In the last week, I have been asked by three different people what Beagle Hunting is! I’m always talking about it on Twitter, and I just assume everyone knows ;)

So… what is beagle hunting?

Well, beagles are dogs, right…? This much we know ;) They are scent hounds and originally bred to hunt small game like rabbits and hare. Beagles are the “poor mans hunting hound” and hunt with their humans on foot, not on horseback.

Here’s a little snippet on the breed, from Wikipedia:

The Beagle is a breed of small to medium-sized dog. A member of the Hound Group, it is similar in appearance to the Foxhound but smaller, with shorter legs and longer, softer ears. Beagles are scent hounds, developed primarily for tracking hare, rabbit, and other game. They have a keen sense of smell and tracking instinct that sees them employed as detection dogs for prohibited agricultural imports and foodstuffs in quarantine around the world. They are popular as pets because of their size, even temper, and lack of inherited health problems. These characteristics also make them the dog of choice for animal testing.

Although beagle-type dogs have existed for over 2,000 years, the modern breed was developed in Great Britain around the 1830s from several breeds, including the Talbot Hound, the North Country Beagle, the Southern Hound, and possibly the Harrier.

Beagles have been depicted in popular culture since Elizabethan times in literature and paintings, and more recently in film, television and comic books. Snoopy of the comic strip Peanuts has been promoted as “the world’s most famous beagle”

Right – so back to the hunting.

Every second Sunday morning, in winter only, beagle huggers from all over Gauteng get together in the Schurveberg mountains near Zwartkops to let their beagles do what beagles do best… track a scent!

We use a bag of pilchards to lay the scent.

When we arrive, all the beagles get their bibs put on, with numbers – so when they come to the end, the guys who do the scores can tell who is who, and who comes in first etc… as I am so often told “all beagles look the same” hehe. So, they are all bibbed ;)

The huntmaster goes around to each beagle and scents them, giving them a whiff of the smelly lure of pilchards. The huntmaster and his small party head off into the hills and valleys for about a 1km walk… all the while, dragging the lure behind them.

Once they have reached a point where they can conceal themselves in a clump of trees or behind some rocks etc… they signal to us at the start, and we all line up.

The beagles go WILD at this point.. much howling, barking and baying… lots of excitement and adrenaline! There is a 3, 2, 1 countdown, a whistle is blown, and we release.

we all stay crouched down and quiet, while the pack runs off, noses to the ground, after the scent. The more baying and howling there is on the line, the better it is going. Noise = good!! They are on the scent. We watch them run up the mountain, or thru the valley, or whichever way the huntmaster has gone.

As they start coming in, the group at the end records who comes in where… they normally come in in groups.

Once all the beagles are off the line, we walk to the end point, meet up with the huntmaster and the beagles, we check that all the beagles are accounted for (sometimes they turn back on the line, or decide to go for a little walk… but we are all reunited within 10 minutes!) The scores are read, the beagles have a drink, and it starts all over again.

We do 5 lines in a morning. We start at 7am and are done by about 10am.

There is a lot of noise (as demonstrated by my little boy and hunting machine, Oscar)

a lot of running and very happy tired beagles!

During the season, we have a few breakfasts out in the veld after some hunts… the people are awesome, and i’ve made a lot of really cool friends from the hunts! :D

The beagles are so exhausted after hunting, they usually spend the whole of the following monday curled up and fast asleep

At the very end of the season, the ten beagles with the highest points are invited to do a Top ten Challenge. It is one long line, of about 5 to 7km, with just the top ten beagles of the group. Other beagles may come and watch, and socialise afterwards. Last year, my little Oscar made Top Ten!! Harry *just* missed it (he placed 13th… out of about 100 beagles!!!!!!!!!!!!)

– The 2009 Top Ten :beagles from left:  Sam, Leo, Matthew, Maya, Roti, Poppadom, Oscar, Jet & Roger (the 10th beagle couldn’t make the event as he was sick on the day)

We also have a swanky prize giving after all the hunts are done and scores calculated. The 2009 event was at Woodmead country Club. We get to brush off the dust, pack away our dirty hunting clothes and get all dolled up! It’s a fancy dinner and certificates and rosettes and prizes and trophies!!

So… THAT is beagle hunting :) It is TONS of fun… i love it (apart from waking up at 5:30am on a Wintery Sunday morning) and i love my beagles… and i love other beagle owners… we are all so cool and friendly! hehe!!

If you have a beagle, or are interested in getting one, or know someone who has one… please stop at and check it out!

We have become a very tight little (or not so little, with over 140 beagles on our database) group and i look forward to seeing all my beagle friends and giving cuddles to all the beagles :)

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10 Responses to “What is Beagle Hunting…??!?!”

  1. caz says: |

    That sounds AWESOME!!! My pooches would LOVE something like that!! Although the female is perhaps not really all that bright. She would be the sort of dumb blonde of the household.

  2. blackhuff says: |

    It looks like a lot of fun and I did not even know we had something like this is SA.

  3. ExMi says: |

    sounds like good exercise!

  4. Tanya says: |

    @Caz lol shame ;) what pooches do you have…?

    @Blackhuff it IS a bucketload of fun! and awesome to see your dogs doing what they were BRED TO DO! It all comes so naturally to them… you can SEE them smiling!

    much awesomeness :)

    thx for the comments ladies :)

  5. Tanya says: |

    @exmi… it is!! the beagle race around for about 5km!! and the humas walk slightly less… as the lines are in such a way that the end point is less than 500m from the start… but its tough terrain!

    i love me some “post beagle hunting naps!” lol

  6. Sharon says: |

    Sounds like another great photo opportunity – not so sure bout the 05h30 wake up call though :(

  7. Elle says: |

    Your dogs are so cute! I really want a Beagle but the boyfriend is rooting for a Labrador (yes his so predictable) So we have been trying to reach a compromise but neither one is willing to budge. I want my Beagle! Only thing is they are so hard to find in the Western Cape and really expensive!

  8. Tanya says: |

    @Sharon… yes, the 5:30 wake up call REALLY SUCKS!!! its fun once we all awake and out and about tho! ;)

    @Elle… thanks :) beagles are awesome!! Labs arent too bad tho… both have a tendency to get fat. Labs are more eager to please their humans.

    Check out the W/Cape Facebook page for beagles… they post when there are litters available!/group.php?gid=24574765442&ref=ts

  9. Alet says: |

    Loved reading about the beagle hunting! It does sound like a ton of fun! (Apart from the winter morning early start :)

  10. Tony says: |

    Hey Tanya, this is so cool. I will really make an effort to bring the boys and even my wife (if I can get her out of bed early on a weekend) to come and look at the event.
    Thanks for posting this, NOW we know what you get so ecited about all the time.

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