George A. Custer, 1862, Peninsula Campaign, Virginia. Click to enlarge.
In the past, I have, written a bit about jack rabbits out west as well as coyotes and the use of lurchers to hunt coyotes , but I have yet to talk too much about one of the most famous of American dog men -- George Armstrong Custer.
Custer found particular solace with the dogs. A border-line manic-depressive, Custer found that when he was manic he could go riding and running with them, and when he was despondent, they were perfect company to lie down with.
And Custer did "lie down with dogs," never once feeling a moment of shame as he cuddled up next to them, their large bodies wrapped around his to keep him warm on the cold Plains.
George A. Custer with the Sioux-Ree warrior Bloody Knife
(pointing) and the Crow warrior Curly (standing), with
staghound and greyhound. Montana, Spring 1876.
Custer's dogs were greyhound crosses -- what later came to be called the "American Staghound."
A Staghound, of course is simply a large American longdog -- a cross between two sighthounds such as a Greyhound or Scottish Deerhound, though Borzoi, Saluki, Afghan, or Irish Wolf Hound could theoretically be crossed in there as well. Today, most American Staghounds are multi-generation Staghound crosses.
It's possible that some of Custer's dogs may have been lurchers. A lurcher is a cross between a sighthound (such as a Deerhound, Greyhound or Whippet) and a herding dog (such as a rough collie) or perhaps a larger terrier (such as a Aierdale or Bedlington). If some of Custer's dogs were lurchers, they are likely to have been Greyhound or Deerhounds crossed with a collie or some other large herding dog.
Too much can be made of breed and terminology, especially when talking about historical dogs. Custer was running in the West where dogs were intact their whole lives, found their own mates, and designed themselves as Nature saw fit.
Custer's first longdogs dogs, acquired sometime after the end of the Civil War in 1866 were killed (one in a firearms mishap and the other -- Blucher-- in 1868 at the Battle of the Washita River against the Cheyenne).
Custer got other dogs, and always seemed to have four or five with him, including a pair that reportedly came from Queen Vicotoria through Lord Berkeley Paget, the man who supplied Custer (in 1869) with the revolver he had with him during the last stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
The fate of Custer's dogs after his demise at The Litttle Bighorn is not too well documented. Dutch Salmon, who has looked into it, reports that:
"One hound, Cardigan, went to a clergyman in Minneapolis, who later had the dog mounted on display in a public building."
An ignoble fate, I suppose, but if there a noble use for a dog after death, I am unaware of it. Come to think of it, being stuffed and remembered and awed over by school kids is about as good as a dog can hope for after death. Carry on Cardigan!