George Dunkin, a vet, began their work

Laidlow and Dunkin published an account of the successful use of a distemper vaccine in ferrets. They announce that the response of ferrets to distemper infection was "comparable" to distemper infection in dogs.

1928: Preparation of dog distemper vaccine was undertaken on a small commercial scale by Wellcome Burroughs. Dogs were inoculated, observed, killed and then autopsied to ascertain how their immune system was responding. During this period it came to light that the canine and ferret versions of distemper were not quite the same, and that a vaccine that worked for ferrets would not necessarily work on dogs, nor would a vaccine that worked on some dogs work on all dogs.

1935: R.C. Green conceived the idea that if distemper was repeatedly passed through ferrets it might become modified or altered to such a degree as to become avirulent for dogs and foxes (i.e. so weak or changed that could not infect dogs and fox with distemper). Green and Carlson took the Laidlow and Dunkin strain of ferret distemper virus, and passed it from ferret populations to ferret populations. By the 39th passage, Green had evidence of attenuated virulency for foxes -- i.e. the strain was so weak that it would not kill fox, but it would provide the fox with immunity. After 50 passages through ferrets, a virus was obtained which caused only "a slight malaise" in dogs.

In 1939, Green claimed that his improved ferret-adapted strain of virus could be used to immunize healthy dogs and fur-farm foxes against distemper. Green's vaccine was not always effective, however (perhaps due to quality control problems in the labs), and some folks argued that there were several strains of distemper. World War II stopped all research into distemper, but after the War ended, improved culturing methods enabled even more attentuated strains of the distemper virus to be created, and by the early 1950s distemper vaccine was available on the market.

Today, the canine distemper vaccine is cheap and easy to get.
Most people can no longer remember that whole litters of dogs once perished from this mysterious and fatal disease.

Today, anyone who has a dog anywhere in the world owes a debt to British fox hunters and fox hounds
who put up the money to create "The Field Distemper Fund" which ended the scourge of this disease decades before it might otherwise have occured.

John Russell & Trump: The Real Story

A great deal of bunk has been written about the Reverend John Russell, and especially about his first dog, Trump. In fact almost nothing is known about Trump, not even what year she was acquired (the date is variously given as 1815 and 1819).

Russell said he bought Trump from a milkman whom he happened to be passing by while he was still a young man at Exeter College, Oxford. If so, it’s clear that the dog was not bought because it was a keen hunter, but on the basis of looks alone.

In fact, this rather cavalier acquisition of dogs seems to have been a habit with Russell throughout his life. Though it is often said he bred a “pure” line of dogs, there is no evidence to support this assertion. Instead, there is considerable evidence that Russell bought and sold a good number of dogs as his fortunes rose and fell. He acquired and turned over numerous fox hound packs, and it is likely his terriers were acquired and passed on in a similar fashion, for Russell was more of a houndsman than a terrierman. In any case, white foxing terriers were not all that rare. Russell certainly seemed to have no trouble finding another white devon hunt terrier to use as a sire.

One of the more common bits of bunk about Trump was that she was “14 inches tall and weighed 14 pounds.” In fact, this assertion is a wild conjecture first penned by someone who had never met Russell, had never seen any of his dogs, and had only seen a painting of Trump. This painting of Trump, it should be said, was created more than 40 years after the dog had died, and it was painted by someone that had never seen the original animal at all. Russell said the painting was “a good likeness” but in fact he may have been trying to be polite, as the painting was commissioned by Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) who befriended Russell in his old age, and had the painting done as an homage to the old man.

The dog depicted is rather ugly looking, with a squirrel tail and an odd posture. As for height and weight, the painting contains nothing to suggest a sense of scale.

Some people assert their dogs are “descended directly from the Reverend John Russell’s Trump through Arthur Heinemann.”

In fact, Heinemann and Russell never met and when Russell died he had only four aged terriers left.

It should also be noted that Arthur Heinemann and the Reverend John Russell generally hunted different quarry. Heinemann was mainly interested in badger, and Russell was mainly interested in fox. While Russell was a horse man, Heinemann was a terrier-and-spade enthusiast -- a quite different way of doing business.

Heinemann, like Russell before him, moved a lot of dogs through his kennels. Dan Russell, who knew Heinemann very well, says “he sold a hell of a lot [of dogs], they all went to work, many going overseas to all parts of the world.”

Bottom line: Russell was a legend for riding to hounds from the beginning of organized fox hunting straight through to the end of the Victorian era. Mainly a houndsman, he acquired dogs and made them as he could, and his life was such that he was not breeding a "pure strain" of terriers of any kind, but simply selecting small white foxing terriers (already a type) as he found them.