Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Airedale As A Fur Hunter

This is an article written in the early part of the last century about the Airedale Terrier as a hunting dog when they were still new as a breed in the US. It was in a magazine called "Fur News" which was the predecessor to, and went on to become todays "Fur Fish and Game" magazine. I personally can relate well to this piece because it is basically the way I have always hunted my Airedales. I do not agree exactly with everything Mr Howard has to say but in my opinion he is pretty much on the mark especially when it comes to teaming up and running Airedales with Hounds..

Al Kranbuhl


The Airedale as A Fur Hunter, By FW Howard

Airedale Terriers have become one of the most popular breeds in America. This bred originated some 40 years ago as the result of an effort to produce a hunting dog larger and stronger than the Terriers in use at the time. A dog with all the vim and pep of a Terrier but at the same time large and able enough to cope with Otters and Badgers.

Crosses were made which included two or three of the favorite breeds of Terriers with the Otter hound. From these crosses a type was selected. They became to be known and spoken of as Waterside Terriers and later as Airedale Terriers because the breed originated in a valley of that name.

In America the breed has become a favorite mainly on account of qualities as a hunter. Airedales are not handsome dogs in the sense that the Collie, Setter or Pointer, but rather in the way the Irishman put it, "They are so damned ugly, they are good looking."

They are second to no breed when it comes to being game and having grit. Another quality that helps their popularity is that they are known as a one man dog, meaning they attach them selves to the man or family and do not make friends readily with others.

The Airedale Terrier seems to possess most of the qualities that should make them good hunters. Along with a rough heavy coat to withstand wet and cold, great activity, splendid courage and a fairly good nose. Many of them are used to hunt Bear and Mountain Lion in the west and this writer has seen a good many letters from hunters praising their work on such game.

It is this writer's opinion that they should prove to be excellent varmint dogs. It is very probable that they are a little hard to break to hunt exclusively for certain sorts of game. They are just as ready to hunt Bumble Bees as Bears, any and everything is game to them. However careful teaching and patience will accomplish wonders and one well broken to hunt Coon, Skunk, Opossum and Mink should prove to be as good as the best still trailers.

So far as this writer has been able to learn, they have given the best results when used along with Hounds. For this purpose they are exactly adapted because they are very fast workers, extra good in the water and as killers are without equal.

Even Von Plott of the famous Plott family that developed the Plott Hound breed liked to have an Airedale in his pack.  Plott had affection for the grit and tenacity of the Airedale. But he also said that their strength was their biggest weakness in that they were TOO aggressive, and as a result almost never lived very long.

Von described a hunt on Hazel Creek with his nephew Little George in which his last Airedale was killed. If I recall correctly the dog was a female and Von called her by name. He said the dog attacked a big bear and that the bruin swatted her so hard that it broke almost every bone in her body, killing her instantly. Von described the dead dogs body as being"like jelly."

A good still trailing dog broken to hunt with one or two good Hounds form a team that is hard to beat for coon. They will tree twice as many as either variety used separately for the reason that each possess qualities that the other lacks, and it really takes the two methods of hunting and in combination to produce the very best results.

Still trailing dogs, if good wide rangers, used alone often tree so far from the hunter that he can not hear them at the tree, (Especially on windy nights). The hunter has no idea in which direction to look for them and is apt to lose a good deal of game in that way. Furthermore still dogs rarely if ever possess the keen scenting ability of a good hound and are able to work only fresh trails. On hunting grounds where the the tracks are few, this is a considerable handicap.

On the other hand when Hounds are on the trail it is almost certain of late years at least, that the coon will be wise to what is going on by time the open dogs have the track fairly warmed up. As soon as the coon suspects the dogs are after him, he loses no time whatever in getting to use every means known to him to get away.

If near water he takes water and often swims long distances, very often succeeding in throwing off the dogs completely, or at least delaying them greatly. Thus they will gain time to reach some safe hole in the rocks, a den tree or to practice some of the many tricks he has up his sleeve.

When a still dog has been taught to work with Hounds, he eventually learns when and where he can do the most good. He soon realizes that he will be able to work surer and easier than he can alone. When they start to work a cold track he simply "sticks around" and awaits developments. If the Hounds succeed in warming the track up to a point where the still dog's nose begins to function, it can be readily observed by his action. The tail begins to wave and he will get very busy. Very likely he will let out a yap or two and will be gone like a shot. The method used by the still dog to close in on the coon has always been a good deal of a puzzle to this writer. He does not attempt to follow the trail as the Hounds do it. He hasn't the patience, or it is not according to his gifts. It has seemed to the writer that when the still dog can get the scent either from foot prints, or from the grass, weeds or bushes his method is to cover the ground at his best speed in the general direction the tracks are leading, depending on getting a direct scent from the coon itself.

Whatever the method the still dog, if he is a good one will be pretty apt to be barking at the tree within five minutes after he starts on the track anywhere from a quarter of a mile to a mile ahead of the Hounds. That the Coon is taken unaware is often proved by the sort of tree he is forced to take and frequently he is overtaken in the water or on the ground. It is for this purpose in hunting Coon, possum, Skunk and Mink and the like that the Airedale Terrier appears to this writer to be especially adapted. In other words, a much larger percentage of this breed would be apt to turn out to be good for the purpose than would prove good in most other breeds and cross breeds.

With out a doubt all readers of Fur News who are interested in fur hunting dogs would be glad to read the experience of those who have used and broken Airedales for tree dog and used for fur hunting.

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