Posts Tagged ‘James Oliver Curwood’

One of my favorite films when I was a kid was The Bear. It was roughly based upon James Oliver Curwood’s The Grizzly King: A Romance of the Wild, and although it was supposed to take place in British Columbia, it was filmed in the Dolomites of Austria and Italy.

The film follows the story of a brown bear cub that becomes orphaned and finds an adoptive father in a massive boar, played by the famous Kodiak, Bart the Bear. Meanwhile, a pair of fur trappers and market hunters comes into the great bear’s range, and try as they might, they cannot kill the big bear.

In one attempt on the big bear’s life, one of the hunters goes back up the river and brings back a pack of hunting dogs. One of these dogs is an Airedale, and she is mortally wounded fighting the big bear in the rocks.

In the original Curwood novel, the whole pack consisted of Airedales. In the early twentieth century, the Airedale was promoted as the ultimate hunting dog for the American sportsman. Even if the dogs often failed to meet the high demands for hunters, Curwood would have been aware that this breed was promoted as a great big game dog.

However, except for that one dog, the pack consists of Beaucerons. When I first saw this movie, I was quite aware of dog breeds, and I thought it odd that North American bear hunters would use a pack of herding dogs.

I suppose the filmmaker who made this film, Jean-Jacques Annaud, wanted a dog that could be trained to show dramatic aggression on film. Most of the French hounds would have been out of the question for this role, but hot Beaucerons would not have been hard to acquire.

So for dramatic effect the Beaucerons were the hunting dogs in this film. At one point, the little bear becomes the captive of the two hunters and is tethered near a wounded Beauceron. The Beauceron realizes that the bear cub is that close, and the dog tears after its quarry. The dog is also tied up, and the cub and dog chase each other around trees, becoming quite tangled.

The two wind up tightly fast in their tangling that the cub and the dog are left facing each other. The Beauceron barks wildly in its protection-trained bark, and at that point, I realized the breed was a better choice, even if it strained my adolescent credulity.

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