Have you ever wished that there was a system or an effective guideline that you could use that would raise your chances of selecting a pup that would mature under thirteen inches in height? I have. I have been fooled more than once by a pup that looked to be the small one in a litter, only to find out later that it grew a lot bigger than I expected.
One time I drove across several states to buy a pup from a well-known breeder. When I arrived and looked over the parents, they were both ‘borderline’, or right on the thirteen-inch mark in height. So then I turned my attention to the litter itself. There were five pups in the litter and they varied quite a bit in size. First, there was a very large male pup — obviously going to be a big hound. He was big-boned and had big feet. These were both indications that he was destined to be large. Next, there were three females that were somewhat smaller and were all about the same size. I figured they would be the ‘borderline’ thirteen-inch individuals like their parents. Finally, there was a beautiful little male — less than half the size of the big brother. “Well,” I said to myself, “This is easy. There’s no doubt that this little fellow will be a thirteen incher.” So I watched him a little while to see if he was what I wanted in other respects. He was bold and lively. He seemed to be alert and smart enough. He even used his nose to smell the ground a lot the way a hound should. Another thing I liked was his nice head and beautiful muzzle. So, convinced that he was going to mature to be a beautiful small male, I bought him.
As time passed, this male gradually grew and developed just like I figured he would. Then at about six months of age, all at once, he began to grow more rapidly. He stretched up and up in spurts of growth that were astounding! His head and muzzle didn’t change much and so he soon was out of proportion with his growing body. By the time he was ten months old, he had pretty much quit growing, but he was a full fourteen and a half inches tall or maybe a little bit more. He was a tall, gangly, almost ‘string bean’ type hound with a rather small head and a snippy nose. He was nothing like I expected him to be.
Boy was I disappointed! How could I have missed so badly on that male? Comparing pictures of him at two months and at nine or ten months old was a very frustrating experience. He didn’t look like the same hound. How could that little pup grow up to be such a tall mature hound? Why it was unbelievable. I wished over and over again that I had some way of anticipating what had happened.
Now, obviously, if you don’t care what size your hunting Beagles are, this article is not for you. However, if you like your hounds on the smaller side as I do, then you should read on. I have studied rather extensively in hopes of solving this dilemma, and I have found a way of checking pups that I never knew about before. Admittedly, I have not proven this method with my own experience, yet, but I still think that this information is worth passing onto you.
Some of you are saying about now that I could avoid this problem completely by just waiting until dogs are about a year old, or better yet fully matured, before making the purchase or the selection. You are absolutely right in suggesting this. However, it is not always possible, or even feasible to do this. The higher cost and reduced availability of mature hounds often make this prohibitive. So, let’s press on and analyze puppy size in relation to how they mature.
The practice of cross-breeding various sized Beagles is what makes this matter of mature size so unpredictable. Heterozygous (differing) genes just naturally produce varying sizes of hounds within the same litter. This is so much a factor that thirteen inch Beagles can produce fifteen inch offspring, and fifteen inch Beagles can produce thirteen-inch offspring as well.
Therefore, the first thing that should be said is that a prospective buyer should always check the pedigree of the puppies to see just what size hounds are in their background and check whether it is a cross-bred litter. Breeding does make a difference. If the litter is crossbred, you will not be able to predict the mature size of the pups nearly as well as if they are line-bred or in-bred. The more inbred they are, the more uniform in size they are going to be. The genes are “stacked” in that direction. You can depend on it.
In addition to looking at the pedigree, it would be good if you could see for yourself what both of the parents, as well as the grandparents, look like. The size and body type of these six individuals will tell you a great deal about what they will produce. If you don’t have the luxury of doing this first hand, talk to the persons that own these hounds or have owned them, or know about them. You should be doing this with regard to other characteristics such as running ability anyway, all I am saying is don’t forget to inquire about size.
Another rule of thumb that I have seen proven true time and time again, is that a bitch seldom produces offspring larger than she can whelp. This is not always true, especially in the case of mongrels and curs. However, more often than not, a small bitch will tend to produce smaller offspring even when mated with a large sire. There is just something in nature that tends to protect the bitch. So, the logical conclusion from this is to keep your bitches on the small side if you want to raise small hounds. Or, look for pups out of a small bitch if you are looking to buy pups that will mature small.
Having said all this, I know you still wish that there was a way for you to better predict the mature size of a small puppy. Well, I have good news for you! There is a way!
Up until now we have concerned ourselves with the size and appearance of the parents and their genetics. Besides these criteria there is still another method of “sizing up” a pup and maybe predicting its mature size. That method is to weigh the pups.
Some of you are saying, “John, you’ve got to be crazy.” No, I’m not. I’m dead serious. Let me tell you about it:
Recently I came upon an article published in The Beagle Journal in June 1955 written by Curtis M. Brown, owner of Opus Kennels in La Mesa, CA. Mr. Brown, who I believe raised show Beagles, says on page 31,
“The breeder who wishes to detect his 13″ puppies at the saleable age of eight weeks and sell the 15″ ones, is confronted with a perplexing problem. A pup finished just over 13″ has a decided disadvantage when shown (or run in the field for that matter) against larger 15″ dogs, while a pup finishing just under 13″ has an advantage over a smaller dog. At eight weeks, what is the average size of a Beagle finishing just under 13”?
After keeping a large number of records of puppies, a general average of size and weight for Beagles finishing at 13″ and 15″ and in good health is indicated in the table below:
|2 WKS.||4 WKS.||8 WKS.||4 MOS.||2 YRS.|
|1 lb. 11 oz.||2 lbs. 13 oz.||4 lbs. 7 oz.||10 1/2″ height||13″ height|
|1 lb. 12 oz.||4 lbs.||6 lbs. 2 oz.||11 3/4″ height||15″ height|
At the age of two weeks, little can be determined from the size of the puppies. The smallest at birth and at two weeks, may turn out to be the biggest, while the largest at birth may be the smallest adult.
At four weeks, differences often begin to show in the weight chart; the heavier ones continue as the heavier and larger.
At eight weeks, selections can be made with a fair degree of accuracy in prediction of an ultimate height of 13″ by choosing those individuals weighing about 4 1/2 pounds and having a shoulder height of about 7″ to 7 1/4″. Any pup at four months being over 10 1/2″ will usually exceed the 13″ class.”
Now as I think back, that male pup of mine that grew so big was indeed heavier than that at 8 weeks, and he probably exceeded the 10 1/2″ mark at four months too, although I didn’t check him at that juncture. If I had checked, I probably would have gotten an early indication of his potential height, but I didn’t.
What Mr. Brown says has its exceptions, I am sure, but he gives us a good general guideline to go by. I for one am going to keep this study in mind in the future as I size up Beagle pups.
Experience as a breeder and good common sense can be a big help too. Mr. Brown points out (on page 32 of the June ’55 Beagle Journal) that Beagles generally fall into three groups, i.e. (1) short-legged 15″ bodied Beagles, (2) well proportioned miniatures of larger Beagles, and (3) racy, spindly, tall Beagles. The first type will weigh more at eight weeks on the chart than a 13″ Beagle should, while the last type will weigh less on the chart than a 15″ Beagle. It is the middle category that the chart will accurately predict. Come to think of it, my tall male probably was in type three. Maybe he wouldn’t have shown up in the heavier category. So, you have to keep body type in mind also. That is why I recommend that you observe parents and grandparents whenever possible.
Some experts say that a well-proportioned Beagle (type 2) measures about the same at the shoulder as the length of the back, and has a solid, but not overly large bone structure.
The growth of a Beagle is far from being a smooth, uninterrupted curve. Actually growth comes in spurts of weight gain and small increases in height. Sometimes increases in height seem to come without corresponding weight gains. Growth usually is preceded by a period of weight build up to prepare for a growth period which uses up the weight gain with increases in size. The time of these growth periods vary for each individual dog.
When all is said and done, if you have followed the weight gain of pups as they grew older, and if you factor in the general body type of the ancestors, you will have added a new dimension to your ability to predict the Beagle’s mature height. Mr. Brown really believed in his weight chart and had proved its accuracy, in his situation at least; so in the future, I am going to add this to my arsenal of criteria for selecting a pup.
From now on I am going to take my bathroom scales with me when I go to look over a prospective litter!
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