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Billy – The French Pack Hound

Click here to read the complete article
102 – September, 2018

Text and illustrations by Ria Hörter
courtesy Ton Popelier

Although dogs have been our companions for millennia, we have to guess at what prehistoric dogs looked like exactly. One thing we do know for sure, though, is the work they did. They followed the prey, drove the flocks and herds, guarded livestock and defended their owners’ property…

Pack Hunting

Where does this large French scent hound with an English-sounding name come from, and when was it developed? To understand pack hunting in France, a brief survey of its development may be necessary.

The history of pack hunting is more than 10,000 years old. In the Lascaux caves, in the French Dordogne, can still be seen drawings of a man hunting deer with his hounds. The drawings date from about 15000 years BC. When conquering Gaul around 50 BC, the Romans noticed that the Celtic Gauls hunted with their dogs.

In medieval Gaul, only kings, noblemen, and high clergy could participate in the hunt. In France, as in many other Western European countries, the best hunting grounds and vast forests were reserved for the aristocracy.

Saddle makers, tailors, and blacksmiths set up their shops around hunting castles. The hunt became an inspiration for tapestry makers, painters, writers, and illustrators who depicted game hunting – the vènerie – in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Hunting deer, wild boar, and wolf – the grande vènerie – needed a large, strong dog. Small game – the petite vènerie – for example, hare and rabbit, was left to smaller breeds.

At that time there were dozens of hunting breeds in France. Some were restricted to just one region and stayed numerically small. Other breeds and hunts were spread all over France and into other countries.

Click here to read the complete article
102 – September, 2018

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