Breeding hounds is like gambling with a stacked deck. We increase our odds of winning by choosing and combining desirable traits and hoping that genetics will do the rest. Everyone who breeds with purpose has the intention of bettering their pack, whether it for drive, voice, biddability or any of the other factors which make a great hound. The unfortunate reality is that even the most favourable hand can lose when it comes to inherited genes.
Montreal Keswick '18, foreground. Photo by Jean-Guy Dupras.
We are fortunate to get a couple of puppies from a litter of ten which exhibit the exact qualities we hoped for. Once in a while though, we are blessed with a hound who is the total package and who’s traits reach far beyond our plans for that specific litter. I call this getting lucky.
Growing up in the UK, my heart will always lie with the English Foxhound. This being said, a time always come when a huntsman must realistically evaluate his pack and ask himself “What’s missing?” Such was the case in my kennel at the Montreal Hunt (QC). I spent three seasons breeding my ideal hound using imported Irish bloodlines and was overall pleased with not only their looks, but their drive and intelligence as well. Heavily wooded hills and tough ground lended themselves well to my hardy English pack but two things we sometimes struggled with were stamina in the summer heat and voice. This is why my 2017 experimental Crossbred litter was conceived.
Montreal Keswick '18 with Montreal Hunt whipper-in Milica Marren, who is also MBH, Old Port Bassets. Photo by James Campbell, MFH, Montreal Hunt.
I decided to breed two hounds who each exhibited traits I was needing. The stallion hound, Jester, while not the prettiest of my young dog hounds, has great legs and feet capable of holding out over very tough and varied country. He is always dependable, fast, loud and a true work horse. The bitch, Kelpie, although on the small side, was nothing short of a hunting machine. Incredibly sharp and brave with great voice and stamina, she is always on the front lines and consistently one of my most reliable hounds. Both hounds stem from quality Southern packs and hounds which can withstand heat. The sweltering humid weather of our cubbing season is quickly eclipsed by frigid (think Eskimos) windchill. A hound that can ideally work well in both extremes was the goal.
At first, the litter was nothing spectacular apart from their blue ticked coats and lovely square heads. It wasn’t until their fifth or sixth month that I realized I had something special. These pups were very correct and handsome, but not just that, they had brains. I found them extremely responsive and easy to work with. Keen to learn and interact and just a pleasure to train. The decision was made to take five of these puppies to the 2018 Canadian Hound Show.
One hound in particular, Keswick, stood out from the rest and went on to beat 18 other unentered dog hounds, ultimately taking home the unentered champion trophy. He and his brother also won the unentered dog couple, his sister took home second place in unentered bitches and they finished by winning 2 couple of hounds. Words cannot describe how proud I was of these young hounds and also how grateful that this breeding turned out so incredibly special.
Keswick and Kelso winning Couple Unentered Dogs at the 2018 Canadian Hound Show. Photo by james Campbell, MFH, Montreal Hunt.
Keswick and his siblings were entered in the fall of 2018 and took to hunting effortlessly. Everything clicked in place quickly and there was very little need for reprimanding these brilliant crossbreds.
Some of the Montreal country is very unique with huge changes in elevation and cliffs that mean the huntsman cannot always be next to his pack. Hounds need to be clever in order to work out the puzzle of the quarry and the land and also know when to retreat from the hills. Only time will tell whether any of these Crossbred hounds will be bred back into my pack. They have another season or two to prove themselves yet. I still prefer the English look, however, one cannot deny that Montreal Keswick is the epitome of "form following function" and perhaps just a tiny bit of luck.