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Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell TerrierFox hunting in England in the 1800s involved two types of dog. The first was the scenthound, needed to sniff out the quarry and follow its trail. The second was the terrier, used to follow the game underground and chase it out of its hole so that the sport could continue. Because they worked in tight quarters, these terriers were necessarily quite small—so small, in fact, that the hunters usually had to carry them across the field.

But in the mid-1800s, the Reverend Jack Russell decided to improve on the terrier. Known as the “Sporting Parson,” the Reverend Jack loved nothing so much as fox hunting. Based on his experience, he thought that the ideal terrier ought to have two key characteristics:

  • Although small enough to go to ground, it should have proportionately long legs so that it could keep up with the horses.
  • It should be white so that there was no risk of mistaking the dog for the fox and shooting it.

The foundation of the Sporting Parson’s breeding program was humble enough. The Reverend Jack found his ideal terrier in a nondescript mongrel that he purchased from a milkman. What exactly he bred her and her offspring to is completely unknown, although an early type of Wire Fox Terrier was doubtless involved. But the results were evidently satisfactory, as the new breed gained a small but loyal following among fox hunters.

In 1894, the Devon and Somerset Badger Club was founded with the purpose of promoting badger hunts. Jack Russell’s terriers were repurposed to fit the new niche. It is possible that this repurposing involved some crossbreeding, perhaps with the fierce Bull and Terrier breed for a little added tenacity in combating such a ferocious animal as a badger. Some suggest that this mix added a bit of undesirable bloodthirstiness in the breed, so further crossbreeding with pocket Beagles was carried out to mellow the dog down again.

Both repurposing and crossbreeding resulted in the emergence of many types of Jack Russell Terrier. Some were long-legged, the way the Sporting Parson had bred them. Others were short-legged and barrel-chested.

The Jack Russell Terrier made its appearance in America sometime around the 1930s. After World War II, however, hunting with dogs declined in popularity among all but the elite. The Jack Russell Terrier became a fixture on East Coast horse farms for several decades.

While the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA) flatly refused to pursue AKC recognition, in 1985 a faction split off and formed the Jack Russell Terrier Breeders Association (JRTBA) for that very purpose. In 1992, the JRTBA achieved a major milestone with the acceptance of the breed by the United Kennel Club. Shortly thereafter, the JRTBA took advantage of an expansion phase in the AKC with the result that the Jack Russell Terrier was entered into the Terrier Group in 2000.

The JRTCA quickly retaliated with one of the fiercest protests in canine history. This organization actually trademarked the name Jack Russell Terrier and then sued the AKC for using it. The AKC backed down in 2003, simultaneously acknowledging an international trend toward distinguishing between different types of Jack Russell. The AKC changed the name of the breed it recognized to Parson Russell Terrier.

Today, three names are commonly applied to dogs descended from the terriers of the Sporting Parson:

  • Jack Russell Terrier: This name refers to a long-bodied, short-legged type bred for work, registered by both the JRTCA and the United Kennel Club (UKC). The JRTCA claims to preserve the authentic working Jack Russell, paying no heed to the cosmetic appearance of the dog. This organization maintains an open registry, meaning that terriers can be registered regardless of their breed or mix, as long as their pedigrees can be documented. However, in an effort to keep the JRTCA a breed and not a nondescript terrier, all dogs are evaluated against a conformation standard before registry. Although the JRTCA refuses membership to breeders who register dogs with the UKC, the UKC Jack Russell Terrier is nevertheless nearly identical to the JRTCA breed in appearance, and is also bred primarily for work.
  • Parson Russell Terrier: The Parson Russell Terrier is known for a square build stemming from the long legs originally sought after by the Reverend Jack Russell. This version is recognized by both the AKC and the UKC and is extremely popular as a pet. The focus of AKC breeders tends to be more on conformation, while the focus of UKC breeders is more on working ability. Nevertheless, there are no significant differences between AKC and UKC Parson Russells, except that the UKC standard allows for a slightly shorter variety.
  • Russell Terrier: This dog can be considered a separate breed in its own right, as it originated in Australia. Parson Russell Terriers were deliberately bred for a smaller size to fit the unique hunting conditions Down Under. The Russell Terrier is often compared to a Welsh Corgi in shape. It is recognized by the AKC.


Jack Russell TerrierUses

The Jack Russell, in all of his many forms, is an incredibly versatile dog. Show bloodlines tend to be kept as companions, while working bloodlines tend to be used for hunting foxes, badgers, and groundhogs. However, this is a broad generalization. Many show dogs retain a love for hunting small, furry animals, while most working dogs are also treasured pets.

This feisty terrier can be a real asset on a farm. Not only can he rid the barn of rodents and other vermin, but he will happily sound the alert when anything is amiss.

While the Jack Russell can be challenging to train, those who are up to the task can find many ways to enjoy his intelligence. He can be the ultimate trick dog, or he can compete in fast-paced sports such as agility and flyball. And don’t forget the terrier-oriented sport of earthdog, where terriers race against time to sniff their way through a tunnel to a den of rats (safely caged away from harm).

Even though terriers are independent, the Jack Russell can be a great companion and assistant to mankind. He is an adventure-loving hiking partner (on a leash, please), a sharp-nosed detector of contraband, and a determined search-and-rescue worker. When his activity requirements are met, he is also a pleasing therapy dog.



The Jack Russell Terrier may be small, but his personality is larger than life. He fears absolutely nothing, and can find an unlimited number of ways to get himself into trouble. This dog is a bundle of energy—he must have something to do, or he will quickly become testy, destructive, and compulsive. And the something to do must be something strenuous. A quiet walk on a leash will not suffice.

The Jack Russell has to have time outdoors to satisfy his curiosity, but he also must be kept safe, as he is a natural escape artist with a penchant for mischief. He can easily escape physical fencing by digging, climbing, or jumping (some Jack Russells can jump as high as five feet!), and he stubbornly ignores the tingle of an underground fence collar. Therefore, he requires nearly constant supervision.

While he can easily get along with visitors, even if in a slightly reserved manner, the Jack Russell Terrier is jealous and short-tempered, making him a poor choice for homes with small children or most other dogs. A few Jack Russells, however, can learn to accept polite dogs of the opposite sex if raised with them. No Jack Russell can be trusted around cats or pet rodents, but he is guaranteed to love the company of horses.

The Jack Russell Terrier is an intriguing mix of stubbornness and obliging good nature. He thrives on fun and attention, and is smart enough to learn just about anything in seconds. However, he prefers to perform a task once and once only. His hearing is remarkably selective, and he will persistently ignore any command that he feels is stupid or boring. To encourage a Jack Russell to obey the first time every time, the trainer must be firm and consistent, but very positive and upbeat, willing to go to great lengths to reward compliance. Never give way to frustration if your Jack Russell Terrier does not mind—he is not above snapping if he feels that he is being treated unfairly.

There are few dogs as single-minded as a Jack Russell at work. Once he scents his prey, he will follow the trail to the bitter end, regardless of danger or physical discomfort. When the game goes to ground, the Jack Russell will dig in after it. He generally does not bark when at work, but either chases the game back to the surface or holds it in place until help arrives.


Jack Russell TerrierHealth

The Jack Russell Terrier is a hale and hearty little dog. He suffers from no major health problems.

However, note that he is very prone to obesity. Don’t give in to his begging! He’s cute and cunning, but he will live much longer if kept to a slim working weight.

Dislocation of the lens of the eye is a minor genetic problem found in this breed, as is kneecap slippage. Although the latter ailment is not common in Jack Russell Terriers, it is devastating. Crate rest is an important part of the cure, and these active little dogs can become extremely depressed during the process.

Mast cell tumors are also found in Jack Russell Terriers.

Note that when a Jack Russell Terrier is outdoors his feisty temperament can lead him into all sorts of scrapes and accidents, some of which could be fatal. Keep your working terrier safe by fitting him with a tracking collar before sending him underground, and always be ready to dig him out at a moment’s notice. Above all, keep your nose open for any whiff of skunk perfume. Jack Russell Terriers are prone to skunk toxic shock syndrome. If they inhale skunk scent and cannot get back to fresh air on their own, they could die of respiratory failure within minutes. Even dogs that can reemerge safely are at risk of fatal anemia and kidney failure, not to mention unpleasant facial ulcers.



  • Availability.
  • Convenient size.
  • Tidy habits, including no drooling.
  • Minimal grooming needs (especially smooth-coated variety).
  • Toughness.
  • Few health problems.
  • Longevity if protected from accidents.
  • Tenacity when at work.
  • Speed.
  • Endurance.
  • Athleticism.


Jack Russell TerrierCons

  • Unsuitability for homes with small children or other pets.
  • Excessive barking.
  • Tendency to bite.
  • Destructive tendencies.
  • Deeply ingrained desire to dig.
  • Incredible ability as an escape artist.
  • Tendency to wander.
  • Need for extraordinary amounts of exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Constant low-grade shedding of highly visible white hair (especially smooth-coated variety).
  • Need to periodically strip out dead hair of wire-coated version.


Complete Series

Dog BreedsDog Breeds


Buffalo Jones

Buffalo Jones
From left to right: Pawnee Bill, Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Jones

There are many reasons why Charles Jesse Jones could be an interesting person to read about. He grew up on the Illinois frontier when Abraham Lincoln was still a backwoods lawyer. He became a pioneer, a cowboy, and a rancher, but still lived a remarkably clean life, never touching caffeine, let alone spirits. He was a founding member of Garden City, Kansas. He rubbed elbows with Teddy Roosevelt, who eventually appointed him Park Warden at Yellowstone. He even spent a while capturing big game in Africa—with a lasso!

But none of these things gave Charles Jones his claim to fame. His nickname, “Buffalo” Jones, says it all. He has the distinction as being one of the first and most dedicated to save the bison from extinction.

The Inspiration

Incidentally, Buffalo Jones, the rescuer of the bison, started out as a buffalo hunter himself.

Jones had been studying at Illinois Wesleyan University for two years when a bout with typhoid fever changed the course of his life. His poor health convinced him to give up his studies and move west to Kansas. In 1866, he moved to the town of Troy in the northeastern corner of the state, where he married, started a tree nursery, and taught a Sunday school class. Jones was evidently cut out for adventure, however, so while in Troy he decided to try his hand at hunting buffalo.

Selling buffalo hides was a profitable pursuit at the time, so Jones moved his family and his nursery business to Osborne County, arriving on New Year’s Day, 1872. Here he could be close to the great herds of bison. Besides hunting buffalo, Jones earned extra cash by capturing mustangs and taming bison calves to sell at county fairs.

In 1878, Jones moved still further west to help lay out Garden City, and was subsequently elected as the new town’s first mayor. In addition to his duties as mayor, Jones became involved in architecture, real estate, irrigation, and railroads. One would think that these diverse projects would leave little time for thinking about bison, but even then Jones enjoyed training buffalo calves to pull his wagon through the streets of Garden City.

Terrible blizzards hit Jones’s part of Kansas in 1886, killing cattle by the thousands. The catastrophe proved to be an epiphany for Jones. He suddenly realized that bison would never have perished in the cold. At that moment, he also recognized what the West was losing. He appreciated the historical significance and iconic symbolism of the bison. By 1886, Jones was sorry that he had ever become a buffalo hunter.

The Market

Buffalo Jones
Buffalo Jones donning his buffalo fur coat

Jones’s friends regarded him as a visionary, and indeed he was. But he was also a man of action. Buffalo Jones did not waste time lamenting the fate of the bison—he set about to reverse that fate.

Jones recognized early on that if ranchers were going to be interested in saving the bison, the bison was going to have to make himself useful in return. So Buffalo Jones worked diligently to identify potential markets for buffalo.

One potential product that bison could provide was fur. Fur could be collected without killing the buffalo, and it had many uses, ranging from socks to blankets.

Another possibility was breeding buffalo to cattle. Jones hoped that a buffalo/cattle hybrid would provide a profitable beef animal with superior hardiness in range conditions. He also hoped that the “cattalo,” as he called them, would retain the docile temperament of their domesticated parent.

The Rescue

After scouring the area around Garden City for buffalo, Jones was alarmed to realize just how few bison were left. Clearly, there was no time to be lost.

Starting in 1886, Jones began making trips to the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles to capture bison calves. After four trips, he had collected 57 buffalo. These calves were released on his ranch in Garden City. In 1889, Jones added to this herd by purchasing 83 head from Manitoba—nearly all of the bison that were left in Canada at that time!

Jones subsequently collected another large herd at a ranch in McCook, Nebraska. This ranch lasted from 1890 to 1892 and was home to as many as 100 buffalo.

Jones used both herds to supply all who shared his vision of preserving the bison. Some buffalo went to zoos, while others formed herds on private ranches. Ten of Jones’s bison were even shipped to England.

Meanwhile, Jones also worked on breeding cattalo at his Garden City ranch. Here he met with limited success. For one thing, the cattalo were usually sterile. For another thing, they seemed to partake strongly of the wild nature of the bison.

Unfortunately, Jones did not have the means to continue his great rescue. The McCook ranch proved to be a financial failure by 1892. The rest of Jones’s money was lost in the Panic of 1893, so he took part in an Oklahoma land rush that same year, hoping to restore his fallen fortunes. However, in 1895, Jones was forced to sell off his Garden City bison to ranchers further west. Jones next spent some time as a legislator, a railroad promoter, a prospector in the Yukon, the author of an autobiography, and a game warden at Yellowstone National Park.

The Result

In 1906, Jones once again owned a ranch, this time on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here he resumed his experiment of crossing bison with Galloway cattle, with about the same success he had experienced in Garden City. Cattalo never became very popular among ranchers.

But Jones’s broader purpose—saving the bison from extinction—was a resounding success thanks to the breeding stock that he sold around the country. His bison provided the genetic foundation for most of the buffalo alive in the United States today.

Helpful Resource

Charles Jesse Jones
An old photo of Buffalo Jones himself driving a team of buffalo—“Conquered at Last.”

Saving Faith

Saving FaithSaving faith is one of those pivotal topics that are important to get a handle on. Here’s a great sermon by Charles Spurgeon based on Luke 7:50 and 18:42.

After noting the similarity between the two verses (“Your faith has saved you,” and, “Your faith has made you whole”), Spurgeon examines the text to find the answers to three questions:

  1. What was it that saved the two people in these texts?
  2. What kind of faith saved them?
  3. What does this teach us about faith?

Along the way, we will discover many truths:

  • The importance of faith.
  • The foundation of faith.
  • Similarities in the way faith works in all Christians.
  • Differences in the way faith works in all Christians.
  • The certainty of salvation where faith is present.


Irish Setter

Irish SetterThe Irish Setter has a knack for making itself the subject of controversy. A brief examination of its history brings us immediately to the first dispute—the origin of the breed. Something more or less like an Irish Setter has existed in Ireland since the 1700s, albeit in a piebald color. How it came to be there is uncertain.

Most setter breeds involved a cross between a spaniel and a pointer. Experts differ in their opinions on whether this was the case with the Irish Setter:

  • The Irish Setter might have derived solely from spaniels according to an Irish tradition.
  • It could indeed be descended from pointers, based on its physical appearance.
  • What appears to be pointer conformation could be hound conformation inherited from some Celtic breed of scenthound.
  • And of course, there is always the possibility that the Irish Setter owes its existence to the crossbreeding of English and Gordon setters.

In any case, the Irish Setter was from the first bred to point out upland birds for the hunter. In the early days when birds were captured with nets, the setter stealthily crouched (“set”) near its prey and awaited the arrival of human assistance. When firearms were introduced among the landed gentry, the dog adapted to the new circumstances by working ahead of the guns and pointing at the quarry in a more visible fashion.

The second major contoversy within the breed dates to the birth of the dog Palmerston in 1862. He was an unusual sight in that day, boasting a refined head and slim physique that bordered on delicacy. His owner feared that he could not hold up to a day’s work in the field and unceremoniously condemned Palmerston to be drowned. Fortunately for the hapless dog, another man interposed and obtained permission to take Palmerston himself. Palmerston went on to become a top-winning show dog and to sire numerous offspring, gradually taking the breed away from its working heritage. The show type quickly became a fixture in America, as well, and received AKC recognition in 1878.

The remarkable looks and style of the Irish Setter made it wildly popular in America. The race for puppies with refined conformation and striking solid red coats was on. The old-fashioned Irish Red and White Setter became a separate breed, while hunting abilities were lost altogether. Flashy movement was simply not compatible with endurance. By the early 1900s, the Pointer had become the breed of choice in field trials.

In the 1940s, sporting magazines began clamoring for a return to a more practical type of Irish Setter. Many hunters felt that upgrading was necessary, but many hunters also felt that the necessary leadership and support was lacking. A breeder named Ned Le Grande struck out on his own to do the work. He bought as many of the few remaining working Irish Setters in America as he could find, and then imported a few more, regardless of price. These dogs he crossed with red-and-white English Setters with the approval of the Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB) and the understanding that Le Grande’s dogs could be registered with the stud book again after a few generations of breeding back to purebred Irish Setters. Le Grande faced many frustrating circumstances along the way, including everything from field accidents to disease outbreaks, but he nevertheless managed to establish working bloodlines. A few like-minded friends assisted by forming the National Red Setter Field Trial Club to test the abilities of hunting setters.

At that time, the AKC and the Field Dog Stud Book had an agreement to reciprocally register each other’s hunting dogs. The fact that Le Grande had introduced English Setter blood, however, outraged breeders of show dogs. In 1975, the Irish Setter Club of America requested that the AKC end its reciprocal registration agreement. The AKC did end reciprocal registration for Irish Setters, although it continued to register other hunting dogs in the FDSB, and the FDSB continued to register AKC Irish Setters.

Meanwhile, however, new problems were plaguing the Irish Setter. The breed became a tremendously popular pet in the 1960s and 1970s. As always happens under these circumstances, the Irish Setter soon became a prime choice with puppy mills, as well. Health and temperament went by the wayside, creating a fresh headache for fans of the breed.

Repairing the damage of both show fads and puppy mills has taken decades. Real progress did not occur until the breed’s popularity fell sharply. But improvements are being made. At the turn of the millennium, a few breeders began searching for purebred Irish Setters that could still hunt and breeding them for versatility in both the field and the show ring. Progress has been slow, since crossbreeding is not an option if AKC recognition is to be maintained, but the fruits of the breeders’ efforts are just starting to become evident. A new type of Irish Setter has emerged, one that excels in both conformation and working ability.

Meanwhile, for those who just want a good-looking, fun-loving pet, the Irish Setter remains a moderately popular choice. The breed ranks 76th in AKC registration statistics.


Irish SetterUses

Today, there are four variations on the basic Irish Setter theme.

The most common type is still probably the show dog. Irish Setters from show bloodlines are not only good at strutting their stuff in the ring—their indomitable good nature also makes them satisfactory companions, particularly for those who love to spend time outdoors. They are also good therapy dogs. These Irish Setters can make themselves useful as watchdogs, but don’t expect them to serve as a powerful deterrent to trespassers.

Le Grande’s field type, now typically called the Red Setter to distinguish it from the AKC version, is quite a bit smaller than the show dog. It is also less encumbered with coat and may have a few white patches. The Red Setter is a high-octane dog made for serious work. It excels at pointing and retrieving upland game birds for a serious hunter, and performs even better in the grueling world of field trialing. Casual sportsmen may want to seek out a less intense bloodline.

The AKC dual-purpose Irish Setter is not entirely a new development. Soon after Le Grande’s work, show dogs once again began to put in appearances at field trials. Unfortunately, most of these dogs were mediocre in both conformation and hunting skills. Since 2000, however, a few breeders have been perfecting bloodlines for those who want to have it all. The true dual-purpose Irish Setter is still rare, but its numbers and popularity are increasing. It is a great choice for a more casual hunter who values a stylish dog with plenty of bird smarts.

Finally, an even rarer type of Irish Setter bred strictly for the weekend hunter exists. This is the old hunting type, so called because it most closely resembles the original Irish Setters, having been neither selected for show conformation nor crossbred for competitive field trialing.



Few dogs are as energetic and enthusiastic as the Irish Setter. He throws himself wholeheartedly into whatever he does, whether work or play. Owners love his zest for life, as well as his Irish mischief. But be prepared! The Irish Setter wants to be involved in literally everything, whether that is investigating tantalizing smells in the kitchen or welcoming visitors in a headlong fashion. He simply must be exercised vigorously every day, or he will drive the household to distraction with his pent-up energy. Ideally, he will be included in the family’s daily activities, going out for regular adventures. Keep him leashed, however, as he will wander off in search of excitement.

In keeping with his intense approach to life, the Irish Setter loves with a passion. He is thoroughly devoted to his family and would be devastated by being relegated to the backyard. He prefers to stay close to his people, preferably in their laps. He thrives on the company of children and new guests, although he might do unintentional injury by bowling over the small and elderly. He also gets along well with other dogs, although he can be rather irritating to cats and is absolutely untrustworthy with poultry.

Training the Irish Setter is a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, he is smart and eager to please; on the other hand, he is independent and easily bored. A firm master is necessary, as this dog is a master at sneaking out of work. However, this firm master must also be extremely careful to avoid all harshness or nagging, as the Irish Setter will take it as a personal affront, and will never forget the occurrence, either. A balance of positive training methods and a tone of voice that inspires respect is usually all that is necessary for most Irish Setters. When correction is necessary, these dogs take very well to an electronic training collar, as they do not view it as an insult, but as a cue to change their behavior. Keep training sessions short and sweet, especially with puppies, as focusing on one thing takes quite a bit of effort for this breed.

When in the field, hunters should respect the fact that the Irish Setter has unique needs. His attention is primarily directed toward his master, which can be either good or bad depending on the circumstances. He may tend to lean on you for direction, but on the other hand he is a dog that will change his pace to suit yours. But just because he is holding back to better stay in touch does not mean that he is not eager to work. Quite the contrary! The Irish Setter loves nothing more than a day of sniffing out birds. As long as your dog is structurally sound, you will likely wear out long before he does. He has a keen nose that can be trusted implicitly.

Note the differences in temperament and style between bloodlines:

  • The show type typically retains some hunting instinct, but may lack some of the brains of his field counterpart. He is a bit less intense, making him a good pet as long as he receives sufficient exercise. He crouches on the point, just like his earliest ancestors.
  • The field type is incredibly energetic. Although he still likes to keep in touch with the hunter, he may run out a little farther and with more purpose. His stamina is unequaled. When pointing, he keeps his head and tail up, much like a Pointer.
  • The dual-purpose type is somewhat intermediate in personality. However, his hunting instinct is far more solid than that of dogs bred strictly for show.


Irish SetterHealth

A well-bred Irish Setter is healthy and sturdy, although soundness has been sacrificed in some show bloodlines. Note that all Irish Setters mature slowly, sometimes over a period of two or three years. Don’t let that furry bundle of energy trick you into too much roughhousing! Gentle exercise on softer surfaces such as grass is recommended to avoid bone and joint damage.

The Irish Setter’s long, pendulous ears tend to hold in debris and moisture. Regular examination and cleaning is recommended, especially in working dogs.

The most common health problems in the breed are:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Ear infections.
  • Growing pains.
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, a developmental disorder causing lameness and inflammation of the legs.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Megaesophagus (enlarged esophagus).
  • Bloat; this can be prevented by feeding your dog two or three small meals each day.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Bone cancer.
  • Canine leukocyte, a genetic defect that prevents white blood cells from fighting infection.



  • Availability of field and show bloodlines.
  • Suitability for homes with other dogs.
  • Moderate grooming requirements (field bloodlines only).
  • Hardiness.
  • Fertility of breeding stock.
  • Athleticism (field and dual-purpose bloodlines).
  • Stamina.


Irish SetterCons

  • Scarcity of dual-purpose and old hunting types.
  • Separation anxiety.
  • Incredible ability to get into trouble.
  • Training challenges.
  • Exercise requirements.
  • Hefty appetite.
  • Grooming requirements (show bloodlines).
  • Unsuitability for cold climates.


Complete Series

Dog BreedsDog Breeds


The Two Easiest Ways to Attract Hummingbirds

The Two Easiest Ways to Attract HummingbirdsAttracting hummingbirds to your backyard doesn’t have to be complicated! If you want to enjoy the beautiful sight of these tiny creatures hovering outside, there are two incredibly simple ways to put out the welcome mat. One requires a little advanced planning, and one can be implemented today.


Plant Hummingbird-Friendly Flowers

A diverse display of flowers is a sight few hummingbirds can resist. And if a few blooms feature their favorite color—red—so much the better!

The Two Easiest Ways to Attract Hummingbirds
Butterflies love bee balm, too!

Red flowers that hummingbirds enjoy include:

  • Begonia.
  • Columbine.
  • Daylily.
  • Gilia.
  • Hibiscus.
  • Lantana.
  • Peony.
  • Zinnia.
  • Bee balm.
  • Scarlet sage.
  • Trumpet honeysuckle.
  • Red cardinal flower.

But just because it isn’t red doesn’t mean that hummingbirds won’t like it! Other proven favorites include:

  • Foxglove.
  • Geranium.
  • Hollyhock.
  • Impatiens.
  • Nasturtium.
  • Petunia.
  • Phlox.
  • Yucca.
  • Blazing star.
  • Butterfly bush.
  • Purple coneflower.

Note that tube-shaped blossoms help the hummingbirds access the nectar.


The Two Easiest Ways to Attract HummingbirdsFill a Nectar Feeder

Have you ever been tempted to buy a hummingbird nectar mix from your favorite supplier of all things bird-related? Resist the urge! Commercial nectar mixes usually contain artificial colorings and preservatives that are actually harmful to hummingbirds.

Incidentally, the cheapest and easiest solution is actually the best for the birds—just dissolve plain old white cane sugar in clean water in a 1:4 ratio. White sugar is sucrose, which is a major part of the natural diet of a hummingbird. While there are other nutrients hummingbirds need, they will obtain those by sipping out of the flowers you planted for them.

Never feed any of these ingredients to hummingbirds:

  • Honey; it will ferment outdoors and produce deadly bacteria.
  • Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, xylitol, etc.).
  • Minimally processed sugars (sucanat, turbinado, etc.); they contain iron, which is toxic to hummingbirds.

And please do not add red food coloring to your homemade nectar. Red food coloring usually contains red dye #40, which can be toxic to hummingbirds. Instead, alert hummingbirds to the presence of nectar by selecting a feeder that displays red prominently. This one fits the bill, plus does not tend to jettison nectar by blowing around in a strong wind like some models do.


Enjoy the Hummingbirds!

Attracting hummingbirds is easy! With these two easy steps, you’ll be sure to enjoy the tiny creatures this summer. Keep your camera handy!


BirdCastBirdwatchers have long had a few hints and tricks on the best days to go birding (preferably on a cloudy day with low barometric pressure sometime near the peak of migration season). Now scientists have offered us a new tool.

BirdCast, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, periodically releases migration forecasts to help birdwatchers pick the perfect time to spot that rare bird. Find out what bird is heading where nationally and regionally throughout the spring and fall migration seasons based on current weather patterns. For each species on the move, the forecasts predict:

  • Noticeability.
  • Date of arrival.
  • Date of rapid influx.
  • Peak date.
  • Date of rapid departure.
  • Date of final departure.

The computer models used to create these forecasts are based on three important sources of information:

  • Online records from citizen scientists.
  • Recorded flight calls.
  • Weather surveillance radar.

Of course, the result is a model, not an absolute. But it is fascinating to see the ways birds interact with national weather systems.

All is quiet on the bird migration front at present, but be sure to bookmark this site for later. Fall migration will be upon us again before you know it!

Great Pyrenees

Great PyreneesThe Great Pyrenees, or Pyrenean Mountain Dog as it is called in Europe, has guarded sheep in the mountains of France and Spain as long as history records. Its lineage has been entirely lost in time, but it is probably related to the other ancient flock guardian breeds. Its ancestors may have been giant Asian dogs, perhaps the white dogs of Asia Minor or the Tibetan Mastiff from farther east.

In any case, the Great Pyrenees has been preserved intact for thousands of years in fossils and art. The breed has changed surprisingly little since the days it stood guard alone in the mountains. On the French side of the Pyrenees range, the dogs were built identically to modern specimens, but with large black patches in their coats. On the Spanish side, white was the predominate color, but the dogs were more lightly built with tapering noses.

While the Great Pyrenees had an important role in guarding the châteaux as early as the 1400s, it officially became the breed of nobility later, when Louis XIV took one home as a pet. Louis named the Great Pyrenees the Royal Dog of France in 1675, making it a popular choice for many aristocrats.

Lafayette sent the first specimens to America in 1824, when he gave two to a friend. A few more dogs followed in subsequent years, but the breed did not catch on at this time.

By the early 1900s, the Great Pyrenees was in a serious plight. The French Revolution had previously toppled the aristocracy and thus caused the loss of Royal Dog status, returning the breed to its role as a working dog. The Great Pyrenees fared little better in the hands of the commoners, however. The country folk made made some easy cash for a time by selling their poorer-quality puppies to unsuspecting tourists, but in the end eliminated their own canine export market through their unscrupulous practices. While some dogs were still scattered across France, many of these were drafted into the military in World War I, where they served as pack animals, some paying the ultimate price.

The Great Pyrenees was rescued from the brink of extinction after the war through the efforts of Bernard Senac-Lagrange, dog expert and vice president of the French Kennel Club. He searched France for the best specimens, and then created the first written standard for the breed to promote a focus on quality dogs, not the animals that had ruined the breed’s reputation among tourists.

Lagrange made every effort to help breeders in other countries purchase good breeding stock, so it was not long before the Great Pyrenees appeared in America once again. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1933, bringing it further attention as a show dog.

It was extremely fortunate that the Great Pyrenees was firmly established on our shores by the time World War II hit, as in France it was pressed back into military service. The United States military considered the breed too cumbersome to make a good war dog, preferring breeds such as the German Shepherd. This ensured that the future of the Great Pyrenees was secure.

In fairly short order, American breeders managed to sand off some of the rougher edges of this livestock guardian’s temperament, creating a dependably sweet pet and show dog. However, this has not spoiled the breed’s working abilities. The Great Pyrenees is probably the most popular guard dog for sheep and goats in the United States today, as it is both familiar and readily available across the country. Today, the Great Pyrenees ranks 69th in AKC registration statistics.


Great PyreneesUses

There is no question that the Great Pyrenees is an excellent pet and therapy dog. If given his choice, however, he would probably prefer to live outdoors and protect his territory and possessions. He is not only a guardian of livestock, but is a reliable family watchdog, as well.

In cold weather, the Great Pyrenees can do extra work as a pack or draft dog, able to haul a cart full of firewood, tote a sled for the children, or pack along supplies on a hiking trail.

In some parts of the world, the Great Pyrenees is a common choice for search and rescue in the wake of avalanches.



“Gentle giant” may be a cliche, but it is perfectly applicable to the Great Pyrenees. He is a dog that can be trusted implicitly with the safety of the entire family. He is confident and serious, but perfectly sound in disposition. He has a soft place in his heart for anything small, whether a newborn lamb, a young toddler, or even a cat. He can put up with the most feisty little dog, although he may stubbornly resist the addition of another Great Pyrenees of the same sex to the household.

Owners marvel at the intuition of this breed. This trait serves him well. Not only can he readily distinguish between friend and foe, he can be a true companion, as well, responding quietly and kindly to the moods of his people. The Great Pyrenees may not be very demonstrative, but he will often use a paw or a gentle nudge to display his affection.

Just because he is a sweet, loyal dog, do not assume that he can be easily controlled. The Great Pyrenees was bred for millennia to think independently and make his own decisions. He has little interest in taking orders, especially when he sees no purpose for them. Arbitrary obedience exercises might amuse a herding dog, but the Great Pyrenees will view the whole process with obvious disdain. Fortunately, he is naturally quite mannerly, and any additional training in etiquette he needs can be taught naturally during the daily routine, provided that his respect has been earned.

The Great Pyrenees does not have to be a working dog to have a strong territorial instinct. He absolutely must be kept within a fence or on a leash, as he will periodically wander off to expand his range. He strongly distrusts unfamiliar people, dogs, and wild animals of the large, threatening type. However, he will readily learn to accept visitors that you welcome in person. He will regard trespassers with suspicion, particularly if he is of a working bloodline, ever so much more so if he hails directly from France.

No training is needed to shape a Great Pyrenees into a successful livestock guardian—he comes fully equipped with all the instinct he needs. Your role will simply be to introduce him to his flock at a young age. He bonds quickly, and may be ready to work as early as six months of age. On the job, he may appear to be lazy, spending his entire day sleeping. Don’t be fooled, however. The Great Pyrenees can sleep with one ear open. He may patrol at night, but mostly he prefers to deter predators by marking his boundaries. When a potential threat is sighted, his first line of defense is his deep bark. The Great Pyrenees only goes on the offensive if he is convinced that life-threatening danger is impending. Then watch out, because his speed and agility will astonish you.


Great PyreneesHealth

The Great Pyrenees is usually structurally sound, but he does have special needs. He is susceptible to both heat and intense sun. Although it may sound like a good idea, do not shave him down in the summer, as he is prone to sunburn and hot spots. Instead, help him beat the heat by letting him rest in the shade and drink plenty of cool water.

He will continue to physically mature until he is about 1 1/2 years old. To avoid “growing pains” and joint damage, do not roughhouse with him on hard surfaces or let him jump above his elbow height at this time. Fortunately, Great Pyrenees puppies are typically calmer than those of most breeds, so this should not be too much of a problem.

The most common inherited problems in the Great Pyrenees are:

  • Entropion (eyelids that turn inward).
  • Cataracts.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Luxating patellas (slipped kneecaps).
  • Dwarfism.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Cancer, particularly of the bones and reproductive system.


Great PyreneesPros

  • Availability.
  • Suitability for families with children and most other pets.
  • Little doggy odor.
  • Low exercise requirements.
  • Suitability for the coldest climates.
  • Surprisingly low food requirements relative to size.
  • Minimal training needs for working dogs.
  • Strength.
  • Surprising agility.



  • Unsuitability for small homes and yards.
  • Remarkable ability as an escape artist.
  • Night barking.
  • Difficulty of training.
  • Slobber.
  • Extensive shedding.
  • Grooming needs.
  • Unsuitability for hot, humid climates.
  • Short lifespan.


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