Local Couple Compete in Beagle Field Trials and Show Competitions
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A dog is known as man’s best friend and for a local couple, this has never been a truer statement.
For many years, Zane and Denise Campbell of Clark County, Missouri have traveled to multiple states to compete in field trials and show competitions with their beagles.
“I’ve always been a dog person. We always had labs whenever I was growing up and I always heard the stories about dad growing up with coyote hounds and coon hounds,” Zane said.
Zane asked his father, Todd Campbell, if he could have a coon or coyote dog like his father had when he was growing up. Zane’s father told him that he could get a rabbit dog instead.
Zane bought his first beagles in 2015. The gentleman he bought them from, asked Zane if the dogs were going to be used for hunting or trials.
At the time, Zane didn’t know what a beagle trial was, and the gentleman told him that the dogs were not trial dogs. Zane proceeded to take the dogs out hunting, but a thought kept popping up in the back of his mind.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, I wonder what he meant by trial,’” Zane said.
“I looked it up on the internet and I found out what it was. I thought it sounded pretty cool to run my dogs with other dogs.”
Zane and Denise decided to take their beagles, Bentley and Cash, to their first trial at Busch Wildlife Area, which is outside of St. Louis, Missouri.
At the competition, an older gentleman showed Zane what they were looking for in the trials. After talking to each other for a while, the two figured out that Zane’s dog was the offspring of one of the gentleman’s dogs.
As the trial started, Cash, Zane’s dog, was picked up off the ground in the first pack run. It was now Bentley’s turn to run the trail.
“Bentley gets put down on the ground and he runs, and I have no idea what is going on. Well, they didn’t pick him up and we came back in,” Zane said.
“We went back out to the field and Bentley was fat. He was not in shape to be doing that stuff and there is a huge difference between hunting beagles and trial beagles.”
Eventually, Bentley laid down because he was tired of running.
“I went and picked him up and one judge stayed back with him and the other went with the pack. He said to me, ‘Son, I just want you to know that he was our high dog for today. He needs to weigh about ten pounds less and condition every day because you have a fine hound,’” Zane said.
Zane decided from that moment on that he wanted to keep going to trials because he had so much fun that day.
To train the dogs for these events, Zane and Denise run the dogs’ solo on a fresh rabbit track for at least 30 minutes. When Zane is working late, Denise will take the dogs out on a run to keep up on their training.
“If you need the dog to speed up, you brace it, which means two dogs on the ground. If you need the dog to run a tighter line, you can brace them with a slower more flowy dog,” Zane explained.
“In a dog’s mind, they are just as competitive as people are and they want to get that rabbit before the other dog does.”
“It depends on the day and on the scent conditions, but basically if you have a dog that can go out and run a rabbit on its own at a good pace and account for the track and keep fresh on that rabbit that dog has a really good chance of winning,” Zane added.
To enter the AKC show and field trials, the beagles must be purebreds and AKC certified. Each competition has an entry fee, and each dog is divided into four classes depending on their size and gender.
There’s a 13-inch beagle and a 15-inch beagle. We have 13- inch females, 13-inch males, and we also have one 15-inch male,” Zane explained.
The Campbell’s currently have nine beagles and usually only take a few dogs to each competition.
For the field trial portion of the event, numbers are drawn for each dog. The dogs are then placed into packs of four to nine dogs depending on how many dogs are at the event.
Each pack of dogs is then taken by their handlers and sent out to track a rabbit’s trail. The beagle’s job is to track the fresh rabbit trail and to not harm the rabbit.
“As we are running a rabbit we are lined up or slotted up as they call it. If one dog gets out on the side, they call that skirting and that dog can be picked up for skirting,” Zane said.
“They might pick that dog up, but if he goes back in line, they might leave him down for a little while longer. If he messes up again, he could be picked up.”
When a beagle strays from the pack and it is picked up again, the dog is taken out of the competition completely. The best dogs out of the packs will move on to a second series or winner’s pack.
“In order to get to a winner’s pack, you have to have nine or less dogs,” Zane explained.
After the winner’s pack is chosen, the new pack runs together, and the judges determine the best dog out of the pack.
“When you get down to the judging part of it, they are looking at the style that the dog runs, they want the dog to count for tracks, and overall hunt. They don’t want him out there with his head up looking at the other dogs,” Zane said.
“The dog needs to be focused on what they are doing, but also work with the pack.”
According to Zane, generally a pack of dogs can run anywhere from 30 minutes up to two or three hours depending on what a judge is looking for.
Zane has done some judging himself at the competitions and has judged at least a dozen trials so far.
“It definitely brings a different perspective when you start judging versus taking your dogs,” Zane said.
After Zane runs the dogs in the trials, Denise shows them in the show portion of the competition.
The show portion of the competition consists of making sure the dog’s characteristics and measurements match up with the judge’s idea of the best beagle. The judges look at the legs, nose length, shape of their withers, their athletic stance, and much more.
“There is a lot of checking to make sure that the measurements are right, ears are long enough, tail is long enough, and snout is long enough,” Denise said.
“They make sure they are a pretty dog essentially. They make sure they have the right head and that it is flat, and they don’t have a big bump on the top of their head.”
According to Denise, the dogs are scored out of 100, but it is very hard to get a perfect score.
Last year, Denise and her father, Dennis Frazier, traveled to a national show in Morgantown, Kentucky.
“It was his first trial, and it was neat getting to stay until the end,” Denise recalled.
“We were done by one and we had to wait around for the other packs to finish. It was probably seven by the time the actual head-to-head show happened.”
“She was able to get a first place in the national show,” Zane said.
At each competition, ribbons or trophies are handed out to the top beagles. Many other prizes are also given out like dog food, dog chains, and fishing supplies.
One of the things that Zane is grateful for is that Denise keeps everything in order so the couple can enjoy the field and show events together.
“I just handle the dogs. She is the one who does all the paperwork for it and gets everything together. Without her I am lost,” Zane said.
Zane and Denise recommend that people do their research if they want to start participating in field trials. They also recommend investing in a set of good training collars.
One of the things that Zane and Denise love most about the trials is making new friends and enjoying the day together.
“It is a lot of fun and a lot of fellowship,” Zane said.
“I enjoy getting to see the accomplishment of all of the work you put into them. You put the effort in training them throughout the week after you get off work,” Denise said.
Zane and Denise have traveled to Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin to participate in field trials. The couple have placed in the top four dogs in many events and they hope to travel to more trials in the future.
“Willow is the national show champ. She has a 1st place in trials, countless 2nd and 3rd places in trials. Jessibelle is a litter mate to Willow. She has 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and NBQs,” Zane said.
“Stud is Willow’s litter mate also. He is a 13- inch male, and he has one win, one 3rd, and three 4ths in trials. He also has one win in show and one 4th in show.”
The couple keep busy with trials every year. They are members of the ILL-MO Beagle Club out of St. Louis, Missouri, the Music City Beagle Club out of La Vergne, Tennessee, and the Goshen Trail Beagle Club out of Whittington, Illinois.
They are hoping to go to trials in Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana next year.