We credit Bo Bengston and Kevin Shupenia for writing about the term, ‘horn” of the English Foxhound’s foot, and the following information comes entirely through their labors, as well as from a flurry of communication between them.
It all started with the 19th-century English sports writer, John Henry Walsh, writing under the name Stonehenge. In 1867, he wrote a description of the English Foxhound that included a reference to the breed’s foot: “The bone cannot be too large, and the feet in all cases should be round and catlike, with well–developed knuckles and strong horn, which last is of the greatest importance.”
He repeated the word in question – horn – in 1878 when he wrote in the Modern Field Spaniel, “The feet are round and cat-like, well clothed with hair between the toes, and the pads furnished with very thick horn.”
The English Foxhound standard (as well as the standard for many other breeds) descend from the writings of Stonehenge and are some of the oldest documentation of those standards.
We fast forward to an article written by one of dogdom’s best writers, Bo Bengston, and his reference to the “horn” as dog nails. This usage wasn’t unheard of because according to a couple of dog encyclopedias we checked, horn is another word for nails. Still, this piqued the interest of Kevin Shupenia, an English Foxhound, Beagle and Harrier affectionado, who wrote in his own space that a good judge will lift the foot and inspect the pads; nice soft pink pads means the specimen being examined is not a working dog and wouldn’t hold up on a hunt, while a hard “horny” (or calloused) pad would mean that the dogs would be able to be on their feet for 40-50 miles without getting bloody feet.
We got involved when we drew upon Kevin’s knowledge as an English Foxhound fancier to learn what “ragged couples” meant, and got completely sidetracked into the world of Foxhound feet. Since we’re suckers for old terminology, we couldn’t pass up the chance to share “horn” with you.
Image: “Autumn Avenue” was created by Juli Kirk whom you can contact for commissions via her website.