Most people are familiar with the contemporary uses of the word "brace,"
such as when it's used as either a noun or verb to refer to a support
or (as in "bracing") the supporting of something.
A brace of Gordon Setters working. One works the
bird in the brush while the second dog
the two different color
brace collars worn by the two dogs. Photo
from the excellent
GSCA web site, © Jim Schneider
When this term is used in the context of upland hunting, it retains its
much older meaning. In Latin, bracchia is the plural form of
bracchium, which is an arm or a branch. Two bracchia, then, are
a pair of arms. The term found its way through early Middle French and on to
Middle English to refer to the two pieces of a clasp (such as on a cloak),
and eventually to a pair of pretty much anything. Handed down from hunters in
the UK, this noun is still used in the US to refer to a pair of dogs that run
and hunt together.
Most handlers find that running more than two dogs at a time poses risks and
distractions that take away from hunting success. Hunters need to be aware of
both their own dog's position and performance and that of their dog's bracemate.
The dogs need to be able to work as a team (such as when
backing each other), and handlers need to think of the brace as a
single unit. Perhaps that's why the term has stayed in use: when one says,
"the dogs ran well," the image that immediately comes to mind is of
two dogs working the field. But when you hear, "that brace handled the
chukar perfectly," you're picturing a well-coordinated team, working together.
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