All the hounds that you see being judged come from hunting packs (either Foxhounds on Thursday or Beagles on Friday) which are recognised by the Masters of Foxhounds Association or the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles.The hunts represented come from all over England and you can identify them by their armbands. They each have their own, distinctive livery, which includes hunt buttons and coloured collars.
The purpose of judging (undertaken by two people who are usually themselves Masters of Hounds) is to assess conformation of each hound and to decide how well it should be able to stand up to a full day’s hunting. As conformation is is only one of the attributes which dictate whether a hound will hunt well or not – other critical ones are scenting ability and ‘drive’ which cannot be assessed in the show-ring.
The hounds are judged separately by sexes – doghounds before lunch and bitches in the afternoon – and are divided into various classes, with a championship at the end of each session. The classes vary but generally include one for young unentered hounds which will start hunting next season, one for couples or two couples, one for stallion hounds or brood bitches etc. The stallion hounds, brood bitches and championships are always judged individually, but other classes may be judged in couples or two couples.
Those showing the hounds (throwing the biscuit!) are usually Huntsmen, who have made a career of hunt service and are paid to do so, whilst in the case of beagles, the Huntsman is usually an amateur – and often a Master – although the hounds may be shown by a professional Kennel-huntsman.
In every class each ‘entry’, ie: single or group of hounds, is initially shown seperately to enable the judges to make their assessment. At the end of each class all the entries are brought in and are eliminated by the judges, one by one, until they have four entries left which they place in the assessed order of merit.
The entry awarded first prize receives a red rosette (and often a silver cup), the second a blue rosette, third yellow and fourth green.
You will always find people at the ringside who are happy to explain what’s going on although we cannot guarantee that their opinions will be without bias!
Programmes are always available with details of the judges and hounds being shown in each class