The beagle is a scent hound. When running a rabbit the dog follows the scent channel left on the ground or in the air. The rabbit, on the other hand, is a prey animal that is “hard wired” (i.e., genetically programmed) to instinctively execute maneuvers in order to divert any predator from its trail. The rabbit would like nothing better than to end the race by permanently losing the pursuing hound. Sometimes the hound temporarily loses the scent line and is unable to pursue the rabbit for a short time. This is called a “check.”
This terminology is used because with the hound’s loss of the scent channel the progress of running the rabbit has been momentarily “checked” or impeded. Ideally, one wishes their dog would never have a check. But in the real world every hound or pack of hounds that ever ran a rabbit for very long has had a check. It is not that checks are bad. It is the work the dog does after the check begins that is important. In short, what every beagler wants is for their hound to make an attempt to reclaim the scent line as quickly as possible so the rabbit race continues. One never wants a temporary loss to turn into a permanent loss.
From a trial judge’s perspective the check is an important part of a race whereby hounds can demonstrate their ability. It allows judges to evaluate the quality of the hounds being observed. In his book, American Beagling, noted houndsman, Glenn Black, relates that an entire volume could be written on the features of check work especially since, “It is the basis of many close field-trial decisions.” The author continues: “In his manner of handling checks a hound has his best and most easily observed opportunity to exhibit his brains and levelheadedness, the quality of his nose and the trueness of his tongue. A great deal of his most valuable natural quality can be exhibited to the judges at the moment when they have the best opportunity to see everything he does. Driving a line is the hound’s easy work while picking checks is his hard work and thus more important as an indicator of his natural ability and quality” (p. 177).
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