Trends in Beagle Field Trials
by John Gibble
“The number of entries is absolutely pitiful”. “It’s the economy that’s got beagling down”. “Folks won’t drive to these field trials with the price of gas the way it is”. We hear a lot of hypotheses on why beagling is failing, but have we actually considered the numbers? I’ve put together a few tables from the Beagle Advisory Committee minutes from 2011 through 2012. From examining some of the numbers and doing a bit of extrapolation, the results are interesting.
The first table is just raw data provided by the American Kennel Club to the BAC delegates. If there’s a gap in any data, it wasn’t provided; or in the case of two couple pack hunt tests, there just wasn’t any data prior to 2006 because the format didn’t exist. It is interesting to note that the number of individual registrations, when reported, dropped off almost 20,000 between 2001 and 2009. That’s a decrease in individual registrations of nearly 40%. One could suppose that such a tremendous decrease in individual registrations would indicate a declining popularity in the breed. Where the beagle has always been highly popular as a house pet due to its small size, hardiness, and happy disposition, we do see it being supplanted by other smaller breeds and especially mixed breeds. Pet owners can afford to spend a bit more on something unique and pass the beagle by as somewhat ordinary.
Perhaps the 100% increase in individual registration fees since 2001 has influenced the decision to purchase individual registrations. That the beagle has remained somewhere between 5th and 3rd most popular breed in terms of individual registrations indicates a downward shift in registration of all breeds. Pet owners, especially those of modest means that might select a relatively inexpensive beagle, may find little value in the individual registration if they did not intend to field trial or breed their beagle. Field trialers and hunters may be culling harder before investing in an individual registration. Commercial and other breeders for the pet trade have found cheaper registration alternatives with other registries, or are simply moving more to the mixed breeds where registration is not required or desired. The movement to other registries by commercial breeders might also be attributed to resentment of AKC’s surveillance program, including DNA profile requirements and inspections.
Another interesting trend is the number of total field trial entries over the past decade. Despite the opinions voiced by many, field trial entries have not dropped off as precipitously as many believed. Over ten years, entries are down less than 10%. On the other hand, the number of field trials is up more than 11%. Consequently, it would appear that slightly fewer entries are distributed over slightly more field trial events. Table 2 tracks the average number of entries per type of event, as well as the number of events and number of entries per type of event. Table 3 tracks the number of entries, percent of the total entries, and number of field trials by type of event for 2011. Both tables give indications on trends in beagle field trials.
Using Table 3, for instance, the demise of traditional brace beagling has to be discounted. Traditional brace entries still account for 30% of all beagle field trial entries. While not the factor it was two or three decades ago, 30% is still a respectable number when it comes to adding up per capita fees. It is interesting to note, however that the number of traditional brace trials adds up to just over 40% of all the events and the average number of entries at a traditional brace trial is down to 53.4.
Check out the rest of this article along with the tables on page 46 of our February issue.