As the dog days of summer slowly come to an end, several cooners gathered on Saturday to compete in the eighth annual UKC State Championship Water Race.
The championship was hosted by the Richmond County Cooner’s Club, located at 647 Ledbetter Road in Rockingham, and brought competitors from throughout the state — as well as a few from beyond state lines.
A bench show kicked off the competition where dogs were separated by breed, gender and age.
“There are seven registered, recognized UKC breeds of coonhounds,” said former bench show judge Cynthia Grooms. “They are American Leopard Hounds, American Black and Tan Coonhounds, Bluetick Coonhounds, English Coonhounds, Redbone Coonhounds, Plott Hounds and Treeing Walker Coonhounds.”
While Grooms did not participate as a judge this year, she said several judges were necessary to prevent a tie in the competitions.
Winner of the Senior Male class, comprised of coonhounds aged 2 years or older, was McKay’s Making the Statement, a Redbone owned by Bridget Taylor. Cook’s Brandy, a Treeing Walker owned by Danny Cook, and Laina’s Little Dot, an English owned by Gary Haynes, took the Senior Female Class.
Champion of Champions Male went to Alabama SpoDK, a Treeing Walker owned by Allen Gibson, and Miown I Caught You Looking, a Redbone owned by Bridget Taylor, took Champion of Champions Female.
Following the bench show was a water race, where coondogs were judged by “line wins” or “tree wins.”
“You have dogs coming across in groups of four,” said club president Randy McDonald. “They swim after a coon hide in a float that’s being pulled across the pond in front of them. There’s a line on the far side of the pond, and the first dog that crosses that line is first line.”
Once the line is crossed, McDonald said, the coon hide is placed onto a pole. The first dog to bark once they’ve treed the hide, within a certain radius of the pole, wins the “first tree.”
During last year’s competition, several dogs had difficulty waiting for their turn to make a splash.
“That always happens,” said Grooms. “You have some dogs that are so coon-minded that if they see something that looks like a coon, they’re ready to go after it. Some of the dogs that do this all the time — they can do it blind. They’re ready to go. They know this is what they’re supposed to do.”
The Grand Champion Winner for the water race was Holli’s Southern Blue Bell, owned by Michael Miller.
Jones Big Annie, a Redbone owned by Gary C. Jones of West Virginia, placed as the Champion Winner, receiving $100 in cash, two trophies and 200 pounds of Black Gold dog food. According to McDonald, the Redbone also holds the title of N.C. State Champion for Line and Tree.
Registered Winners included Miller’s Jake, owned by Donald Miller, Big Bob, owned by Ronald T. Turk and handled by Marie Payne, and Hawk’s Sharpe Razor Judge, owned by Ronald K. Davis.
According to McDonald, 12 dogs participated in the water race, and nine were in the bench show.
“The water race is probably the biggest event,” said Shorty Shelly, club board member.
In addition to the competition, the Richmond County Cooner’s Club also held a raffle for more than $3,000 in door prizes, including a Garmin GPS tracking system donated by Mercantile on Broad.
“It’s our biggest event of the year for making money,” McDonald said.
“This year we did raise $1,200,” Shelly said. “We had a good turnout and a lot of good food in the kitchen that we sold.”
The Richmond County Cooner’s Club meets on the first Thursday of each month (excluding July), at the club, located on Ledbetter Lake. For more information about the Cooner’s Club, contact Randy McDonald at 910-652-3555.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.