Dog sports on Elevator Road: the Dachshund Field Trials

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Photo: Kelly McDuff

Admittedly, the short-legged dachshund isn't built for jumping or long distance running, but would you believe that dachshunds were bred more than 300 years ago to be bold hunters of dangerous prey? Now people call them "wiener dogs," but dachshunds should feel insulted by that - their name really means "badger dog" in German. Consider that name: standard dachshunds weigh 16 to 32 pounds, while the fierce badger weighs 25 to 40. Would you take on those odds? The fearless dachshund will - they have even hunted wild boar, in packs. Today, if no wild boar is handy, the brave dachshund still proves to be a persistent, accurate tracker of rabbits. That's what the Northern Illinois Beagle Club will demonstrate this weekend at the Dachshund Field Trials, April 23-25, 2021, starting at 9:00 a.m. each morning, at 8702 Elevator Rd., Roscoe.

As the American Kennel Club explains, in the Dachshund Field Trials, dachshunds are tested on their ability to trail a rabbit purely by scent, not sight. No bunnies are harmed - the goal isn't to actually catch them. The dachshund must courageously follow the trail wherever it leads, even into a tunnel. Since the dachshund's bark is as loud as a big hound, it can be heard while it pursues a rabbit underground. See, these dogs aren't shaped like a wiener, they're shaped like a tunnel.

According to David Kawami of the Dachshund Club of America, dachshunds compete in groups of two. The Field Marshal, who manages the trials, calls the first contestants to get ready. The “brush beaters” (spectators can volunteer to help) move in a line across the field to force a rabbit to break from its cover. When one does, the first person to see the rabbit shouts "TALLY HO !" They really do. Then the judges make a mental note where the rabbit went. The Field Marshall calls up the first brace of dachshunds, led on leashes by their handlers. The handlers are allowed to talk to and encourage their dogs to find the line (the rabbit scent trail). When they think their dogs know where the line is, the handlers release the dachshunds and then must stop talking. The judges follow the dogs, with the handlers and the spectators behind them. When the judges have made their decision, they will tell the handlers to "pick up" their dogs. Tackling is allowed, if the dachshund doesn't know to come when called.

To be do well in the Dachshund Field Trials, a dog must be physically fit - and these competitors are. Okay, the Dachshund Field Trials may not be the Paris Olympics and "Chariots of Fire," but for a dog, they are still a serious deal. True, dachshunds waddle when they walk, but not because they're fat, necessarily. You'd waddle too if you were twice as long as you were high. In fact, if dachshunds put on the pounds, they can develop back trouble - because they have a lot of back. And no way a chubby, out-of-shape wiener dog is going down a rabbit tunnel. It ain't happening.

The most familiar dachshund variety is the short-haired, smooth coat, but there are also wire coat dachshunds who can work among thorns, and long coats who can work in the cold. They are such a traditional German symbol that in America during World War I, they were called them Liberty Hounds.

James William Garard of Roscoe is secretary of the Northern Illinois Beagle Club. Larry Gohlke of Neshkoro, WI is president of the club and Event Secretary for Saturday's trials, sponsored by Madison Area Dachshund Club. Shawn Nies of Roscoe is Event Secretary for Friday's trials, sponsored by the Badger Dachshund Club. The public is welcome to attend: see Cheri Faust or Larry Gohlke if you have any questions.

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