With the puppy show and hound show season in full swing, renowned hound breeder and respected judge Martin Scott gives some advice on what the judges are looking for on the flags
When attending a puppy show or a hound show, it can be fun to see if you can pick the winner, and first impressions are often correct. However, the judge will take time checking on other important conformation details to ensure his first opinion is right.
Movement, balance and stamina
A hound should be balanced, it must move well and be able to last, which means the judges are looking for one that has good pace and stamina points.
Pace is vital for the whole pack to ensure they can hunt with speed and a good shoulder allows them to turn when the trail turns like a fox. Stamina enables the pack to drive on all day.
A hound may look fine stationary, but it is vital to check that it can move correctly. The front and back must combine in a balanced way to ensure it can cover the ground effortlessly day in, day out.
It must not wear out too soon, for one attribute that is invaluable in a hound is longevity. Sometimes a hound may look balanced when stationary, but when it comes to move, it is two halves.
Back and loins
Having ensured that the pace points are good and that there is room for heart and lungs — by having depth of chest to enable maximum lung capacity rather than a barrel or narrow chest — then a strong back and loin will help with the stamina.
Good, strong hindlegs with powerful thighs and second thighs will allow the hindlegs to pass the forelegs easily. They will help drive the hound uphill and jump any obstacles along the way.
A hound that falls away behind the loin lacks power. Cow or sickle hocks are also conformation faults to look out for. A well let-down hock is better than a straight hock.
For a hound to have good pace, its shoulder must be angled back rather than being straight or upright. An upright shoulder will reduce the length of the stride, whereas the laid back shoulder will allow the humerus — the bone between the elbow and the bottom of the shoulder — to move forward straight. The longer the humerus, the better.
Looking from the side, it is possible to see a hound with a good stride. Watching a hound coming towards you, you can tell if the stride is straight and not a round arm action that is often caused by a barrel chest.
A hound with bad feet does not last as long as one with good feet. Bad feet do not put the weight evenly on each toe. These can be identified by uneven wear of the toenails — not easy to see from outside the ring.
Not only do poor feet denote a bad shoulder, but they reduce the lifespan. Like a tyre that is inflated incorrectly, a bad-shouldered hound will wear out the outer toes and won’t last.
Hounds with too much weight on their heels do not last, but worse are those that knuckle over at the knee, as they will not complete many seasons.
Quality is that little extra that helps hounds achieve their aim and a good, well-set head is important.
Forthcoming hound shows 2014
➤ 26 June Wales and Border Counties at Builth Wells, Powys
➤ 29 June Blaston hound show, near Market Harborough, Leics
➤ 9 July Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate, Yorks
➤ 16 July Festival of Hunting at Peterborough, Cambs
➤ 30 July Dunster hound show at Dunster, West Somerset
➤ 7 August West of England hound show at Honiton, Devon
➤ 9-10 August Lowther hound show, Lowther, Cumbria
➤ 15 August Rydal hound show near Ambleside, Cumbria
➤ 16 August Scottish Hound Show
This feature was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (12 June, 2014)