By Bob Jamison
          The most prominent rabbit found in these areas is the swamp rabbit. He’s smarter than a coyote and faster than a fox; but there is one thing for sure, brer rabbit can put on a real show with a pair of beagle hounds after him.

          Before the introduction of the fire ant, some believe the most popular rabbit was the cotton tail rabbit. This rabbit prefers upland or prairie country and briar patches compared to the much larger swamp rabbit cousin. Some say the fire ant has virtually caused the demise of the upland cotton tail rabbit around here. Why, they say this species (one of seventeen) is born without hair on its body. On the other hand, the swamp rabbit is born with a total coat of hair thus they say that gives the baby rabbit protection from ants and other insects.

          If those observations are correct, there comes another theory some call facts. That if the swamp rabbit is born with hair on its body, then he belongs to the “hare” family which is common in Europe. Again, the European hare is even larger than the swamp rabbit and is a cherished culinary fare especially in Belgium. Both the swamp rabbit and the smaller cotton tail are also considered excellent for the table.

          Beagle hounds are comical as they are beautiful in their environment of rabbit hunting. They are a natural; almost artistic at it. Besides, beagle dogs make great pets and love children. Many have thought that since the beagles are ‘just’ pets that they wouldn’t know what to do in rabbit country. Don’t be too sure. Of course, there are blood lines that might be better than others but the average full blooded beagle is a natural born rabbit dog with a great ability to trail by scent.

          Timber country and especially river bottom land is an ideal place to have a race. However, don’t expect the dogs to actually catch the rabbit for that seldom happens. They will follow the rabbit’s trail by its scent. Many have observed the rabbit ahead of the hounds to appear somewhat care free. They have been seen to stand on their hind legs and look behind them to see the hounds a hundred yards or so to the rear. Then they will run ahead, usually in a long elliptical oval or circle returning to near the spot from which they were first jumped by the hounds.

          The swamper gets its characteristic name for its awareness to elude danger by swimming in the swamp. Sometimes this happens when the dogs are near and the rabbit pulls the old submarine trick. He has the occasional propensity to swim under water with only the nose sticking out above the water. This procedure leaves little odor for the dogs to trail.

          Currently in Texas there is no limit or season for taking rabbits. They can be trapped, chased by dogs, shot or you can just sit back and listen to the hound’s music. But check the laws yourself, especially the trespass laws.
As one old timer told me on his first swamp rabbit hunt in south east Texas, his host, who particularly enjoyed the race, would say as the beagles came nearer bawling their heads off: “Listen to that music”.  He replied, “I can’t hear any music for those dogs barking”.