Foxtail barley (Hordeum jubatum) receives its common name from its unique bushy inflorescence, or flower, which is similar in shape to the tail of a fox. This flower averages about two to five inches long and is soft and greenish or purplish. Its fluffy appearance comes from the awns, which can measure up to three inches long. Each yellowish-brown seed typically has four to eight awns, and it is also armed with tiny barbs along the edges. Read More
Foxhounds had a long tradition in Virginia, earning a place on large plantations well before the American Revolution. However, after the war, Americans began moving westward, taking their dogs with them. In the backwoods of the South, they started to run into difficulties—foxhounds were bred to chase foxes across the land to their burrows. Many American game animals could climb trees, confusing the dogs.
In the first half of the 19th century, breeders set to work to remedy the situation. The English Foxhounds were crossed with Irish Foxhounds, a red breed known for its drive, fast pace, and keen sense of smell. This mix was probably the most influential combination used to produce a hound that could drive a raccoon or opossum right up a tree. However, other hounds from the British Isles may have been involved, as well as the cur, a Southern landrace perhaps best defined as any dog of any parentage that could hunt, herd, and guard the farm.
As time went on, coon-hunting dogs began to solidify into specific breeds. Each breed had a distinctive appearance, derived from the unique combination of hounds that went into its gene pool. One of the favorite breeds was a red dog, sometimes with white markings and sometimes with a black saddle patch. This type was popular by the late 1800s and was known as the Saddleback or the Redbone, perhaps from the hallmark color or perhaps from the name of coonhound breeder Peter Redbone.
The fledgling United Kennel Club, a performance-oriented registry, first recognized the Redbone Coonhound in 1902. By this time, many breeders had developed a preference for the solid red coloring, eliminating both the saddle and the white markings. Hunting abilities weakened for a time while the color goal took precedence, but the setback was short-lived. The competitive “nite hunt” emerged as a way for coon hunters to compare the merits of their dogs, spurring the breed to better and better performance.
Books and movies made the Redbone Coonhound somewhat more familiar to the general public than some of the other coonhound breeds. The breed was sufficiently widespread and well documented to achieve AKC recognition in 2009. While it is only the 143rd most popular AKC breed and is very rare outside of North America, the Redbone Coonhound remains a top choice among coon hunters across the nation.
The Redbone Coonhound is first and foremost a hunting dog, known primarily for treeing raccoons, either for fur or for competition. However, he is versatile enough to trail anything that leaves a scent, including opossums, deer, and formidable game such as bears and cougars.
Because the Redbone is more people-oriented than some of the other coonhound breeds, he can also make a good house pet provided that he is raised indoors from a young age. But his athleticism and working heritage must still be respected—a pet Redbone Coonhound needs plenty of exercise and will get along best with an outdoorsy owner who spends a lot of time hiking, jogging, or biking.
The Redbone Coonhound makes a good watchdog.
The Redbone Coonhound, for all his hunting instinct, is an easygoing dog. He loves people of all stripes, young and old, but is particularly loyal to his own people. He thrives on attention and enjoys being a part of the family. Once mature enough to control his enthusiasm, the Redbone is a great choice for homes with children, as he can put up with just about anything. He also gets along well with other dogs, but is somewhat unreliable around cats.
For a hound, the Redbone is surprisingly trainable, being gifted with intelligence and a strong desire to please. However, formal training bores him—there are too many exciting smells to track down to waste time drilling mundane maneuvers. Respect his limited attention span and keep training sessions short, sweet, and rewarding. Also, avoid resorting to force or domineering actions. Although afraid of very little, the Redbone Coonhound is sensitive at heart and will be devastated if his beloved master treats him harshly.
Creative thinking is the Redbone’s strong suit. He loves to explore and he hates to be left alone, so the backyard must be coonhound-proofed if he will be spending time there unsupervised. The fence should be high, sturdy, and sunk low enough into the ground to prevent tunneling.
On the trail, the Redbone Coonhound’s laid-back demeanor vanishes entirely. He travels fast and stops for nothing. Coonhounds usually work in packs, individuals coming and going periodically as they search for the trail. When a dog finds the scent, he bays loudly to alert the rest of the pack. The dogs then follow the trail through thick and thin until the raccoon is treed. Then the job of the coonhounds is to wait at the bottom of the tree and bay repeatedly, preventing the quarry from escaping until human assistance arrives.
The Redbone Coonhound is rugged and hardy, with no serious genetic defects known in the breed. He can easily live for a long time and enjoy good health nearly every day of his life.
A few bloodlines suffer from hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy, but these problems are not widespread throughout the breed.
Hunting injuries are the most common complaints among Redbones. Also, note that the breed’s long, floppy ears are prone to infection if not regularly cleaned. This is particularly important after a swim—the Redbone loves to swim.
- Suitability for families with children and other dogs.
- Minimal grooming requirements.
- Excellent health.
- Rugged build.
- Keen nose.
- Voice that can be heard a long way off.
- Musty body odor.
- Voice that can be heard a long way off.
- Untrustworthiness around cats.
- Ability as an escape artist.
- Need for a light touch in training.
- Exercise requirements.
- Poor cold tolerance.
Sometime after 1650, a new kind of dog came into being all across Europe. This dog was the result of mixing various breeds of foxhound, bloodhound, greyhound, and setting spaniel types. Its original purpose was to partner with greyhounds in chasing down hares. The new dog went ahead of the hunters to sniff out the quarry. On finding the game, it froze in a crouching position, attention riveted on the hare. Then the greyhounds were released to begin the chase.
This new type of dog became known as the Pointer due to its unique purpose. Within a few years, nearly every European county had its own version. But the concept of pointing dogs perhaps achieved its greatest height in Great Britain.
For the next two hundred years or so, the English Pointer was a work in progress, as the instinct and appearance of the breed was continually improved and as it was adapted to changing trends in hunting. The first major change came after about 1700, when the flintlock gained in popularity among the aristocracy and wealthy young men took up shooting birds on the wing as a pastime. Because loading a flintlock was a slow process, hunters needed a dog that would patiently remain pointing as long as necessary. A more visible upright stance was also preferred.
To achieve these goals, pointer-type dogs from Spain were imported. While the Spanish pointers did bring with them the desired pointing behavior, they also introduced some serious flaws, including a slow, ponderous working pace and a fierce resentment of discipline in all forms.
Fortunately, the mellow setter was able to correct these defects. Repeated crossbreeding with several different setter breeds, particularly throughout the 1800s, sped up the gait and softened the unstable personality of the Pointer. But the keen nose and dedicated hunting instinct remained. Effective and elegant, the Pointer quickly became a favorite breed among the landed gentry.
The second half of the 19th century saw the Pointer taking up residence in the United States. The breed always remained close to its working background, becoming a favorite choice for quail hunters in the South. However, about the time of the Pointer’s arrival on our shores, dog showing grew popular among the American elite. Pointers were early on a natural choice, due to their sleek appearance and innate charisma. In fact, Westminster Kennel Club was founded as a shooting club by a group of Pointer and setter enthusiasts. In 1876, the club members imported a Pointer named Sensation for breeding purposes, and the following year decided to start a dog show. Sensation is featured on the Westminster Kennel Club logo to this day.
But regular appearances in the show ring did not change the Pointer much. It still remained a hunting dog first and foremost, becoming more prevalent at field trials than setters in the early 1900s. It ranks only 117th in AKC registration statistics, partly because it has never been popular as a family pet. But where bird hunters can be found, the Pointer can also be found. It has a particularly loyal following in the South, where it is simply known as the “bird dog.”
There are three variations on the Pointer, each with a different purpose:
- American field type: This is a high-octane dog built primarily for competitive field trialing. He has the drive and stamina to work for hours at a time, usually well ahead of the hunter.
- AKC field type: This version is also bred for field trials, albeit the more laid-back AKC trials. The AKC field Pointer retains the instinct to hunt birds, but works at a slower pace and sticks closer to the hunter. This makes him a good choice for casual weekend shooting.
- Show type: Pointers from show bloodlines are less active than their field counterparts (less active being relative). Besides strutting their stuff in the ring, show-bred Pointers can make good pets, watchdogs, and jogging companions for active families.
The Pointer lives with intensity. Although sweet and loyal, hunting instinct is what drives this dog throughout his day. He is a hot-blooded canine with boundless energy and alert senses. He loves nothing better than to run. Keep him fenced for his safety, and provide him with an outlet for his energy to keep him sane.
With his exercise needs provided for, the Pointer is an excellent family member, as he is loving, friendly to all, and innately clean in his habits. Puppies can be too rough in their play for small children or for seniors, but an adult Pointer who has been taught manners is affectionate and playful enough to be a very satisfying children’s companion. He is also amiable with other dogs. However, the Pointer is not trustworthy with cats, and under no circumstances should he be left unsupervised with other birds, whether pets or poultry.
Although always willing to put in an honest day’s work, the Pointer can be exasperatingly difficult to train because of his stubborn streak. He must first be convinced that you are a kind but strong-minded pack leader. Then he must be duly exercised to work off his excess energy. Provided that these conditions are met, the Pointer will learn with time, and he will never forget the lessons.
Note the differences between the various Pointer bloodlines. All are extremely energetic. However, the American field type is by far the most driven. The show type retains the breed’s competitive streak, but is content to channel that energy into posing and trotting. The AKC field type is intermediate in personality.
Working Pointers are born, not made. They may begin pointing as early as eight weeks of age. In the field, this dog will travel considerable distances in a short amount of time, pressing forward with one goal in mind—to find birds. He works with his head up, sniffing the breeze. On finding his quarry, he freezes into a point, head low. If the hunter needs a little extra assistance, the Pointer will be more than happy to track down dead or wounded birds. The one thing he will not readily do is retrieve.
The Pointer is everything a working dog should be—rugged and sturdy. Very few inherited problems exist within the breed, and these turn up only occasionally. Field injuries, particularly damage to the thin-skinned tail tip, are the most common difficulties that owners will run up against.
Otherwise, the most frequently observed health problems in the breed are:
- Eye problems.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Skin allergies.
- Suitability for families with children and other dogs, particularly when mature.
- Tidy habits.
- Minimal shedding.
- Minimal grooming needs.
- Heat tolerance.
- Good health.
- Desire to hunt.
- Fast working pace.
- Untrustworthiness around cats and birds.
- Difficulty of training.
- Very high exercise requirements.
- Cold intolerance.
- Poor retrieving instinct.
Water dogs have been important to Canadian fishermen since the 1600s. Dogs were used for everything from retrieving nets to towing boats. Short-haired dogs were preferred, as their coats did not collect ice, but few other specifications were viewed as important. Depending on where they were from, Canadian dogs were referred to as Newfoundlands, Labradors, or St. John’s Dogs.
Because the Canadian water dogs also had an aptitude for fetching ducks out of the water, English ships that visited North America often brought back a few dogs for hunting purposes. By the early 1800s, one man in particular had taken a fancy to the Canadian retrievers. This was the second Earl of Malmesbury. Finding them to be perfect hunting companions, he had several imported and became the first serious breeder.
It was fortunate for the water dogs that they found a patron at this time, as during the 1800s a heavy tax was placed on dogs in Canada, driving them nearly to extinction in that country. At roughly the same time, further importations became virtually impossible as strict quarantine laws were implemented in England. The Flat-Coated Retriever was the most popular hunting dog among most of the aristocracy, so breeding short-haired water dogs ended up being primarily a family project.
The third Earl of Malmesbury carried on his father’s work with the assistance of his friends, the Duke of Buccleuch and the Earl of Home. The Earl of Malmesbury set the stage for the modern breed in two ways:
- Giving it a name (Labrador, for some unknown reason, even though his dogs primarily traced back to Newfoundland).
- Producing the foundation animals of the breed, Avon and Ned, which the Duke of Buccleuch bred to other Canadian water dogs. Most modern Labrador Retrievers trace back to Avon, Ned, and the duke’s dogs.
By 1903, the Labrador Retriever was distinctive enough to be recognized by the Kennel Club in England. At first, nearly all of the Labs recognized were black, as that color was fashionable among the gentry. However, a dog named Ben of Hyde was born in 1899 and went on to become the first registered yellow Lab in history.
The AKC recognized the Labrador as early as 1917, despite the fact that the breed was barely established and hardly known on our shores at the time. However, the AKC gave the Lab sufficient press to spark an interest among hunters. From the late 1920s into the 1930s, numerous retrievers were imported, accompanied by Scottish retriever trainers. These early Labs were typically considered both show and working dogs. There was no dichotomy in the breed in those days.
The Labrador Retriever skyrocketed to popularity after World War II, probably because it was not just a good hunting dog but an outstanding pet. It reached the very top position in AKC registration statistics in 1991, and has remained there ever since. The population of Labradors in America is mind-boggling—the AKC alone registers over 100,000 every year, and we can only speculate on the number of Labs that aren’t registered.
There is little that a Lab can’t do. He can serve man by barking at intruders, guiding the blind, sniffing out bombs, rescuing drowning victims from the water, and searching for missing persons. He can become a partner in adventure, whether that is hiking, jogging, or sledding. He can perform with style in canine sports ranging from obedience to agility. Or he can just cuddle up on the couch and be a friend.
Note that, these days, there is a pronounced divide between show and working bloodlines. The show bloodlines (sometimes incorrectly called “English”) are less athletic than their field counterparts due to their stockier build. Dual-purpose Labradors are a thing of the past.
If you are looking for a big, mellow, laid-back dog full of fun, the Labrador Retriever may be the perfect choice for you. While he is steady and even-tempered, he is always ready to play. Two of his favorite things in life are children and water. Make his day complete by giving him something to retrieve. (In fact, unless properly trained, he may absent-mindedly take people’s hands in his mouth just for the sake of carrying something around.)
Don’t be fooled by his authoritative bark—the Labrador Retriever loves everyone. He is a watchdog that likes to have a key position on the welcoming committee. His sweet, outgoing nature makes him a good choice in homes with other pets, including cats and other dogs.
Note, however, that even the Lab needs something to do. He is energetic and athletic. Left to his own devices, he may chew furniture, go dumpster-diving, or even wander out of the yard in search of adventure. However, he loves human companionship and is eager to please. Meet his requirements for physical and social activity by including him in your daily life.
Some breeders feel that females are more independent than males, while all Lab owners agree that puppies can be a real handful. While they don’t mean any harm, a Lab under two or three years of age can accidentally injure the young and the old with their over-zealous greetings. They also need plenty of toys and games of fetch to satisfy their instinct to chew.
Personalities also vary with bloodline. The show dogs tend to be the easy-going couch potatoes, while the hunting dogs are the perpetual motion machines.
A working Labrador Retriever in the field is incredibly single-minded. He can work ahead of the hunter to flush upland game, or he can swim to retrieve fallen waterfowl. He’s not particular—any task that combines water and retrieving is his favorite thing to do.
Overall, the Labrador Retriever is a healthy breed. Many of his difficulties can be avoided by paying attention to his weight. Most Labs have a genetic defect that causes an appetite disproportionate to their calorie needs. At the same time, this defect causes them to gain weight easily. The result is that many, many Labs are obese, which can lead to more severe conditions such as diabetes and joint problems. That appetite can also get Labs in trouble through eating inedible objects.
The most common health problems in Labs are:
- Retinal dysplasia.
- Progressive retinal atrophy.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Elbow dysplasia.
- Patellar luxation (slipped kneecaps).
- Osteochondritis dissecans, a painful joint condition in which cartilage and bones die and crack.
- Skin allergies.
- Mast cell tumors.
Dogs that spend a considerable amount of time in the water need special care. Regularly clean your Lab’s ears after a swim to prevent ear infections. Also note that some Labs experience an unusual condition after swimming or roughhousing called “cold tail.” In this condition, the dog’s tail abruptly goes limp, hanging down straight or at an unusual angle. Although it may irritate the dog for a while, cold tail does not appear to be serious, probably being similar to a sprain. It will correct itself in a few days.
- Adaptability to most lifestyles.
- Suitability for families with children and other pets.
- Ability to get along with strangers.
- Minimal barking.
- Minimal grooming needs.
- Cold tolerance.
- Few health problems.
- Keen nose.
- Abundance of irresponsible breeders (beware of breeders touting rare colors, as these people are usually just taking advantage of a genetic mutation to make a fast dollar).
- Ability as an escape artist.
- Need for plenty of attention.
- Exercise needs.
- Seasonal shedding.
- Susceptibility to obesity.
Fox 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.
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.
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.
- Convenient size.
- Tidy habits, including no drooling.
- Minimal grooming needs (especially smooth-coated variety).
- Few health problems.
- Longevity if protected from accidents.
- Tenacity when at work.
- 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
- 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).
- Fertility of breeding stock.
- Athleticism (field and dual-purpose bloodlines).
- 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.
All British retrievers trace back to the same source—the Canadian water dogs imported in large numbers in the early 1800s, variously called Newfoundland or St. John’s dogs. The shorthaired version of this cold-hardy, water-loving working breed evolved into the modern Labrador Retriever. However, a furrier type was also known and imported. This was called the Wavy-Coated Retriever, now known as the Flat-Coated Retriever.
Retrievers under any name were valued by the British aristocracy of the early 1800s as indispensable hunting partners. The advent of reliable long-range guns had created a demand for a dog that could run long distances to pick up fallen birds, particularly where bodies of water were involved.
One early breeder of gundogs was Sir Dudley Majoribanks, the first Baron of Tweedmouth, who lived just north of the Scottish border with Britain. As early as the mid-1800s, he was carefully breeding retrievers with excellent working ability, but he had different tastes than most in his day. Lord Tweedmouth preferred a stronger, more robust dog than was the fad, and he also liked a biddable retriever that would focus on its master. But this was not all. Even though black was the most popular color in Lord Tweedmouth’s time, he loved dogs with shining golden coats.
Accordingly, Lord Tweedmouth bought a yellow Wavy-Coated Retriever named Nous in 1865 from a cobbler who had received the dog in payment of a debt. Today, Nous would be virtually indistinguishable from a registered Golden Retriever. Besides his wavy, golden hair, he had the powerful physique that Lord Tweedmouth sought. In 1868, he bred Nous to Belle, a representative of a curly-coated breed known as the Tweed Water Spaniel, which is now extinct. Their four puppies (Crocus, Cowslip, Primrose, and Ada) were all a perfect golden color.
Lord Tweedmouth evidently liked the results of this cross, as for several more generations, he linebred to both Nous and Belle. When outside blood was needed, he introduced another Tweed Water Spaniel, a few more black Wavy-Coated Retrievers, and an Irish Setter. He bred for good working ability, but the primary criterion for future breeding stock out of each new litter was color. Legends persist that other breeds were involved, such as the Bloodhound and some type of Russian sheepdog purchased at a traveling circus. These may very well be myths. However, we will probably never know for certain, as Lord Tweedmouth did give some of his dogs to friends and family, and few of them kept records as meticulously as Majoribanks himself.
The golden descendants of Nous probably first appeared in the United States with the two youngest sons of Lord Tweedmouth in the late 1800s. One of the boys was sent to the baron’s expansive Rocking Chair Ranche in Texas, while the other was given a smaller ranch in what is now North Dakota. The breed evidently caught on among hunters in short order, although at first it was merely considered a variation on the Flat-Coated Retriever.
The American Kennel Club first recognized the Golden Retriever as a breed in its own right in 1925. It remained relatively uncommon across the country until the 1930s, as it was kept solely for hunting purposes. After 1930, however, the breed was adopted as a favorite pet and showdog, a status it has retained ever since. Today, the Golden Retriever is the third most popular dog in America.
The Golden Retriever’s biddable nature makes him a versatile dog. He is first and foremost the perfect pet, loving nothing better than to shower his family with affection and maybe earn a reward with a few tricks. He can also make a good watchdog, although scaring away intruders is not his strong suit. Few breeds make better therapy dogs or better assistance partners.
Nearly always represented in dog sports of all kinds, the Golden Retriever can be trained for anything from agility to tracking to flyball. The obedience ring is where this breed really shines, however.
The Golden Retriever is still suitable for hunting and field trialing. He willingly retrieves both waterfowl and upland game birds.
The breed has a keen nose that can be put to good use in many tasks typically associated with “tougher” dogs. For example, Golden Retrievers regularly work in search and rescue, and they have been quite successful at drug and explosive detection.
No breed loves people more than the Golden Retriever does. He wins friends wherever he goes through his sweet nature and his perpetually wagging tail. Although he never meets a man he doesn’t like, he is a loyal dog who loves to spend quality time with his own family. Most Golden Retrievers are happiest indoors, where they can join in any activity taking place. He will be rambunctious as a youngster, but he is not at all willful, and will readily learn not to destroy personal property if provided with sufficient exercise. Channel his energy into learning manners, tricks, and games involving retrieving. He loves to please his people and will soak up all that you can teach him.
The Golden Retriever is ideally suited to homes with children, as he can tolerate the roughest antics with grace and is always ready for a game, particularly a game of fetch. Likewise, he is reliable in the company of dogs, cats, and most other pets.
Note that the Golden Retriever has no sense of boundaries and will roam. A fence is in order if he will be spending time outdoors.
When hunting, the Golden Retriever is a fast, eager worker. He is famous both for his readiness to enter water and his ability to hold game firmly but so gently that no damage is done.
There are four variations on the basic theme:
- Field bloodlines: These dogs tend to be smaller, darker, and more athletic. They have boundless energy, perfect for hunting but not so great for loafing on the couch. They tend to take themselves a little more seriously, although they are still impeccably sweet. They are capable of moving with great precision.
- American show bloodlines: Retrievers of this type tend to be bigger and fluffier with a hallmark golden coat. They overflow with goofiness and enthusiasm, making them a little clumsy but extremely lovable.
- English bloodlines: True imported English Golden Retrievers are built short and stocky with a cream-colored coat that closely approaches white. Some breeders feel this type is the most laid-back and mellow, but individual personalities vary widely.
- Backyard bloodlines: Unfortunately, this is the kind bred by those looking for a fast buck. They are often sold as “rare white Golden Retrievers.” Backyard-bred Golden Retrievers are extremely rambunctious and can be hard to live with. Most cases of biting come from these bloodlines.
Golden Retrievers are built tough, but most of them do not recognize their own limits. Avoid overworking your dog, especially in hot weather, as he will likely keep going until he collapses. Also, gentle exercise is in order for all puppies under two years of age. Their bones are not fully developed until that time, and jumping or roughhousing on hard surfaces can cause permanent damage.
Note that the appetite of the Golden Retriever tends to outrun his calorie needs. Don’t give in to that soft, pleading expression if you want to keep your pet svelte!
Inherited health problems can occur in all bloodlines, but are particularly common in show and backyard dogs. The most common difficulties in the Golden Retriever include:
- Ectropion (where the eyelid turns outward).
- Entropion (where the eyelid turns inward).
- Progressive retinal atrophy.
- Ear infections.
- Elbow dysplasia.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Allergy-induced hot spots (particularly allergic reactions to flea bites).
- Cancer in many forms.
- Suitability for first-time dog owners.
- Exceptional suitability for families with children or other pets.
- Impeccable temperament.
- Need for plenty of attention.
- Exercise requirements.
- Seasonal shedding.
- Susceptibility to obesity.
The Beagle is a breed old enough to have its origins shrouded in mystery. We know for certain that, when the Romans arrived in the British Isles soon after the birth of Christ, they found small hounds already employed in hunting. About a thousand years later, William the Conqueror and his Norman soldiers brought along hounds of their own that probably influenced the Beagle. Thus, most researchers are not entirely certain whether the word Beagle comes from the Celtic word for “small” or the French word for “open mouth.”
In any case, after the Norman conquest, all-day hunts became a popular pastime among the landed aristocracy. The Beagle was a tiny dog in those days—perfect for hunting hares and rabbits in a group, since its little legs worked at a pace that ladies and elderly men could follow on foot.
Foxhunting became the rage among the upper classes during the 1700s, however. Both the Beagle and the pursuit of rabbits were handed over to those of more humble birth. One man is recognized as having shaped the breed from this point forward, and that is Parson Honeywood of Essex. He collected a fine pack of hounds in the 1830s, including not only the old type of Beagle, but also a long-eared, heavy-bodied British dog called the Southern Hound. He probably also had a few Harriers in his pack. His dogs were hunters to be reckoned with, so it is little wonder that most packs in subsequent years were descended from the parson’s hounds.
Beagles existed in America early in our nation’s history, at least since Colonial times. They were particularly popular in the South. These, however, were the variable hounds that existed before Parson Honeywood’s day. After the Civil War, General Richard Rowett of Illinois began to import some of the new, more uniform Beagles descended from Honeywood’s pack. Other breeders followed suit into the 1890s, firmly fixing the type of the Beagle in America.
The Beagle was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885. Two years later, the breed was considered sufficiently distinctive to have its own written standard.
Beagles were largely kept for hunting and field trial competitions in the late 1800s. It was not until after the World Wars that they became popular pets. In 1953, the Beagle reached the top of AKC registration statistics, a position it held for six years. Even today, the Beagle is still the 5th most popular dog in America.
There are two types of Beagle: the show dog and the working dog.
The show type is the ultimate house pet, thanks to its small size, easy-care coat, and friendly demeanor. It is also a useful watchdog and a superb therapy dog. Its presence and strutting gait make it a perennial winner at dog shows.
The hunting type, on the other hand, is not content to sit back and accept admiration. It was born to work. It can hunt rabbits and hares, alone or in a pack, for sport or for competition.
Beagles are also a traditional choice for patrolling airports. The USDA’s Beagle Brigade searches for agricultural contraband, but these little hounds can also detect drugs and weapons.
Merry is probably the word most often used to describe the Beagle. He is a sweet, outgoing, curious dog that loves nothing better than playing with children and other dogs—unless it is sniffing out something to eat. This is a breed that thrives on companionship. He cannot be left alone for long periods of time unless in the company of other dogs. Lonely Beagles tend to be noisy.
Even though Beagles are loving and smart, they are also determined and somewhat stubborn. They are skilled at finding new ways to get out of work. It takes a patient person to train and housebreak a Beagle. The good news is that this breed will do just about anything for food.
Owners should always remember that a Beagle’s nose rules his mind. This means that food left out unsupervised will inevitably be discovered and devoured; trash cans will be tipped over and searched thoroughly; anything smelly will be investigated and probably rolled in. Furthermore, interesting scents outdoors are irresistible attractions. A Beagle must always be kept on a leash or within the safety of a physical fence—an underground fence is not sufficient. Once a Beagle gets on the trail, he cannot be recalled.
At work, the Beagle’s happy spirit and pure determination really shine. He prefers to work with his nose to the ground and his tail up like a flag. He bays to alert the hunter to a promising scent and then pursues the game relentlessly.
Note the differences in temperament within the Beagle breed. Show bloodlines make the best pets, since they are laid-back and family-oriented. Working bloodlines have boundless energy, perfect for a day in the field. They are happiest when living with a pack of other Beagles. Also note that the Beagle’s popularity has made it a favorite with puppy mills. Puppy-mill Beagles are usually found at pet stores, and they are unfortunately known for nervousness and psychotic behavior.
Some of the most common health problems in Beagles involve their prodigious appetites. Prevent poisoning and gastrointestinal injury by keeping trash cans and other sources of human food safely locked away. Also, never leave your Beagle unattended. If you are not at home, your Beagle needs to be safe in his crate.
Beagles can put on the pounds very easily. Don’t let those soft, sad eyes trick you into thinking your pet needs just a little more food. Keep him on a strict diet, and keep him active.
Other health problems that appear to be common in the Beagle breed include:
- Progressive retinal atrophy.
- Cherry eye (prolapse of the third eyelid).
- Ear infections (can be avoided by regular ear cleaning).
- Deafness (not to be confused with selective hearing, also common in this breed).
- Cleft palate.
- Hip dysplasia.
- Luxating patellas (slipped kneecaps).
- Intervertebral disc disease.
- Umbilical hernia.
Also beware of dwarfism. Dwarfs sometimes appear in otherwise normal litters. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous breeders then pawn them off as “rare pocket Beagles.” These dogs are not throwbacks to old-time hunting dogs that could be carried in pockets; they are actually genetically defective. They usually suffer from numerous deformities that can cause arthritis and other discomfort throughout their lives.
- Small size.
- Excellent disposition (if obtained from a reputable source).
- Suitability for families with children.
- Low grooming requirements.
- Modest exercise needs.
- Adaptability to most climates.
- Keen nose.
- Determination when on the scent.
- Need for companionship.
- Difficulty in training and housebreaking.
- Untrustworthy behavior when unsupervised.
- Doggy odor.
- Moderate shedding.
- Tendency toward obesity.
- Numerous health problems.
Arguably one of the most influential canine types in history was the molossus, the mastiff of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This dog was both versatile and useful, guarding property and herding livestock. Unfortunately, it also found a place in the Roman arena, satisfying the populace’s thirst for blood sports.
Many modern dog breeds trace back to the molossus, including the old-fashioned bulldog (not the the short-legged, short-nosed dog we think of today), heir to the tradition of blood sports. For several hundred years, bulldogs were used in England for bull-baiting. Bulldogs were the property of butchers. They would seize a bull by the nose and keep him pinned down until the butcher could intervene. Proponents of bull-baiting claimed that the practice improved the quality of the meat, but most townsfolk regarded it as cheap entertainment.
In the early 1800s, blood sport fans came up with the idea of crossing the bulldog with smooth-coated terriers to create the “Bull and Terrier” dog, a feistier, more athletic dog suited to the “sport” of dog fighting. This change was fostered by a law passed in Britain in 1835 to eliminate cruel blood sports. Bull-baiting was illegal; dog fighting was, too, but it was much easier to conceal. As terrible as the “sport” was, it had an important role in shaping the temperament of the Bull and Terriers. While they had to be willing and eager to fight other dogs to the death, the Bull and Terriers had to be easy for people to handle, even in the heat of a dogfight.
Bull and Terriers were highly prized by their owners, so it is little wonder that they arrived in the United States with immigrants in the early 1800s. At first, the social elite kept them primarily for dog fighting. However, most states had banned the practice by the 1860s at the very latest. While dog fighting continued in secret, many Americans decided to give their dogs nobler purposes. During the Civil War, the dogs were immensely popular watchdogs and mascots for soldiers on both sides, earning the name of Yankee Terrier in the North and Rebel Terrier in the South.
After the war, as Americans began establishing farms in the West, they took their favorite dogs with them. Here the Yankee Terrier proved its worth. It could guard the farm, watch over the children, hold feral livestock at bay, ferret rats out of the barn, and even sniff out the homesteader’s dinner while hunting. Throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s, many family farms had a Yankee Terrier, simply because the dogs were indispensable.
Formal breeding and standardization of the Yankee Terrier began in 1898 with the creation of the United Kennel Club (UKC). This organization was originally created to foster the development of working dogs, including fighting dogs (a practice they have long since relinquished and condemned). The UKC gave the breed the name American Pit Bull Terrier.
When the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936, breeders made every effort to distance themselves from the stigma of the breed’s fighting past. The breed was renamed Staffordshire Terrier. This, however, was the name of a smaller English version of the dog, so the name was changed again in 1972 to American Staffordshire Terrier. Although American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers originate from the same stock, the AKC still treats them as two different breeds and refuses to recognize the latter. The UKC, on the other hand, registers some AKC American Staffordshire Terriers as American Pit Bull Terriers, maintaining an element of overlap.
The adoption of the pit bull by drug runners and other organized criminals in the late 1900s created an extremely unfortunate situation for the breed and its fanciers. Gangs began breeding the pit bull for extreme aggression, necessary for guarding contraband of all sorts. At the same time, irresponsible breeders, always a problem in popular breeds, bred and marketed the pit bull particularly for those who wanted a dog exuding a tough image. Fatal dog attacks were the result in both cases, and the media made the most of the situation, beginning with a controversial article in Sports Illustrated in 1987.
As the general public was educated to fear the pit bull, towns across the nation began to ban the breed. Insurance companies also targeted owners of pit bulls.
Pit bull lovers are going to great pains to revive the image of their favorite breed. They emphasize that the real problems are not the dogs themselves, but irresponsible breeders and abusive owners. Evidently their educational campaign is working, as the pit bull is once again increasing in popularity across America.
The primary use of most American Pit Bull Terriers is companionship, whether that means sharing the couch or a day of jogging or bicycling. Some offer therapy services or participate in canine sports ranging from agility to tracking to weight pulls.
But pit bulls can still work. They make good watchdogs, and many will offer physical protection to home and property, as well. This instinct can be channeled into police and military work.
Guard duties are not all that pit bulls regularly offer the police and military. These dogs have good noses and are regularly used to sniff out contraband and explosives. They can also work the scene of a disaster, finding and rescuing missing survivors.
Pit bulls can still hunt. While they have been used for some basic retrieving, they tend to be unreliable around fallen game. They perform much more effectively in the traditional role of catch dog for hunting feral hogs. A catch dog seizes and maintains control of the hog until the human hunters can kill or capture the prey.
A myth persists that pit bulls make good herding dogs. As a general rule, they are much too rough for working stock. Again, their traditional role is that of the catch dog. They can be depended on to seize feral livestock, but not to quietly direct tame sheep or cattle.
Pit bulls are known for their broad smiles and zest for life. They are cheerful, laid-back dogs that love nothing better than to goof off. They need plenty of stimulation to help them burn off their abundant energy. If these needs are not met, their natural inclination is to resort to extensive digging and chewing projects. They will also wander, and can be quite adept at escaping even fenced yards. Although they love children, particularly their own, they are far too rowdy to be kept around very small children, or around seniors.
Once a pit bull has run off his extra energy, however, he is quite ready to settle down in a cooperating individual’s lap. He craves attention, so plenty of family time is in order. He will probably reward affection with a sloppy kiss, usually directed toward someone’s face.
The pit bull is an interesting mix of stubborn tenacity and almost babyish sensitivity. He is quite equal to the task of leading his human pack, but he is generally happier when directed by a firm but positive individual. He responds resoundingly well to consistent and positive training.
Most pit bulls are friendly toward all people, familiar or otherwise. However, they are also loyal defenders of home and family, able to distinguish between real and imaginary threats if raised properly. They are extremely aggressive toward other dogs and are always ready to fight on the slightest provocation. For this reason, they should never be left unsupervised with another dog, even if they seem to get along just fine. Other pets and livestock are out of the question, as well, although some pit bulls can peacefully coexist with the family cat with proper training.
At work as a catch dog, the pit bull is among the most fearless, stoic, and relentless of dogs. Often, the hunter’s life depends on his dog’s ability to hold onto a hog and refuse to let go, no matter what. The pit bull fits the bill exactly.
As most Americans know by this time, there are plenty of poorly bred pit bulls out there, and these dogs are extremely dangerous due to their powerful, crushing bite and refusal to let go. Any potential owner looking for a pit bull puppy should go to a trusted, responsible breeder who makes sound temperament a top priority.
Pit bulls are structurally robust, although their active natures can lead to injuries such as ruptured ligaments. Although many show signs of hip dysplasia when X-rayed, few pit bulls ever display other symptoms of this defect.
However, for peak condition and a healthy immune system, pit bulls seem to benefit from careful attention to a high-quality diet. On many standard commercial foods, they seem to be prone to mange and a wide range of allergies, particularly grass allergies. Tumors are also a problem in this breed, as is susceptibility to parvovirus.
Other problems seen in the pit bull include:
- Progressive retinal atrophy.
- Elbow dysplasia.
- Kneecap problems.
- Heart murmurs.
- Cerebellar ataxia.
- Minimal grooming needs.
- Irresponsible breeders.
- Local laws against pit bulls.
- Social stigma (some owners report lawsuits, threats, and even attempts to kill their dog).
- Difficulty of getting homeowners insurance when a pit bull is present.
- Need for experienced training and handling.
- Need for human companionship.
- Aggression toward other animals.
- High exercise requirements.
- Destructive tendencies.
- Ability as escape artists.
- Unsuitability for cold climates.
The green-winged teal (Anas crecca) has the distinction of being the smallest dabbling duck in North America. The male has a rather striking color pattern. His head is a rich cinnamon color marked with an iridescent green stripe running back from the eye. If you can get a close look, notice the thin white line running along the bottom edge of the stripe. His bill is black, his breast is buffy with dark spots, and most of his body is gray. Note, however, the characteristic white slash mark on the side, just in front of the wing. This duck has black undertail coverts, setting off a unique, roughly triangular streak of buff on the side of the tail.
The female green-winged teal is mottled brown overall. Her pattern is somewhat darker than that of other teal.
In flight, both sexes of teal display a particularly dazzling green speculum with light borders on both edges. The border on the trailing edge is white, while the front border is a buffy chestnut that may appear white in some lightings. They also share white bellies and the ability to fly quickly and with incredible agility.
Best Field Marks
- Cinnamon head of male.
- White slash mark on side of male.
- Buffy streak on side of tail of male.
- Bright green speculum.
The male green-winged teal mainly vocalizes when courting. His hallmark call is a whistled crick-et, sometimes compared to the sound of a spring peeper frog. However, he may also chitter, burp, or grunt.
The female is known for her shrill, persistent quacking. She can be quite noisy in many situations, but the speed and intensity of the calls increase when she is searching for a nesting site. Her other sound is a harsh rattle directed at males of interest during courtship season.
Distribution & Occurrence
The green-winged teal is among the most common ducks in Kansas, putting in an appearance nearly anywhere open water or wetlands can be found. Most arrive during the fall, particularly in early November. While it is uncommon for these ducks to spend the winter in Kansas, it has been known to happen when the water is not entirely frozen. Males are more likely to stay through the winter months than females, as the latter tend to travel further south during migration.
The next major influx of green-winged teal comes in the spring, when large flocks pass through on the way to their breeding grounds. They normally breed in the wooded wetlands of Canada and Alaska, but they can occur casually throughout the summer in Kansas except in the Flint Hills. On rare occasions, they even breed in this state. Most of the breeding records come from Cheyenne Bottoms, but pairs have nested in scattered locations across the length of the state.
Green-winged teal are the acrobats of the duck world. Large flocks of several hundred can fly in compact formation, darting and twisting with intricate precision. On the other hand, if a flock on the water is disturbed, the whole group can scatter in all directions in the blink of an eye. But they are equally at home on land and water. They can run surprisingly fast for ducks, and they can even dive out of sight if necessary.
The diet of the green-winged teal is varied, although aquatic plants are the preferred food. However, this duck will scavenge in shallow water, agricultural fields, and woodlots for anything from grain to crustaceans to insects. During the winter, its diet mostly consists of seeds and larvae.
While the majority of green-winged teal court and pair off on the wintering grounds, many wait until after spring migration to choose a mate. The female selects a well-hidden nesting site, usually in a weedy meadow or in brush not too far from water. She scrapes a bowl in the dirt and fills it with grasses and twigs. Once she has laid six to 18 eggs (anytime from late June to early August in Kansas), she completes the nest with a lining of down. The male supervises the whole proceeding until incubation begins, then goes his own way.
Incubation lasts from 20 to 24 days. The young are able to leave the nest within hours. The female accompanies them for protection and warmth at night, but they are quite able to feed themselves. They are usually able to fly in a little over a month.
Since green-winged teal are open to checking out just about any body of water in just about any part of the state, a small pond is sufficient to attract these birds during migration.
Hunters find that green-winged teal are likely to come to a generous setup of decoys of many different species, simulating a big mixed flock peacefully feeding. Green-winged teal decoys should be included, but for added realism be sure to put out mallards, shovelers, and pintails, as well.
Female teal are notoriously similar, but are actually surprisingly easy to tell apart if you know what to look for. The most reliable field mark is on the wing. Both the blue-winged and the cinnamon teal have blue shoulder patches. The green-winged teal does not. Somewhat less trustworthy but still useful is the duck’s size. The green-winged teal is smaller than other teal species and has a proportionately shorter bill.
Photos, audio, and more information from Cornell’s All About Birds site.