Seven valuable beagles were stolen on Saturday 29 November from Ireland’s oldest foot beagle club, Riverstown in County Cork.

Five bitches and two dogs, aged from two to five years, were taken from kennels in Riverstown, where the club has been housing beagles for decades without incident.

Gardai have been called in to investigate and the club has appealed to other sports bodies and to the public for help in tracing the hounds.

Club spokesman Noel Lambe believes the beagles, valued at around €400 each, were “stolen to order”.

He explained: “The thieves seemed to know exactly which hounds to take and which ones to leave behind. The bitches were probably stolen for breeding, while the dogs could be sold on for hunting.”

The thieves had to climb over a wall next to a busy road to steal the beagles.

The club was founded 121 years ago and has a registered pack of 31 beagles. Member clubs of the Irish Masters of Beagles Association have all been notified of the theft and asked to pass on any relevant information.

Mr Lambe is hopeful that “the distinctive look” of some of the beagles will help in their recovery.

“One of the bitches is pure black, which is very unusual for the breed. Another bitch also has distinctive colouring and has a piece missing from one of her ears.”

A spokesman for the Glanmire Garda told H&H the force was investigating the theft.

Riverstown is having the remainder of its pack specially marked as a security precaution, and they have been moved to a more secure location.

Call Glanmire Garda (00353) 21 482 1002 with any information.