Every weekend throughout the year, sportsmen run their dogs in field competion
This consists of trials for pointing breeds, spaniels, retrievers, and hounds. Unlike showdog events, where there are prescribed standards for the judges, who are. largely professionals, the field dogs work in wide open spaces and the arbiters are experienced amateurs. They are dedicated men and women who spend long hours on foot or horseback, following the dogs and evaluating their performances.
The pointing breeds Pointers, Setters, German Short- haired and Wirehaired Pointers, Brittany Spaniels, Viszlas, Weimaraners, and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons run in pairs (braces) in what are called heats. There is a set time for each heat, from a half-hour to three hours, and the dogs are judged on their style of running, use of wind and terrain in locating game, accurate nose, intensity on point, and keen desire to hunt. A dog must respond to his owner but he also is judged on his independent judgment in hunting a course.
The pointing dogs are particularly fast and will run out of gun range. When they locate birds they go into an immovable point and wait for the hunter. The dogs are followed by two judges who for better mobility and observation ride horses.
In spaniel trials, the English Springer, Cocker, and American Water stay within gun range, so the judges follow on foot. The dogs flush and retrieve the birds. The spaniels also have a water test but land work is the primary function. The dogs are judged for their game-finding abil ity, steadiness (see Glossary) to wing, shot, and command, and their retrieving ability. They must have soft mouths in handl ing the game. The dogs are sent off in braces, and there is no time limit in the heats.
The retrievers Labradors, Goldens, Chesapeakes, Curly and Flat coated, and Irish Water Spaniels work singly and must demonstrate their ability to retrieve with equal proficiency both on land and in water. A dog is judged on his natural abilities memory, intelligence, attention, nose, courage, perseverance, and style and on acquired talents steadiness, control, response to directions, and delivery of the 20 bird. A dog is eliminated for a hard mouth badly damaging.
Hound trials are held for Beagles, Bassets, Dachshunds, Foxhounds, and the treeing breeds. The Beagle is acknowl-edged to be supreme in hunting the rabbit or hare. Beagles compete in braces and in small and large packs. Essentially a trailing hound, the Beagle’s purpose is to find game, pursue it in an energetic and decisive manner, and to show a willingness to stay with it. He must be endowed with a keen nose, intell igence, and have an intense desire to hunt. Speed isn’t as important as accuracy in trailing. In pack events, the team performance counts. Should a dog or two do most of the work, it is not considered a good pack.
The Basset’s short legs enable him to keep his nose close to the trail without losing stride. So although he’s slower than the other hounds, he’s second only to the Beagle with rabbits. The same rules apply at Basset trials as at Beagle, with braces, and small and large packs.
In Dachshund events/the badger dogs are judged for their good noses, courage in facing punishing cover, keenness, perseverance, obedience, and ability to go to earth. Should a rabbit lodge in any earth or run through a drain large enough for a Dachshund to enter, the dog is expected to move in without hesitation.
All-age stakes at Foxhound trials last four days, with the hounds sent away at dawn, running until noon. They are judged for their hunting, trailing, speed, endurance, and drive.
The “breakaway” of a heat at a field trial
The sporting breeds fall into four categories: pointers, retrievers, setters, and spaniels. They have been bred for hunting, the pointers and setters going into their picturesque immovable stance to indicate the presence and position of a bird. The spaniels, smaller in stature, drive the birds from cover and cause them to take flight so the sportsman may take a shot. This is known as flushing a bird. The retriever recovers birds after they have been shot, either on land or over water. All of these dogs are known for their keen sense of smell and soft mouths for carrying birds. Conservationists hail their work in retrieving birds that have been shot and otherwise would be lost. The sporting dogs, strikingly beautiful with an air of nobility, generally are of good temperament and make excellent family and companion dogs. However, they like to run and require a good deal of exercise.