This photo has been making the rounds on the internet.
This Swedish eklhound (also known as a “Jämthund”) was killed by wolves after it was left out all night baying a moose.
It was a champion in Swedish moose trials, and there has been a strong selection pressure for a very independent baying dog in this breed.
Of course, with wolves in the area, such independence isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The wolves are estimated to have killed the elkhound at 5 AM that morning, but the owners didn’t bother to go looking for it until after 10 AM.
This exactly the same problem we’re facing with bear hounds in wolf country. We have a hunting culture that celebrates really independent, far-ranging hunting dogs, but a dog that ranges out that far is very likely to run into wolves.
Wolves often regard dogs as interlopers on their turf and kill them on sight.
Wolves are often quite willing to eat the interlopers they kill, whether they are dogs or wild wolves.
We like to think of such behavior as predation, but it’s much more than that. It’s cannibalism.
In Russia, most of their hunting spitzes range in close. That’s because Russia has always been full of wolves, and any dog that goes off too far will wind up wolf meat.
As wolves return to much of their former range, we are going to have to see changes on what is valued in a hunting dog. Wide-rangers might be efficient, but they are also a major liability in wolf country.
Of course, the hunting fraternity will blame the wolves.
That is the game.
But the wolves weren’t doing anything unnatural.
They just came across a strange wolf that couldn’t stop yapping at a moose, so they took care of the intruder in order to protect their hunting grounds.
The killing was a tragedy, but it certainly could have been prevented if closer ranging dogs were more celebrated in that culture.
And in this breed, there is a tendency to celebrate a dog’s baying stamina– there are many apocryphal stories of these dogs baying a moose for days at a time–the owners would have made it come in when they went home.
The culture demands a dog that is always going to be at risk in wolf country.
Only when the culture changes will stories like this one become less common.
I am really sorry that this valued hunting dog met such terrible end.
But we can learn from.
If our minds are open.