You Say Tail, They Say “Stern”

You won’t find the word, “tail,” in the Bloodhound’s AKC breed standard. It’s just not there. The breed has one, of course (tail, that is),  but in Bloodhound parlance, it’s called something else: From its standard: “The stern is long and tapering, and set on rather high, with a moderate amount of hair underneath.”  Despite its nautical tone, we are not on the Good Ship Bloodhound.

We’re not on the Good Ship Irish Terrier, either. Its standard also omits the word, “tail,” using “stern,” instead:” “Stern: Should be docked, taking off about one quarter. It should be set on rather high, but not curled.”

We had thought that the Irish Terrier and Bloodhound might have the only standards to omit the word, “tail,” but the English Foxhound’s standard comes close. The only time it uses the word, “tail” it’s in reference to an entirely different species: “…the topline of the back should be absolutely level, the stern well set on and carried gaily but not in any case curved over the back like a squirrel’s tail.”

Other standard use both words:

“[The Smooth Fox Terrier] Stern should be set on rather high, and carried gaily, but not over the back or curled, docked to leave about three quarters of the original length of the tail.”

“Tail: Moderately short, thick at the base, then tapering. Not set on too high. Carried gaily when at the alert, but not over the back.  When at ease, a Border [terrier] may drop his stern;”

We’ve come across many references outside of breed standards that also allude to the tail as a stern. Some example: “Beagles have a characteristic white tip on their tails called a stern or flag.” “The stern is gaily carried like that of hounds in general…”(in reference to Basset Hounds).

Consider this a “stern” reminder to refer to tails as “sterns” with certain breeds. Just saying.

English Foxhounds by Zenon Nowacki is available as a print, greeting card and phone case here.


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