Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jackrabbits and Vizslas

Sunday morning started out only in the mid-70's as Chloe joined Bailey and me for a trip out to Hastings Island for another attempt at getting the first leg of Bailey's Master Hunter title.  The weatherman, on the car's radio, had let me know that it was going to be the hottest day of August.  This would be after the fog burned off and the breeze died down.

 Chloe, is not a bird hunter.  She hates the sound of shotguns and she stays in the Jeep while Bailey and I go out to attempt to get a pass on this very demanding bird dog aptitude test. 

So that she attains some enjoyment out of the trip, we stopped both going and returning from Hastings Island to a spot the dogs know well. 
Back about 5 years ago, before the recession hit, a home builder started a development that was going to have 500 homes on a couple hundred acres.  Now the deserted streets and sidewalks are all installed but only about 10 model homes were built and then they were promptly boarded up. 

Here, out in the country, the dogs can safely run with little danger of cars or other dangers.

Jackrabbits number in the hundreds in this wide open area.  So Chloe gets to channel her hunting drive chasing hares.  She loves the chase.  Even with the quickness of our Vizsla, she is no match for a healthy hare as it darts here and there.  It is very enjoyable to watch as she barks and just "knows" she will catch that pesky hare any second.  Just as she thinks she has it, the hare does a 90-degree turn and darts away.

In a period of 20 minutes of all out running, Chloe had scared up about 10 jackrabbits and had given futile but joyous chase.

  Bailey usually joins her, but his enthusiasm for this game is much less intense.  In the morning, he had to stay on his leash.  I needed him fresh and focused on his bird work ahead.

After Bailey and my failed attempt in the judged field, we left Hastings Island and headed back to "Hare Central."

There I let him loose with Chloe out in the 98 degree afternoon heat.

  They were both DONE in about 10 minutes and came back ready for the air conditioner in the Jeep to be turned up full blast on the trip back home.

Herr Und Hund (German Edition)Herr und HundOne of my favorite dog books is "Herr Und Hund" by Thomas Mann, where he goes into wonderful detail how his "bastard" hound (German Shorthair Pointer) has a wonderful time with rabbits in Bavaria.
Earlier post on the book in English

Jackrabbits - remarkable critters
(edited to shorten)
By Dutch Salmon

"It seems that this year they're everywhere. I'm talking about jackrabbits - a plethora of big bunnies.

All right, it's true that many people - perhaps most people - wouldn't call a healthy jackrabbit population a blessing. Here in the Southwest, jackrabbits are largely taken for granted; like ravens, we see them around a lot but don't really notice them much. Hardly anyone remarks, "Hey, I saw a jackrabbit today!"

When jackrabbits do get noticed, the reference is usually negative. They get into your garden and eat the crop. They girdle your fruit trees. They compete with livestock out on the range (it is said that seven jackrabbits will eat as much forage as a sheep).

Or one leads your bird dog off on a merry and futile chase when the dog was supposed to be hunting quail.

First of all, despite the name, jackrabbits aren't rabbits at all, they're hares. The gestation period of a rabbit is about 30 days. Hares hold their young seven to ten days longer. And where rabbit young are born bald, blind, and helpless, a just-born hare is already in fur, with eyes open, and the little leveret can hop around. Rabbits, such as the cottontail, like cover; they live in burrows or brush piles and when pursued hard they look for cover or a hole to provide an escape. Hares spend their entire lives on top of the ground, hooding up in a "form" - a mere depression in the grass - when they're not out feeding or moving about. Flushed by a coyote, fox, greyhound, or eagle, a hare will attempt to outrun rather than hide from a predator.

By any or all of the above determinants, the jackrabbit is a hare. The most sensible explanation I've heard for the name "jackrabbit" is this one: the striking long ears of this hare caused the descriptive moniker, "jack-ass rabbit," later shortened to jackrabbit.

As Aesop knew when he matched a tortoise against a hare, you can't talk about hares without talking about speed. The hare the greyhound chases at the race track is artificial, but the one out in the field is real. By knowing something of greyhound speed one can infer the speed of a jackrabbit.

Greyhounds have been clocked at an attained speed of 50 mph coming down the first straightaway. Take such hounds to the open field, flush a jackrabbit, and what happens?

Usually, the hound is able to overtake the hare one or more times, forcing the jack to change direction in order to escape, indicating the superior speed of the hound. More often than not, in the ensuing high-speed chase, the jack is able to elude the hounds with a myriad of high-speed moves until the hounds begin to tighten up (usually inside of a mile). At that point the hare is once more able to straighten out into a sprint, stringing the pack out and leaving them behind.

At times, however, one encounters some remarkable jackrabbits. I have seen both blacktail and whitetail jacks start up not ten yards in front of greyhounds of proven speed - fresh, healthy hounds on good running ground - and literally run away from them. These hares beat greyhounds at a straightaway sprint!

I have been running jackrabbits with greyhounds, salukis, and other sight hound breeds for 30 years. It is clear that the best jackrabbits are capable of an attained speed of at least 40 mph, and of maintaining that speed for a mile or more. That a hare is capable of outrunning a specially bred dog like the greyhound, a quadruped six to ten times its size, is surely one of the most remarkable feats in the realm of natural history."

1 comment:

John Connelly said...

A really nice piece Rod that I enjoyed reading. Cheers, John