This section is from the book "Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting", by J. Otho Paget. Also available from Amazon: Hunting: A Manual of Fox, Hare, Stag & Otter Hunting.
In starting your pack you may buy a few bitches that are not quite straight from a good kennel, but always insist in seeing the sire and dam, though that is a proceeding I should strongly advise you to observe, both in purchasing drafts and selecting a sire. Bad walks or accidents are often responsible for legs not being straight, but in breeding from these you must see that the dog excels in this point. It is a rule in breeding that where one is weak the other should be exceptionally strong. There is no excuse for using a stallion-hound that is not straight or that has any other fault. In choosing a sire you must see that he has good bone, and that he carries it right down to the toe. Unless you do this you will soon find that your pack is getting weedy. Hounds very soon degenerate and have an inclination to revert to some imperfect ancestor—a tendency of each successive generation to become lighter in bone. This must not be allowed, and can only be prevented by using sires that are exceptionally good in this quality. A hound may have sufficient bone to carry himself through life, and yet not enough to justify his being used as a sire. By all means get plenty of bone, but avoid lumber and coarseness.
There are many other things which it is necessary to remember in selecting a sire, and the most important is working qualities, but this, unfortunately, is not easy to ascertain. In a first-class pack you may be certain they would not keep a hound with any glaring fault, but what you require when possible to breed from is super-excellence. We will suppose you have already in the summer decided, as far as looks go, on certain packs that you will send bitches to, and have marked on your list four or five stallion-hounds in each kennel that took your fancy. Now that the season has commenced, you will visit each pack in turn and have a day's hunting with them. Unless, however, you have been accustomed to watch hounds at work, you will not find it very easy to distinguish one from the other ; but it is a good plan to have the sires you previously picked pointed out to you at the meet. Get up a little earlier and start with the huntsman from the kennel. It is as well to choose a day when the hounds are meeting in their worst scenting and least fashionable country : you will then be able to judge better of scenting powers, and there will be no crowd to hamper you in your observations. Some hounds are brilliant at intervals, and then, when scent becomes a little cold, will not take the trouble to put their heads down. This is a sort I advise you not to breed from. Avoid also a hound that does not draw well, for though it may often be a want of education, the instinct of drawing is hereditary. The best hounds are often the most difficult to pick out when the pace is good, for at that time they are in the middle of the pack, and consequently not to be distinguished easily. Never have anything to do with one that shows the slightest inclination to skirt, for you may be certain if this fault is transmitted to his descendants, it is sure to be accentuated. Stoutness, which may be construed to mean stamina and courage, is also very important, and to find this you should notice which hounds are working hard and running well up at the end of the day. Some hounds have the stamina but not the pluck, and others are gifted the reverse way, but it is no use unless the two are combined. It is as well to inspect the produce a stallion-hound has already sired, and then you will obtain an idea of what he would do for you. If possible, see several different litters, and if you notice that some fault is common to all, you will then know it comes from him and not the dam. I think I have mentioned the essential qualities that you have to remember in the selection of a sire, but the list is far from complete. I may add that the sire which suits one bitch may not suit another, and therein lies the secret of breeding hounds or any other animals.
You may begin putting your bitches to your dogs any time after the first of November, and then your whelps will be coming early in January. Unless you are very short, I do not advise you to have any pups whelped later than the end of June. The reason for having them within these six months is that they get the best part of the summer for their puppyhood, and will have grown strong before the winter comes. The early pups, those that fall in January and February, must have the greatest care and attention whilst the cold weather lasts. A strong bitch will rear as many as six sometimes, and one that is weak will not do justice to three. You or your kennel huntsman must attend to these things personally, because, unless a pup is well nursed for the first six weeks, it will never thrive afterwards. When you are expecting a litter you should put an advertisement in the local paper for foster-mothers, and mention the date you require them. The best plan is to have the foster-mothers before they whelp, or you may be saddled with one that has been in milk for two months. A muzzle is sometimes necessary when the pups are first changed. A great many huntsmen and men of experience never give their pups any cow's milk at all, as they think the change is liable to give them diarrhoea. I believe in encouraging the pups to drink any time after they are a month old ; but the milk should be sweet, and it is better to boil it in order to kill worm germs.
In this way the pups learn to feed themselves, and as their requirements grow daily, whilst bitch's milk gets less, they do not feel the moment when they are eventually weaned. The best milk is that of goats ; but as I do not suppose you would wish to keep a herd of those animals, you must fall back on the cow. At five or six weeks old you can soak bread in the milk, and then biscuit. A little raw fresh meat is good for weakly pups, but it should be cut up small, or they will bolt it in pieces larger than their little digestions can manage. It is a good plan to have a boy to devote his whole time in looking after the bitches and pups, but of course he must be under your feeder's eye. The straw should be changed at least every other day, and the bed sprinkled with sulphur.