As I sit here with PA’s rifle deer season winding down, I find myself with some time to read the message boards and talk to some houndsmen & women. It all gets me thinking about the breeding choices that we make.
I do not know if Willet took heat for his breeding choices, but it was a different time, and well, he was Willet. I know that some people have questioned Mike’s breeding choices. I have heard through the grapevine people questioning why he would breed to this dog or bring that line into his. I talked to Mike about this and his reasoning was very sound. He proceeded cautiously and always had the hound’s best interest in mind. Mike always kept very high standards for type and fieldwork and stuck to it religiously. The fad hound or what other people were doing never affected his choices. None of us have perfect hounds and to think improvements can’t be made is foolish thinking.
My last blog post about the ‘Robs’ was a perfect example of Willet’s choices. There were many others: Birch Brae, other Watatic hounds, the Adirondack hounds of the Gianani’s, Fish Creek, Bear Creek and of course Jeff Cole (I think Jeff is well noted because his picture appeared in Wilderness Patchwork). Why did Willet choose these hounds when he knew where other hounds were that were from his line? Mike and I have discussed this as well.
I have been criticized for mentioning the faults that others are perpetuating in the Patch line. An undershot bitch was bred, who was a cast off from another individual’s kennel, and now is appearing further back in the pedigrees of other hounds and even being doubled up and folks are wondering where this bad bite comes from. Some now think because she was bred to another hound that it’s all ok now. (I have video of this hound running, and although adequate, she was not an outstanding performer, in my opinion.)
Cherry eye, which is absolutely hereditary, is just considered a nuisance that a vet can easily take care of. A repeat breeding is currently being planned when the first cross produced at least 50% with cherry eye. Maybe these hounds could punish a rabbit and just maybe they were the “ideal” hound for this breeder, but is this the genetics that we want to continue? Future generations are in our hands.
Conformation issues such as sway backs, short ears or bad ear set, bad feet, crooked legs or a build like a bull dog (or like a greyhound) are all being passed on because they are “pure” patch. Is the mindset that all that matters is they are “pure 100% patch”? Why should we settle?
About 2 years ago, a man emailed me stating that I was going to slow down the Patch line and turn them into a line control, UBGF type hound and that I was not following what Willet had in mind for the future of the line. Where he got this information is beyond me (but I do have somewhat of an idea). The notion that I prefer a peanut roller is laughable to those that know me. I cut my teeth on hare. At 9 years old, I was standing on a dirt logging road listening to the hounds go out of hearing into the remote Catskill wilderness and getting that same rush I get today as I watched 16 hounds push the hare back across that road in hot pursuit. I remember looking at Uncle Joe and no words were spoken, just smiles. I was hooked. (I can still picture Snowhill Phoebe and her daughter Queenie in the lead and Moose’s voice almost drowning out the others.) These hounds are the standard that I aspire to today. The AKC conformation standard, as well as the Field Rules, were written by REAL houndsman. The desirable characteristics have not changed. (The judging has changed.) As a breeder, my goal is to keep the total hound in mind: Those hounds that pushed that hare in the Catskills and a couple days later were at Mid-Hudson beagle club on a twisting cottontail, able and willing to run both until we had enough without physical breakdowns AND being able to do it into their senior years.
I am extremely grateful to have had mentors such as Uncle Joe, Mike Capozzi and others. I value the knowledge that they passed on to me and the breeding standards that were set.