Area man inducted into beagling Hall
Dave Kerr Jr.’s interest in beagles and beagling competition began back in 1975, at the tender age of 8.
It was then that young Dave, under the guidance of his father, the late Dave Kerr Sr. joined the Tri-County Beagle Club in Carrolltown, and the two won a blue ribbon in a beagling event.
Seeds of a love affair with the sport were planted in the youngster’s heart, and in 2019, nearly a half-century later, Kerr Jr. has achieved national prominence as a beagle handler and owner in field competitions, and as a judge in those events.
This past March, Kerr Jr. a 1986 Northern Cambria High School graduate who now lives in Ebensburg, was elected into the American Brace Beagling Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held next October in Pittsburgh.
“Every year since 1954, they have picked two people from around the nation to put in,” Kerr said of the Beagling Hall of Fame. “They pick people with the greatest achievements throughout their career. Every year, four people are nominated. I was fortunate — one of the two guys who were inducted this year.”
Kerr was surprised when notified — not because he lacked the necessary credentials, but because his induction happened at the relatively young age of 52. Most inductees are 70 years of age or older.
“I’m totally grateful and honored,” Kerr said. “It’s a lifetime dream that means a lot to me. I was still surprised. Normally, they make you be up in age before they bring your name up, and I thought that at my age, I’d have to wait a little bit longer. I’m the youngest guy to ever be inducted into that Hall of Fame.”
Kerr’s credentials are impressive, though.
He has owned 21 national field champion beagles over his beagling career, and has handled — or managed for others — 242 national field champions.
Kerr has also served as a judge in 337 licensed field trials in 17 different states, an accomplishment that he felt put him at the top of the list of consideration for the Hall of Fame.
“Judging events is a tough thing — usually the only happy guy is the guy who wins,” Kerr said. “But probably the number one thing that you can get from being a judge is to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Then you find that for all the people that you (ticked) off, that more people liked your judging.”
Kerr said that his greatest accomplishment in beagling was as an owner in 1991, when his dog, named South Mountain Blue Boy, won four major federations (sections) of competition throughout the country, and captured the Grand Purina Award for being the best sporting beagle in the nation.
“I had the best dog in the country that year,” Kerr said. “He was consistent, and he always ran the same each time out. He had a lot of guts and determination. The dog always rose to the occasion in the biggest events.”
Beagling is a sport in which beagles, in groups of two, trail and track a rabbit around a 50-acre, fenced-in enclosure. Each competition, known as a field trial, may involve as many 40 or 50 beagles.
Accuracy in tracking is the element that is prized the most by judges in the beagling competition, Kerr said.
“The dog that trails the rabbit most accurately wins the event,” said Kerr, noting that the average chase for a group of two dogs in the competition lasts about 10 to 15 minutes. “If a rabbit makes a right-hand turn up a hill, and the dog follows it and goes up and turns on a dime, with no lost motion, (that dog will win).”
Kerr — the father of two adult children, Brittany and David, and two teenagers, Lauren and Kaitlyn — is the current president of the Tri-County Beagle Club, which hosts over 20 events for competitors from all over the nation from April through November.
Long-time friend Bob Hall, 84, of Altoona, also a member of the club, said that Kerr is quite deserving of his Hall of Fame induction.
“He’s worked hard most of his life in beagling,” Hall said. “He has been a judge and a competitor. He’s driven, and he loves the sport. It (the Hall induction) is a national award, a very prestigious award, and when he was nominated this year, I had no question in my mind that he would be elected.”
Kerr now bides his time as primarily a trainer and judge, attending 30 licensed events throughout the country each year.
“All of the good people I’ve met through beagling over the years has been the most rewarding part of it,” Kerr said. “Then comes the competition. I really do love what I do, and I’ve been fortunate and grateful to be able to do it.”