Teddy M. sent me a terrific link to an old now-public-domain book from which these pictures are lifted: Hunting Dogs, by Oliver Hartley
A couple of things leap out at me while reading through:
- Many of the old working dogs were as ugly as a muddy river, and;
- People still tell hunting stories with the same humor they always have.
A few lines should suffice to demonstrate that last point:
I had an old speckled hound we called Teddy. He went in and when he backed out he had company with him, and he seemed to think a great deal of his company, for he was hanging right on to him just as though he thought his company might leave him if he got a chance. Ted was doing all he could, but he got him up so the other dogs could see Mr. 'Coon's back and then he had plenty of help and the 'coon's troubles were soon over.
Some coons, but a lot of skunk, and one dog that looks half pit.
The text and pictures are a very good read, for we are reminded that this book was written at about the time we had shot out almost all the game in this great county.
There are many reasons why the 'coon hunt is fast becoming one of the most popular of the manly sports. The 'coon is found in many sections of the United States. Other game is becoming very scarce. The wealthy business man, the man of affairs who is tied to his desk six days out of the week, can own a 'coon hound and in the stilly hours of the night, after the day's turmoil of business, can enjoy a few hours of the most strenuous sport now left to us and witness a battle royal between his faithful hound and the monarch of the forest, the wily 'coon. Nothing that I can contemplate is more exhilarating or more soothing to the nerves than the excitement of the 'coon hunt. From the first long drawn note when the trail is struck until the hound's victorious cry at the tree, it is one round of excitement and anticipation. What or whose hound is leading? What direction will Mr. Coon take? What dog will be first to tree? And then the fight! It is simply great! And then showing the hide to the boys who didn't go, and telling them about it for days to come.
The good news is that 100 years later deer, once scare, are now so common that I saw two on the way to work yesterday morning.
It may be bumper-to-bumper traffic from my house into the city, but I can still hunt deer from the front seat and watch bald eagles nesting while I do it!
Greyhounds said to be of a good type.
As for fox and raccoon, we have never had more animals in the history of this nation. The fecundity of Mother Nature is amazing, and if we will only protect habitat and regulate hunting in a sensible way (and we do), then she is only too happy to get up off the floor and dance a jig for us.
Of course it helps that coon and fox hunting is a little less popular than it once was. And for anyone who wonders why this is the case, the bookhelpfully explains!
The 'coon hunt calls for manhood. Tender weaklings cannot endure the exertions necessary to enjoy this sport. It is too strenuous for the lazy man or the effeminate man to enjoy. They shudder at the thoughts of donning a pair of heavy hip boots and tramping thru swamps and slashes, crossing creeks and barbed wire fences, thru briars and thickets, maybe for several miles, and the probability of getting lost and having to stay all night. But to the man with nerve and backbone this is one of the enjoyable features. It affords great fun to get a tenderfoot to go out for the first time and initiate him into the "'coon hunters' club." The tenderfoot will use every cuss word ever invented and will coin new ones when the supply of old ones becomes worn out and ineffective. He will cuss the briars, cuss the ditches, cuss the creek, cuss the fences, cuss the swamps, cuss the slashes, cuss the man who persuaded him to go, and finally cuss himself for going. But when the excitement of the chase is on and when the fight commences he becomes reconciled; and if good luck is had he is very likely to be the next man to propose another "'coon hunt."
Coonhounds in 1909.
Motley dogs with cased coon skins, and men with carbide lights.
This photo is captioned "fox hound graduates".
Captioned as "foxhounds worthy of the name."
Fox Terrier (what we would now call a Jack Russell)
Some things never change, of course.
The best advice any honest working dog man can give a novice is to stay away from the purebred Kennel Club show dog. As Hartley notes,
The ideal coon dogs of most experienced night hunters are the half bred fox hounds.
True enough today.
The rarest dog in the AKC is the purebred American Foxhound. Who wants a purebred from show lines? No one! And yet foxhounds are as common as stagnant water in this state, and the Masters of Foxhound Association is just an hour up the road from my house. What is rejected is not the foxhound, but the inbred and the nonworking version of these dogs.
Working dogs come with pedigrees too, but those pedigrees mean something, as attached to every dog going back five generations or more is a decent story or two about real work in the field. Not trials with coons in cages, or farm-raised and just-planted birds, or pet sheep trained to follow any man or woman with a stick. Real work.