Even though feist dogs have been around in the United States for hundreds of years, these little dogs aren’t widely known north of the Mason/Dixon Line. They were developed for one reason – to hunt. A feist is described as a small, noisy mongrel; a mixed breed dog with a spirited and feisty demeanor.
A feist (also spelled fice or fyce) dog can easily be misidentified as a Jack Russell, but there is a difference. Unlike the Jack Russell, feist dogs are of mixed heritage and are a type of dog, not a breed. However, they do resemble a terrier in temperament and appearance. The hunting style of the Jack Russell is also different from a feist, which doesn’t go to ground after prey.
The United Kennel Club recognizes feists, but the American Kennel Club does not. Also known as Mountain Feist or Treeing Feist, these energetic dogs are found largely in the southern regions of the U.S., especially around the Ozark Mountain and Southern Appalachian regions where the American feist originated. At one time, feists were popular working dogs found on farms throughout the south.
In the early 1900s, the notion of flying an airplane over the North Pole was considered dangerous and an almost impossible task. Umberto Nobile’s dream was to fly a dirigible over the top of the world, and he wasn’t deterred by skeptics who scoffed at his insane idea. Nobile was a determined adventurer and with his loyal dog Titina by his side, he made a historic flight over the Arctic in an airship. This earned them recognition as the first man and dog to fly over the North Pole.
Titina was a stray Fox Terrier wandering the streets of Rome when she found Nobile one day in 1925. The two month old pup was lost, starving, and desperate for help. She approached him, stood up on her hind legs and pawed the air with her front feet. He bent down and petted her on the head. Unable to leave her behind, Nobile scooped her up and carried her home. From that moment on, Titina followed Nobile wherever he went.
She didn’t share her owner’s love of flying, but her desire to be with him was stronger than her fear. Nobile had intended to leave Titina at home during his 1926 flight over the Arctic, but the little dog wasn’t about to be left behind. As his airship the Norge rose from the ground, Nobile clutched Titina tight against his chest as thousands of well wishers cheered. A green, red and white Italian sash hung around the dog’s neck. The Norge headed north and began a journey that would make Titina and Nobile household names.
Many dog breeds were named based on their country of origin or original job they were bred to do. Some, like the Papillon, got their name from their physical appearance. A handful of dog breeds were named after a person, including the following:
Boykin Spaniel – In the early 1900s, Alexander White took in a small brown dog he found wandering around the Methodist church he attended in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His intention was to keep the dog he named Dumpy as a pet, but it wasn’t long before White noticed Dumpy had an interest in birds, so he sent the dog to his hunting partner in Camden, South Carolina to be trained. Dumpy blossomed into a premier turkey hunter and retriever. The breed that began with a little stray dog was named after the man who trained him, L. Whitaker “Whit” Boykin.
King Charles Spaniel – King Charles I of England loved toy spaniels and passed his love on to his son, Charles II. When Charles II assumed his role as King, he was seldom seen without one or more dogs by his side. He issued a decree that gave his little dogs access to all public places, including in the House of Parliament – a decree that is still in existence today. The popularity of the breed was at its highest during the reign of the House of Stuarts. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is closer to the original dogs Charles I and II adored, and is larger with a longer muzzle than the King Charles Spaniel, which is known as the English Toy Spaniel in America.
Beginning with George Washington up to our current president, dogs have lived in the White House with their elected leaders. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had his share of presidential pets, but his favorite canine and constant companion was Fala, a Scottish Terrier who in many ways helped to shape our country.
Fala was born April 7, 1940, and was destined to become one of the most beloved presidential pets of all time. The dog, whose name was Big Boy at the time, was given to Roosevelt by Mrs. Augustus Kellog, but it was Roosevelt’s cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley who socialized and trained the puppy before presenting him to the president as an early Christmas gift. By the time Fala entered the White House in November, he knew how to behave, roll over, sit up and jump.
Roosevelt wasn’t keen on the name Big Boy and promptly changed it to Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after a Scottish ancestor from the 1400s who was apparently of questionable character. The name was soon shortened to Fala. Roosevelt was a huge dog lover, but was persuaded to leave his bigger dogs at home in Hyde Park, New York. Without a canine companion in the White House, people around Roosevelt thought he seemed distant at times and hoped the pup would provide comfort and cheer him up. Fala and Roosevelt quickly bonded and the two became inseparable, much to Eleanor’s dismay; she constantly had to contend with Roosevelt crossing her name off a list of people accompanying him on trips and replacing it with Fala’s.
The Kemp’s ridley is the world’s smallest sea turtle. It’s also the most endangered sea turtle, with only about 1,000 breeding females left. Over-harvesting of eggs throughout the last century drastically reduced the population, and the turtle has had a hard time rebounding. To help keep these turtles from becoming extinct, a Cairn Terrier named Ridley and his owner have been working the beaches of North Padre Island in Texas, searching for nesting areas filled with precious eggs.
An adult Kemp’s ridley weighs 80 to 100 pounds and is 24 to 28 inches long, but a hatchling hits the scale at a mere 0.5 ounces and 1.5 inches. Their average lifespan is thought to be around 50 years. Found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, they prefer diving in shallow waters. These omnivores swim to the bottom in search of crabs, their favorite food. They also eat other shellfish and jellyfish, and will dine on seaweed and sargassum now and then.
Sargassum is a brown seaweed that is found floating in clusters throughout the waters of the Gulf. To many people it’s considered worthless, especially when it washes up on shore. However, to marine life like tiny crabs, shrimp and other small sea creatures, sargassum is home and a place of refuge. For Kemp’s ridley juvenile turtles, this floating seaweed provides a place where they can rest and find food on their journey through the sea.
Earthdog trials are geared for go to ground Terriers that have been bred to root out small prey from underground dens. Dogs in the Terrier Group are hardworking canines bred to hunt vermin, but breeds that don’t go to ground aren’t eligible for Earthdog trials. A challenging new dog sport called Barn Hunt works off the basic concept of Earthdog trials, with a twist, and is open to all canines.
Dogs have an innate desire to hunt, regardless of what they were bred to do. Even companion breeds from the Toy Group have a healthy prey drive, and some breeds are good ratters. Miniature Pinschers were originally bred to hunt rats and small prey, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a true hunting dog that has retained his Spaniel traits.
The Standard Schnauzer, German Pinscher and Brussels Griffon have a history of hunting vermin, but they don’t go to ground to flush out prey. Barn hunt is designed to give dogs that have traditionally been used to hunt vermin above ground a sport where they can show off their rat hunting skills. Read More »
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.