Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Dogs Had What It Takes.

Well known outdoor writer, author and hunter Elliot Barker describes his hunting dogs. Barker's dogs of choice happened to be Airedales. This article gives an idea of what kind of hunting dogs Airedales once were and how they gained their well deserved reputation.

I would like to add that the kind of hunting that Mr Barker put his dogs through and the kind of hunting on various game animals found on this blog done by other hunters is what needs to be done to evaluate hunting Airedales to find out if they have what it takes.

In my opinion it is the very best way to judge breeding stock, only when they can show that they do have what it takes on game are they then are allowed to reproduce! Speculating that they have what it takes does not cut it with me!

One more thing, Barker's Airedales were far from being pretty looking but as game producers they were outstanding and while I appreciate beauty as much as anyone, from my hunter's perspective being an accomplished game producing hunting dog is what counts to me as it should be to any other serious hunting dog breeder. When breeding for performance don't be worrying too much about what your dogs look like, concentrate on how they perform in the field.

Al Kranbuhl

Pup, Puse, and Queenie were the best trained dogs I ever had. They were trained to hunt, to work and fight, and they loved to do just that. I had taught them absolute obedience in essential matters. They were entirely loyal to me and tried at all times to accomplish what I indicated I wanted them to do. They worked together admirably, yet they differed greatly. Each had their own personality and own way of doing things.

Queenie was a little perfectly marked, straight haired Airedale. She has a stubborn streak in her, but was very smart and calculating to an extant that her actions were indicative of advanced planning. For instance a neighbor's hogs got into my field a quarter of a mile from the house. Pup and Puse went after them at top speed, but Queenie would not go. Instead she leisurely trotted down to the side of the road where the  hogs had come in, and then lay down in the grass and waited. In a few minutes the hogs came by on the run, with Pup and Puse right after them. Timing her actions perfectly Queenie caught a sow by the ear, and held her right there until I went down and made her turn loose. She thought I wanted a hog and planned it so she could catch me one with the least effort.

Queenie would not follow me when I rode away from the house unless I had a gun. Show her the six shooter or rifle and you could not make her stay back. She liked to hunt and she knew perfectly well I wasn't going hunting unless I had a gun. She was an excellent trap dog and would work persistently for a Coyote when he got away with a trap.

Queenie was thirteen years old when I was at Vermejo Park, and slowed down so much by age and the bearing of pups that she was of little use except to help me follow the other dogs, for she barked on a trail some while the others ran silently until the track became quite fresh.

She was a prolific breeder, a large litter of pups twice a year if permitted. Once she gave birth to an even dozen. In almost every litter  sired by an Airedale, there would be one natural bobtailed pup. Students of genetics are agreed that acquired characteristics can not be transmitted to the offspring. Yet Queenie did it many times, although perhaps she did not mean to.

Pup was a fairly large, huskily built Airedale, with light brown back and sides and nearly white below. He had medium short hair and and a very short bobbed tail. His eyes were inquisitive and intelligent, his ears alert. He was two and a half years old when I picked him up as a stray, and in gratitude for the home I gave him he became the most devoted dog I have ever owned. Through all the years I had him he would follow me everywhere I went if permitted to do so.

He was loyal to me and my family and would fight for any of us if he thought we were in trouble. He was deliberate in his actions and sure in his decisions. He was afraid of nothing, accepted any challenge, and welcomed a fight with dog or wild animal no matter what the odds were against him. I never saw him fail to acquit himself with credit in a fight, although the odds were to great to overcome and sometimes he had to be carried off the battlefield. He was just a little too determined and self confident for his own good.

When I was at Vermejo Park he was thirteen years old, but though battle scarred, he was as active as a dog half that age. At eighteen, he was still able to tree a Lion. When he died at the advanced canine age of twenty one his hair had turned perfectly white. He was a great dog.

Puse was Queenie's son, but Pup was not his sire. Instead his sire was a highly bred Airedale with a pedigree as long as your arm. Puse was a medium sized and a typical Airedale in shape and color but excelled the average in intelligence, speed and endurance. He was very smart, quick and impulsive. Never did a man and a dog get along better than he and I, but he did not show the wonderful devotion that Pup did. Puse took the attitude that we were partners, Pup that I was his master.

Always alert, Puse had great initiative, was sure of himself but acted on impulse rather than deliberation. He specialized in taking shortcuts to unravel a trail, and was so fast that he would get up on a cat or Lion before they knew they were being chased. He was fearless, and the going never got too bad for him to follow his quarry.

He could come nearer telling me by his actions just what he wanted to than any dog I ever worked with. The different ways he would cock his head, first on one side then the other, prick up or lower his ears, wriggle his stubby tail, bark, whine and jump around, all had their meaning which I learned to know as well as he learned to understand what I said to him.

There were mighty few chases he was ever on, no matter whose dogs he was with or what the competition, that he was not the first one to the tree. I fear there will never be another Puse.

I found that in training a hunting dog, it is essential above all else to teach him his name. Teach it to him so that he recognizes it when spoken under any circumstances. It is therefore important to give him a short name easily understood and susceptible of great emphasis. No two dogs in the same pack should have names that sound alike.

Puse was originally named Pusillanimous by my then young son but it was soon shortened to Puse. Pusillanimous may have fit him as a small pup but it surely did not fit him at all when he grew up.

Often when riding through game county, I found it desirable to have the dogs stay behind. I could accomplish that  merely by speaking the name of each dog and then saying get back or get behind. The three would then follow back close at the horse's heels. Then if I saw predator sign that I wanted to know more about, I would stop and look back at the dogs, say Puse!, here, see what it is, and Puse would come around in front and test the sign, telling me by his actions, not only what had been there, but about how fresh it was. Or if it was Pup or Queenie that I wanted, they would come while the other two stayed back until I would tell them to go on or go get him.

They loved a Lion trail, and if it turned out to be a fresh Lion track that one dog was testing, the other would quickly recognize that fact by his intense interest and tense actions, and would sometimes have to be told again to stay back. There was an entirely different reaction to a coyote track than to a Bobcat or Lion. It would always cause the hair to raise on the back of their necks, and sometimes they would act resentful that a Coyote had been there, and sometimes half growl or snort as they tested the track. It was plain that they did not like it. But when they could catch a Coyote they loved to fight him and kill him.

They were pleased when they found either a Lion or a Bobcat track. They show that they wanted to go and showed no ill temper at all, but all interest and anxiety to find him. The difference between a Lion and a Bobcat was in the degree of the same reaction rather than a different reaction. Intensity of interest, eagerness and an all absorbing anxiety, born of anticipation for what they knew they would find at the end of the trail, were characteristic of their actions upon finding fresh Lion sign. As they were silent trailers except when the track was very hot, one had to watch their actions rather than listen to their tone of voice, as one does with a hound.

But they were as good Bobcat dogs as you would find anywhere. I recall one day in late November at the Park soon after a 16 inch snowfall, we went out in the turkey winter range country to try and cut down the Bobcat population. Ordinarily I have found Bobcat harder to tree than a Mountain Lion. Of course they don't travel as far as a Lion and many more of them are caught each year, because there are so many more of them. But the individual cat can pull more tricks and get away from the dogs after being jumped oftener by far than a Lion.

But when there is a fresh deep snow on the ground, they are greatly handicapped, and the finding of a fresh track usually results in a quick catch. So it was that I wished to take advantage of this snow and pick up a few Bobcats. The snow was soft and had blown off the trees pretty much and had melted down to six or eight inches on the steep south slopes.

Old Kate was not in condition to hunt and Queenie was slowing up so much with age that I left them both at home. I knew that Pup and Puse would get the job done anyway, and with snow on I could always be sure of following them up if they did make a long fast run.

After riding three miles or so over into Gachupin Canyon, we struck a track of a very large Bobcat and followed on the trail for a couple of miles before we jumped him. He had been hunting and had killed one rabbit and a Tasseled eared squirrel, and then with a full belly had taken to some sunny cliffs to lay up for the day.

The dogs were trailing silently and were right close on to him before he knew it, and they saw him as he left his bed in the rocks and bounded off down the hill. Both dogs followed in hot pursuit, barking at every jump and forced him to take a tree within a quarter mile. I shot him and and quickly skinned him, tied the skin on the back of the saddle and started on hoping to have another track soon.

In a short while, on a ridge top we struck the track of not one but three Bobcats. One was fairly large and the others much smaller. I surmised it to be an old mother cat with two half grown kittens and that is what it had proved to be.

We trailed the three to some big rocks on a sunny slope and jumped them out. They ran along the sunny south slope for quite a distance, giving the dogs a little trouble on account of the great number of deer tracks where a sizable herd of deer had been feeding and bounded away as we approached.

Finally one of the half grown kittens took to a small yellow pine and I just luckily saw it as I approached, because the dogs had gone on after the others. I shot and skinned the kitten as quickly as I could and hurried on after the dogs. I kept watch for the other kitten as I rode along, for I was sure it would be next to tree.

While a Bobcat (or a Lion for that matter) will not stop and fight the dogs to protect it's young, it will run on and on, leading the dogs away from the trees in which the young had taken refuge. It is my belief that they do this deliberately, just as some birds will flutter along the ground, feigning a broken wing to lure one away from their nest or young.

I expected this old Bobcat to run quite a distance after the second kitten treed. Soon I heard the dogs barking treed, I rode on to the tree and as expected, found the other young one. I shot it out and when the dogs had wooled it a moment, I made them stop and sent them on after the mother cat, but I was entirely wrong.

She had crossed the ridge into a deeper canyon with a very steep southern exposure, where there was not very much snow left, and what there was now was pretty wet, causing little scent to be left. In this type of country, the tracks showed that she had circled and dodged and run for some time, keeping ahead of the dogs. I lost some time trying to make out where they had gone and in getting through some pretty rough areas where she had led. I could not quite make out why the dogs had not crowded her enough to make her take a tree, for I could not hear them at all.

At last I came to where she had made a long open run with the dogs evidently right behind her. Of a sudden I rounded a bend, and there, stretched out on the snow, lay the big spotted, bedraggled Bobcat, stone dead, while both Pup and Puse were wallowing in the snow rubbing their heads and shoulders in it to clean the blood off. From the blood on the snow it looked as if they were cut up pretty badly.

What had happened was that the Bobcat, a large female had taken refuge in a hole in the rocks, thinking she could defend herself rather than take a tree. To get her out required stamina and intestinal fortitude, and I would have given anything to see it done.

The hole was about seven feet deep in solid rock of breccia formation and sloped down very slightly. It was almost round and less than thirty inches in diameter at it's mouth, and tapering to about a foot at the back end. I crawled partly in to figure out what had happened.

From the blood and hair at the back of the hole, it was evident that the Bobcat had gone to the end and had turned around to fight off the dogs. One of the dogs had gone in  and faced teeth and razor sharp claws to bring her out. There was not enough room  for both dogs to work side by side. Pup had a habit, in a fight of any kind boring in and taking all his opponent could give, for the sake of a throat hold. That is just what he had done here.

He had faced teeth and claws in a direct frontal attack, where not strategy or maneuvering tactics could be employed.
He had gone in head on into all the cat had to give, which was plenty, for the sake of getting a neck hold, and when he had got it, he held it and dragged the Bobcat out where Puse helped him kill it. The fact that that the cat was dead right outside the miniature cave, showed Pup had never released his hold.

That act, I believe, took more nerve than anything I ever saw a dog do!!

Pup was pretty badly cut up around the head and was bleeding profusely, but was not seriously injured. In his lifetime Pup had to be carried home three times, and sewed up a half dozen times, from cuts received in fights with bears and Lions.
But this time, he was able to walk in and needed stitches in only two places around his eyes.

Puse was not badly scratched but just enough to show he had been in a fight. I have no doubt that Puse would have finally gone in and got that cat, but he was younger and not quite do deliberate and determined in a fight as Pup, and the older dog seized the opportunity to do so first.

The cat's skin was badly torn, but I took it anyway, and rode home with the skins of the whole family tied back of the saddle.
One of the classic works of hounds & hunting. The author recounts the year he spent on the Vermejo Park ranch in northern New Mexico, 1929, hunting mountain lion, bobcat and bear with hounds and Airedales.