Everybody who is invited to their hunt’s puppy show is there for a reason — be it in their capacity as a puppy walker or perhaps as somebody who hosts a meet or organises a fundraising event.
On the day though, aside from the hosting hunt staff, masters and visiting judges, it’s usually possible to identify several different groups of people sitting around the railings.
We take a look at some of those that can be identified during proceedings — it might come as a surprise to know what is really going through their minds as hounds are put before them…
1. Puppy walkers
The most-treasured of all guests on puppy show day, they tend to position themselves in the front row of seats around the edge of the ring so they can get a good view of the hounds that they walked in action (and perhaps try to lip-read what the judges are saying about the opposition). Although of course they don’t want to distract their former charges when they enter the ring, they are secretly delighted to be greeted by their beloved hounds, knowing that they still remember where they spent much of their early months of their lives.
2. Visiting hunt staff
The bowler hatted and dark suit-clad members of hunt staff automatically head to a certain place around the puppy show ring where they assemble to form their opinion on the hounds and catch up on hunting news — or gossip — from other packs.
3. The older generation
For those who aren’t perhaps as agile as they once were, whose hunting days are perhaps confined to following in a car or whose involvement is limited to sponsoring a hound, these much-valued members of the hunt can still be a part of the day and remained involved. If the truth be told, their experience means they are better judges of hounds than many of those who are still actively hunting, although they tend to sit quietly, observing rather than making too much noise, while getting slightly frustrated at those who continue to talk all throughout the judging.
4. The budding photographer
These can be seen in all sorts of places trying to get unique images for the hunt’s website or calendar: crouching down low to get a hounds-eye view or even climbing on high to get an overhead shot like nobody else’s — their efforts know no bounds!
5. The gossipers
The last day of hunting — which is quite often the last time hunt supporters saw each other — is usually a distant memory by the time the puppy show comes around. As a result there is a lot to catch up on with people you spend many long days with throughout the season but rarely see over the summer months. The gossipers don’t usually bother to sit down, they stand at the back keeping half an eye on proceedings but making up for lost time catching up with friends. Some can even make it back into tea afterwards barely noticing that the judging has taken place!
6. The once-a-season judges
A good number on the guest list will attend just the one puppy show per season and ensure they get involved from the onset. Some will have a natural eye for conformation and come up with the same result as the judges while others — a bit like racegoers who back horses on names or on the colours of the jockey’s silks — will purely go for what takes their fancy. This is especially true where a particular hound shows real character in the ring or is easily identifiable such as being the only hairy one among a litter of smooth-coated siblings.
7. Regular hound judges
These are the back-seat drivers of any puppy show and tour all over the country to look at hounds, hoping to spot the next Peterborough champion before anybody else has realised its’ potential. Can be seen studying pedigrees and will monitor every move a hound makes, often commenting to those around them and pointing their pen at anything they think the judges should be seeing. Although they are never slow to point out something they have an opinion on, they are also quick to praise and know that “the judge is always right”!
Like this? You might also enjoy reading these:
8. The hounds
Talk of puppy show characters wouldn’t be complete without mention of the hounds. Outside of those being judged, the favourites of the day — for children in particular — are often the latest litters of whelps that sit cutely watching proceedings from the grass yard. Those being judged however all display a variety of characteristics too, just like the people watching. There is usually the odd shy one that needs gentle encouragement to face the crowds. In addition each pack tends to have at least one over-enthusiastic member of the young entry that charges around the puppy show ring from one end to the other, barely stopping on the flags to show themself off fully to the judges. However on the whole the majority will be well settled in the ring having been given plenty of practice ahead of the big day so will know what’s expected of them, rightly making the hunt staff and puppy walkers proud while giving hope for the future of hunting.