Hares and Hounds

F.C.I. Eurocup for Hounds: A long hard day of competition with Europe’s best hounds contending against one another and Tracker along for the ride.

With her nose to the ground, and with great calm and concentration, Daisy – a rare Hamilton Stövare – sniffs the dirt track along a newly ploughed field. Their shoulders slouching and in pondering silence, the dog handlers Andreas Brelin and Ernst Bjureflo from Sweden, watch Daisy at work, obviously not too impressed by today’s performance. “Daisy is accustomed to hunting in the Swedish woods”, Andreas explains, “and she is rather ill at ease with the agrarian landscape of Lower Frankonia.”

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Daisy works a hare trail, thrown off a little by the unfamiliar environment.

We are at the 22nd F.C.I. European Cup for Hounds, which is taking place in Germany for the first time this year. The test grounds are located on 14 game preserves across five counties near Rügheim (Bavaria). Competing are the 14 most successful hounds from seven European countries.

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Group picture with dogs: 14 teams, seven nations.

At the F.C.I. European Cup the hounds have to demonstrate their skills on the hare trail. Even though numbers of small game are in decline, such exercises are not an anachronism: “The hare trail is the most difficult kind of tracking”, explains Manfred Parr, 1st chairman of Tyrol Bracke Club Germany and one of the judges at the Euro-Cup. “Dogs that can give tongue on the hare track can also do so with any other type of game.”

FCI Laufhunde Championat 2014

Loud hunting hounds are a must at driven hunts and battues and it is on the difficult hare track that they can really show what they are capable of.

In order to succeed at the F.C.I. Cup the hounds must search for and find a hare on their own and then work its trail, hunting loudly, for at least ten minutes. The time limit is 90 minutes. If the dog has not returned to its handler by the end of the trial or refuses to get leashed, then it hasn’t passed the test. The judges have specific criteria by which to assess a dog’s performance. The problem is that Bracke and hounds in particular, as they work over such a wide area, have a tendency to escape the keen eyes of the judges by disappearing behind the horizon. During the last F.C.I. Championship in Kuopio (Finland) the judges were unable to evaluate some of the hounds taking part, because they were simply unable to see them at work.

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Judge in a hurry. To keep up with the dogs, this gentleman has taken to riding a quad…

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… and he really works up some speed.

The same thing occurred at this year’s Championship: Just a few minutes after getting underway, the Norwegian Hygen Hound “Froya” disappeared into the mist and wasn’t seen for hours. If Froya hadn’t been wearing the G500FI GPS-collar provided by the Finnish dog-tracking specialist Tracker.Inc, nobody would have known where she was or what she had been up to. The G500FI not only records the track taken by the dog – the integrated bark indicator also shows where the dog was hunting loud. Along stretches where the dog was hunting silent, its track is depicted as a thin line in a topographical map, while a bold line marks where it was hunting loud. In this way, the G500FI allows the user to evaluate his dog’s performance either live or after the event in a way no other dog tracking device achieves. By the way: dog handlers are free to decide whether they want to use the G500FI or not. The track records are not taken into account in the judging.

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Webtracking makes it possible to analyse Froya’s hunt. The trial began in the field (dog symbol with directional arrow) but, after a couple of minutes, she headed at full speed towards the woods. After an hour on the go, Froya had covered more than two kilometres in a straight line.

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Where the track is depicted as a bold line, we can see that Froya was hunting loud, but we don’t know what her chosen prey was. After 28.8km the dog was picked up on the other side of the woods. The recorded tracks are saved permanently and can be replayed.

In the meantime, things are going better for Daisy and her Swedish handlers. The hound has been scanning the bare farmland, but hasn’t found a hare yet. The judges have decided to start anew on a neighbouring field. Once there, the hound begins hunting nearby an expanse of shrub, doing well working the trail of a hare. One of the judges jumps on his quad to follow what’s happening while the reporter, who has gotten into the passenger seat without thinking, tries desperately not to fall off as the judge zooms away. From the shrubs we can hear the joyous barking of the hound.

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Caption: Daisy is called up for another try.

Back at the hotel, the dog handlers gather around Tomas Slesar, who works for Tracker.Inc. They all want to watch their dog’s tracks on Tomas’s tablet. It’s an exciting moment for any huntsman and a very special memory, as taking part in an international championship like the F.C.I. Eurocup is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many dog owners.

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An exciting moment: Andreas Brelin and Ernst Bjureflo watch Daisy’s track on a tablet.

At the awards ceremony in the evening there is a pleasant surprise for the Swedish guests: Daisy comes in second in the final scoring.

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Ernst Bjureflo is really excited about Daisy’s success – and, of course, about the G500FI which came with the award.

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And the same goes for Leo Duschen from Switzerland, whose Swiss Hound “Cheyenne” came in third. He also won a G500FI, sponsored by Tracker Inc.

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And the winners are: Gianfranco Bordi from San Marino and his Segugio Italiano “Sony”.

The F.C.I. European Cup for Hounds brought a touch of international flair to tranquil Frankonia. Despite the fact that hunting grounds in Germany are divided into small sections, the organizers were still able to provide test grounds that were adequately spacious for such an undertaking as a hounds trial. And for that, they deserve our every respect. The F.C.I. European Cup for Hounds 2015 will take place in San Marino.

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Floppy-eared champion: Segugio Italiano Sony, now bearing the title of CACIT (Certificat d’Aptitude au Championnat International de Travail) or International Working Dog Champion. Wow!

This article was sponsored by Tracker, Inc., Finland.

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