Posts Tagged ‘hounds’

From a Life Magazine article called “Death of a Bobcat” (3 December 1945).

There is a whole photo montage of these hounds baying up a bobcat ion Oregon.

The title of the article sort of gives away the ending.

Yes.  Old Spot dispatches the bobcat.

So if you’re a little sensitive about dogs killing things, I would suggest that you not go to the link to the Life article.

Such an article would not appear in a national magazine like Life today.

If it did, there would be a very negative tone to the whole piece and either the HSUS or PETA (People Euthanizing Thousands of Animals) would be quoted.

This bobcat suffered very little in its life– no more so than any wild animal would.

Its death at the jaws of a dog is no more horrific than if it had been killed by a natural predator, which in Oregon at this time, would have been the cougar.

In terms of the amount of suffering the animal experienced in its life, it suffered far less than most farmed animals– certainly less than the bobcats and lynx that are farmed for their fur.

Today, if Old Spot were still alive, he would be deemed a vicious animal, even though he was most likely a friendly old Walker hound that had no more interest in biting someone than he would in driving a car.

Dogs and humans have become “more domesticated” since then– at least in the eyes of too many.   The same too many who have spent their lives too far away from the natural world. The natural world is violent by necessity. It is not moral in its violence either.  It is simply violence– poetic and sweet in its timelessness and amorality. For it will be the same when our species, the species that actually has power to destroy the whole of animate creation in a nuclear holocaust, becomes extinct.

Too many people think that predatory behavior by either is inherently evil. Too many people believe that hunting is a form of sadism. And to hunt with dogs is somehow analogous to Michael Vick’s dog fighting escapades.

It simply is not.

The bobcat had ample opportunity to avoid the hounds. Perhaps it could take to the trees or double back on its trail to fool the hounds. Hounds are not infallible in their sniffing. If they were, every hound would bag something every time he gets taken out.  If the hounds are timorous, a bobcat can bluff its way out of the situation, or cat could box some ears and send the dog back home in disgrace.

Dog fighting has as much to do with this type of hunting as the Roman circuses did.  Gladiatoral events aren’t about fair chase. They were always about guaranteed pain and suffering.  That is not the case in a fair chase hunt with hounds. There is always a very good chance that the prey will escape.

Bobcats evolved to experience some level of predation. They are mesopredators, generally living on diets of rabbits and small game. Some, like the ones in West Virginia, do eat a lot of deer.  Before colonization and European settlement, the bobcats had to worry about both wolves and cougars. Now, they worry about nothing. A coyote might take a kitten here and there, but they have no real predators once they reach adulthood.

Hunting these cats allows something like natural predation to occur.  Numbers get checked a bit.

Hunting them with hounds also put the fear of God into all the bobcats that escape the dogs, teaching them to avoid people and dogs at all costs.  Bobcats can become nuisances around poultry, kids, and lambs, but if they are hunted with both dogs and people, they learn to stay away from us.

That reduces conflict between agricultural enterprises and wildlife– always a positive thing for those of us who truly appreciate nature.

To defend hunting is not to say that one is a Republican or a conservative. I am neither of those things.

But one thing I do resist is this sort of “cultural imperialism by yuppies” that is being waged in the post-materialist West.

If such a thing were done to traditional hunting cultures in other parts of the world, the very same people would be crying foul. How can Israel ban hunting with Salukis? That’s so disrespectful to the Bedouin culture!  How can the government of Brazil ban aboriginal hunting?  That’s cultural imperialism!

I agree with those sentiments in both of those cases, but I apply the same standard to my own society.

And for that, I probably won’t get a lot of plaudits from some sectors.

But it is morally consistent.

One cannot obsess over the life of every animal.  Having different standards for different species appears to be something like racism. The analogy is false, of course, for we do recognize that some animals have value as individuals (dogs and cats) and others have value as species (livestock and wild animals). Humans have always categorized animals in such ways, and we have good reasons for doing so.

The animals we love have intrinsic value as individuals because they do not exist a ecological or biological entities. They exist within the frameworks of our societies.

Livestock also exists within human society, but the purpose of their existence is also fundamentally different. They have been developed to be a food source. Not every person can be a vegan and thrive. Not every person wants that lifestyle.  Thus, we have to have a different category for livestock, and livestock must exist.  There will never be “animal liberation.”  If humans were like gorillas in their dietary needs and desires, maybe.

The animals we keep for vivisection also have an important reason for being. There are simply no alternatives to vivisection in every circumstance, and if I have to choose between a cure for Alzheimer’s and cancer and the lives of any animals, I choose the cure. The danger in choosing otherwise is to diminish the value of human life, which we recognize has value simply because each of us understands and values our own existence. When we diminish the lives of our fellow humans, we diminish the value of our own existence. Thus, if we are to truly value ourselves and others, we have to accept that some vivisection has to happen– and we must categorize these animals differently.

Wildlife also has a distinct category for a good reason. Wild animals exist beyond our strictures. There was a time in human history when we viewed wild animals according to the value or cost they provided to our civilization. Fish stocks were valued because they provided cheap and readily accessible protein. Wolves were hated because they killed livestock– a cost to our society. Now, we view these animals differently. We still have those metrics, but those metrics are checked and distorted by our conscious effort to preserve wildlife. I do not view this development as a negative aspect at all, but it is still a far cry from valuing these animals as individuals. Nature never valued these creatures as individuals. The ecosystems in which they exist values them in what they provide to the whole. The species matters, not the individual. Thus, when we rationally discuss managing wildlife, we think about ecosystems and species, not individual animals. If we did, we would be wasting a lot of time and energy, and we’d run into conflicts:  Should we cull the introduced arctic foxes on the Aleutians to save the seabird colonies? If we value the foxes as individuals in the same way we value dogs, we cannot value the ecosystem at all. The foxes would have the same right to exist on the islands as the seabirds and could not be killed.

Because we have different values for different animals and have very good reasons for doing so, there are very good reasons why we view different animals differently. It is entirely rational– and entirely acceptable from a moral sense.

Some animals are more equal than others for a very good reason.

And we should accept it.



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From George Turberville’s The booke of Hunting (1576).

All sorts of ways to hack around on your dog, get it drunk on wine, and make sure it ingests a ton of black pepper!

My favorite malady for which Turberville’s prescription for keeping “Bytches from going proud.” I have a lot of problems with “proud Bytches” these days, so I was quite interested in how to prevent this condition:

Before a Bytche haue had whelpes, giue hir euery morning nyne dayes together, nyne graynes of Pepper in hir meate, and she shall not become proude. Put them in to hir, in some cheese, or breade, or hard meate (pg. 234).

It should be noted that the only hunting Turberville mentions is “venery,” which is hunting with scent hounds. The  original word “hunting” originally only referred to venery. The word is etymologically connected to the word “hound.” Hunting originally referred  only to using scent hounds to pursue game. The word has since lost its very specific meaning and now means any act of pursuing game with or without dogs.

The illustrations of bloodhounds in this book are quite, um, different. The dogs don’t look much like any bloodhound I’ve ever seen!

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Warning: Totally fictitious dog breed history in this post!

Mississippi swamp hounds do not make good foxhounds. Here, we see them allowing a fox to infiltrate their pack. However, a fox hunter might be able to use a pack like this. All he has to do is take the pack to a gatorhole, and all the hounds will go in, leaving the fox exposed and easily dispatched with use of a firearm.

Mississippi swamp hounds do not make good foxhounds. Here, we see them allowing a fox to infiltrate their pack. However, a fox hunter might be able to use a pack like this. All he has to do is take the pack to a gatorhole, and all the hounds will go in, leaving the fox exposed and easily dispatched with use of a firearm.

Derived from dogs brought to Mississipi by de Soto’s men, the Mississippi swamp hound was bred to hunt alligators. It is believed to be part Spanish war mastiff, Cuban bloodhound, turnspit, Belgian Trekhon, and red wolf . It is also believed to have a touch of very stupid retriever in its background, although some people claim that it’s actually very stupid poodle-type breed called a “Portuguese water hound.”

Now  to hunt an alligator, a dog needs a good nose, but to hunt them effectively, the dog must entice the ‘gator to the hunter’s rifle. The best way to do this for the dog to jump into the body of water to toll in the big ‘gators. Of course, most normal hounds and curs have sense enough to stay out of gatorholes. That’s where an unusual selective breeding program was attempted.

So ‘gator hunters in Mississippi developed a plan– breed for dogs that have no sense whatsoever. They bred dogs that licked themselves in intersections to other dogs that thought chasing trains on the railroad was just like chasing cats.

After several generations, they developed a dog with such superior stupidity that it could easily bring in the ‘gators. In fact, it was the alligator hunter’s breed of choice, and it is widely believed that this hound is credited with nearly making the American alligator extinct.

Today the breed is widely praised for its stupidity. You can leave one in a backyard with the gate open all day, and the dog will stay right there. And you can also take your Mississippi swamp hound shark fishing or cougar hunting.

However, this breed has been banned from importation into Australia, India, and Cameroon, for it is belied to be so effective at attracting species of endangered crocodilians to the hunters’ guns that it could be very detrimental to fragile crocodile populations.

The Mississippi swamp hound has just been moved to the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class, where a standard is being drawn up. However, it is feared that forcing this breed into the AKC registry will harm its unique working abilitiess

Dissident Swamp hound owner Jimbo “‘Possum Face” Magoo complains that “The AKC won’t let me breed any stupid mutts into my breeding program, and once they start competing in competitive obedience, they’ll make them smart.  Then they won’t want to jump in the water with the ‘gators no more. I guess I’ll just have to do it myself!”

Magoo and his ‘gator hunters comrades have formed their own registry,  The Working Mississippi Swamp Hound Association. Their standard is based upon behavioral and functional comformation. “A swamp hound must be dumber than a rock, but he must swim better than one,” says their breed standard.

Average life expectancy for a Mississippi swamp hound is 12-14 years for a nonworking dog. The life expectancy of a working swamp hound is dependent upon the temperature of the water in which he swims. If the water is below 68 degrees, the alligators lose their appetite and don’t want to eat the dog. If the water is warmer, then live expectancy is largely determined on how fast the dog can swim.

Don’t expect one to be good at competitive obedience or watch dog work. However, a Mississippi swamp hound is a good dog to have if you work long hours. When you leave the house, they don’t know you’re even gone at first, and when they do figure out you’re gone, they’ll spend the rest of the day looking for you. Now that’s piece of mind.

Who says you need a smart dog? Sometimes stupidity is just what you need.
And in this case, it is functional behavioral conformation.

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