I don’t suppose anything I can say will settle the argument between the hound admirers and theAiredale fans, but for the benefit of both of these fine dogs, the opinion of a man of sixty-two who has hunted with dogs continually for over lifty years may help some.
My first experience with hunting dogs was down on the farm, where game was plentiful, and “Old Shep’ answered our purpose very well. We had many of these shepherd dogs and considered them the best hunters and game getters, until some city men came to our place to hunt bobcat, and gave my father one of their hounds that had been mauled by a cat. We soon got this hound in good shape again and took him out for a hunt, and as he did not do much the first time, my father called him a “lazy cuss,” but after a few hunts he soon proved his superiority over Old Shep as a trailer, and what my father at first termed as “yawpin,” he later said was “fine music” when this dog opened up on a trail. After the passing of this grand dog, we got more hounds, and later got to crossing them with bird dogs and water spaniels. Among these mongrels were the best all-round hunting dogs my father ever had, and one in particular, a half water spaniel and hound, I place first among all the dogs I have ever hunted with, for work in the rough country where we lived.
When I became old enough to own a dog of my own I got pure bred black and tan hounds with long thin ears and good voices, and for many years would consider nothing else for coon or other fur hunting. Occasionally my neighbors would take their mongrels out with me and tree ahead of my hounds, but I noticed that my hounds would usually get the trail well started first.
I preferred the black and tans with long ears, not because the color or length of ear made any difference in the hunting ability, but I considered these points an indication of good breeding, and certainly they were beautiful dogs. I always kept my dogs in the best of condition, and I am sure I have been repaid many times over for my care of them. I have raised and trained many pups and found that they suited me better than the so-called trained dogs that I have bought.
I have owned upwards of seventy-five or eighty hounds and of these I would place about five of them in class number one as coon hounds; I would place about twenty of them in class number two, and the balance were third grade or worse. The first class do-;s are the kind you seldom get, and then only for a very high price, or through the use of extra great care and patience in training. The second class coon dogs are good coon dogs and cost about a hundred dollars today.
I owned one pure bred (as far as I know) hound that was as game a fighter as I ever saw in action. I never knew him to quit, once he got into a mix-up. On one occasion he was frightfully punished by a bobcat and never made a sound or gave sign of quitting during the fight, though he was bleeding from ugly cuts in the throat, had one eye gouged out, ears split to ribbons, and a broken and badly lacerated foot. By the time I crossed the river to him he was badly used up, but still doing his best. He was, of course, an exception in this respect, for a pure hound, whose business it is only to find the game.
My first experience with Airedales was when a neighbor of mine had a year-old pup sent to him by a city relative. I was not very favorably impressed with this dog at first but consented to have a. hunt with him and take my old dog “Bugle.” When my neighbor arrived at my farm, I let Bugle out of his yard, and we did not see him again until we arrived at the tree where he was barking up.
This Airedale did not quite understand Bugle’s musical efforts at lirst, and stayed rather close to us most of the time, but I noticed several limes during the hunt that he would smell around a bit, and pick up a rabbit track and run it a few minutes, then come back to us. This was his first trip out and he was a young dog so we did not expect much of him. When we got to the tree, this dog smelled around, watched Bugle, looked up the tree, growled, bit, and tried to climb up, then started to bark. On our next hunt, when we shot the coon out of the tree, the Airedale had him almost as soon as Bugle, and after a few times out this dog began to hunt some and finally we let him kill a coon alone.
From that time on he began to improve fast and or his third hunting season was a good coon and cat do?. He became an eager and persistent hunter, a good tree dog, and though he could not unravel a trail like a good hound, would stick as long as allowed to, or until he had treed. He once killed a twenty-two pound bobcat without help.
I decided to buy an Airedale to take the rough work off my hounds and got a twoyear-old dog. After much patience and care; trying to train him, I gave him away as worthless. My third one proved to be a good one. He was bred from hunting stock, and showed it in his work. He was a good tree dog and first class in water, would also run a hot track faster than most dogs and was an all night sticker at a tree. I have owned seven other Airedales since this one, but only one of them was as good. My second good Airedale was an excellent cattle dog as well as a hunter and watch dog, and like most Airedales, a good tree and water dog. We never kept him tied from the time when we got him as a puppy, and I never knew him to stray off my farm without one of the family going with him. I worked this dog with a black and tan fox hound bitch and believe they were the best team I ever owned. Each seemed to know just what the other, would do in any circumstances, and each did its part of the work.
Later the Airedale, through an accident, became the sire of a litter of pups out of this bitch. I now have a dog out of that litter and can not think of any price that would buy him. My oldest son also has a dog from that litter, which, with an Airedale and two hounds, makes up his pack of bear and lion dogs, and he says the cross bred is the best and brainiest dog he has, and, as he expresses it, “The best dog in Idaho.”
The Airedale to begin with, is half otter hound and half terrier, but the fancy breeders have all but spoiled him by in-breeding him to a fashionable and unnatural standard. I would not consider the average show Airedale worth much to a hunter; such a dog would be too narrow and flat in the skull to have room for much brains or good temperament, he would be too narrow in chest and short in back to have the endurance and ability required in a hunting dog.
But there is a good kind of Airedale; he is bred intelligently, from hunting stock by hunters; he is a “natural” dog in type and disposition, with the hunting instinct and lots of courage and grit bred in him. He has all the desirable qualities of the good Airedale and many of the good qualities of the good hound. The hunter who has such a dog and works him with a good hound is going to get the game and have lots of fun doing it.
The good Airedales may be a little jealous, but that quality makes him a good tree dog, watch dog and companion, and loyal to his master.
There are individual Airedales which are good coon dogs; there are individual hounds not worth their salt; however we can not condemn all hounds on account of the poor ones, nor say all Airedales are good. The average hound is superior to the average Airedale as a hunter and the Airedale requires more care to keep him looking presentable, but the man who likes dogs will be well repaid for the extra care. As puppies, the Airedales are more ”foolish” and require more training to make hunters of them.
A man is not qualified to make the broad statement that “Airedales are no good” or any other similar statement, because of having had an experience with one or two Airedales of the inferior kind. Some of the brother hunters speaking of the Airedale, seem very much peeved at him. Such a peevishness could be brought about by trying to enter a neighbor’s chicken coop when an Airedale was on guard, or by trying to take game from a boy that had an Airedale companion. However such feelings are acquired, it shows poor judgment to exhibit them.
The Airedale, being the newest breed, is least standardized, and is. therefore, most likely to produce off-shoots of good and bad. with- all grades in between. In time to come the practical hunters, such as the readers of this magazine, and other sportsmen will perfect a strain of Airedales, exactly suited to the purpose of the hunter, not to take the place of the hound, but to work with him, each dog to supply the quality which the other does not have ?o highly developed.
Of the dogs that I have owned, the hounds were the best trailers and did it with greater ease and perfection; the Airedales were the most persistent and busy hunters and had more grit and determination; the hounds had the most endurance in a long chase; the Airedales were better at tree or hole. I always love and admire the beautiful appearance of a well conditioned hound, and I honor and respect a good Airedale for those qualities which make him loyal to one master and the courageous fighter that he is. The Airedales I have owned would fight for me; but the hounds would not.
If I were hunting fox exclusively, nothing would answer my ournose like a well bred fox hound; for rabbits I would want a beagle hound; an English setter for birds; an Airedale for woodchucks, but as I hunt nothing but coon, I have “degenerated” so far as to select a first cross of Airedale and hound.
This article was written by Mr Scott McGill in the early 1900’s.