Put on Your Knickerbockers

Beagle field trials, a sport found only in the United States and Canada, was historically limited to people of means. That changed in the early 1900s when the popularity of Beagles grew, and Americans got interested in owning one dog that could trail a rabbit or hare without the necessity of having pack mates, something only the well heeled could afford. The first National Beagle Club field trial was held in New Hampshire in 1890, and according to the AKC, today there are more than 529 Beagle Clubs that own or lease land each over 150 acres as hunting and training grounds. The first step to participating is to own a Beagle. Next is figuring out which type of field trial in which to compete since the options are Brace (the oldest type of AKC beagle field trials), Small Pack Option, Large Pack and Gundog Brace field trials, or even Hunt Tests.

It’s interesting to note that the AKC parent club for the Beagle, the National Beagle Club of America, was formed in the late 1800’s with the objective of holding field trials to help improve field qualities as well as breed type. To their credit, the breed standard was revised in 1900 to put more emphasis on running gear – hugely important in hounds – and thereby continue improvement of the function Beagle’s function.

The AKC has a nice overview of the history of Beagle Field Trials here.

As for knickerbockers, traditionally speaking, either white pants, skirts, or knickerbockers were worn by the huntsman and his or her assistants, called Whippers-in, along with green jackets and black velvet caps.
Image: A commission for Eton College Beagles which appeared in the 1953 issue of “Holly Leaves” by Joseph Appleyard ((1908-1960)


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