Hunting with Hog Dogs
My familyís long tradition and love of hog hunting led us into the raising of working dogs that can do the job. I started out hunting wild hogs when I was fifteen. I had some hounds and as I grew older I tried almost every breed but none suited me until I hunted some BMCs from the Foundation Black Mouth Cur Breeders Organization in Texas. I researched different bloodlines and obtained seed stock of my present day line and while there may be better BMC stock somewhere for some particular trait we havenít seen it and not selectively added it's genetics to our premium pack always maintaining the standard of quality and type. It is our ambition to maintain the integrity of the Black Mouth Cur breed and this means only breeding a dog that is way above average and stringently culling the average and below average from the breeding program. Theyíre still good solid dogs, just not meeting our high standards.
We like a dog with a medium-cold nose, silent on trail, a loud mouth that is easily located, a dog that is fast enough to out run any woods rooter, strong and quick enough to bay up a hog at his head until the catch team arrives, and with enough strength of character he doesnít have to resort to hamming. Weak dogs ham a hog because they donít have the speed, power, or Heart to face off a big boar. But when a dog hamstrings a hog you canít turn the hog loose and expect him to survive in the wild again. And my family practices catch and release with small hogs or if we catch them too far to carry to the truck. If we can't eat it, we won't waste it. A hunter who harvests wantonly is soon left to hunt nothing at all and wonders why the hogs arenít as plentiful as they used to be. You have to be a conservationist. Your actions today affect the future of hunting. If you donít manage the herd responsibly, no one else will and there goes the game.
We want a dog that can find a hog by himself. If he finds it by tracking on the ground, trailing air currents, using sight or listening for hogs, it doesn't matter. Results are what matter. We prefer a medium-cold nosed dog. A cold tracking dog usually moves too slow to catch a hog unless the hog just stands still for the dog to walk up to him. A medium tracking dog can track decently enough to get close enough to where the air current will bring the hog scent to the dog and the dog needs to have the smarts to shift from tracking to trailing by air scent. But it doesnít matter how he finds them; we want a dog that can find and keep a hog bayed up until we arrive to catch the hog.
Our personal preference is a silent tracking or trailing dog because we didn't go hunting to hear the dog barking we came to the woods to catch hogs. When a hog hears a dog open on trail he starts heading for the thickest, densest briar patch with the longest, sharpest thorns growing in the smelliest, slimiest section of swamp he knows. And you have to go in there because your dogs are following that boar. We have briars growing in the swamp called cat briars that will rip clothes to shreds. When you come out of one of those patches it looks like you have literally been in a wrestling match with a mountain lion. By hunting with a silent running dog the hog doesn't have the opportunity to run for cover but must make a stand where the dog found it.
When a dog sees the boar, he has to have demon speed to be fast enough to out run the hog. Once a hog knows a dog/hunter is on his trail, the hog already had a head start so a dog has to be able to run faster than any hog heís trying to catch.
In the past, the hogs around here had a lot of piney woods rooter in their bloodlines and would stand and fight, man or beast. They were afraid of nothing. Theyíd fight a bear if a bear was dumb enough to bother them. But as time went on the rooters that stood and fought were killed and eaten. The ones that multiplied were the ones that had a lot of Russian Runner blood in them and they would run with reckless abandon, crashing through anything in their head long flight from danger to their area of safety when they thought something was interested in pork for dinner. So you want a tall, long legged dog that can cover ground rapidly and run completely silent while hog hunting.
Now even if your dog can run circles around a boar unless he has the power to stop a hog from running heís just giving the boar some company in a long foot race further into the swamp. We expect our dogs to bay up a hog by himself or with company. We also expect our dogs to work together. A quarrelsome dog can get the whole dog pack killed by distracting another dog when a boar is cornered. The boar is not playing around. Heís in survival mode and will kill any dog facing him given the slightest chance. Your dog also needs extremely quick reflexes at this time. A wild boar doesnít grow to adulthood by being slow or stupid. A dog has to be properly schooled so that they are responding, not thinking. The dog in a bay up has to know what to do, there's no time to think. They also have to be kept in shape with regular exercise and a good performance brand of dog food. Some people skimp on one or more of these requirements and the dogs and their owners pay a lot more in repair bills at the veterinarianís office than any money that's been saved.
At the bay up is the only time you really want your dog making noise. His bark should be loud, deep and long for easy locating. The hog may have been bayed up a few yards to miles away from where you're located. Now we come to the most important trait we look for in a dog, HEART. If a dog isnít born with it, you canít put it in them. Heart is something that not all dogs have. Even dogs from a long line of find and strike dogs donít always have the Heart to be a good hog dog. But you have the most productive results testing dogs of a good lineage for a find and strike dog. And the find and strike dog is the one that puts meat in the smokehouse and food on the table. This is the dog youíre going to have to spend the most money to purchase. Your dog must keep the hog from leaving by whatever means necessary. Our dogs work the head. If he catches, you can't locate the dog as he can't bark with a mouth full of pork to let you know where he is. He has to have good judgment. Too close, the hog will attack the dog or the hog will break and start running again. Too far, the dog can't react fast enough to get in front to stop the hog and then the race is on again. We usually hunt with two find and strike dogs. They work as a team and actually cause less damage than if there's only one dog working the hog.
Now comes the time when you enter the picture. The hog is stopped, youíve run up with the catch dog on leash, you release him, he charges in, jumps and locks on like a vice grip. In regards to catching dogs, we want a dog that locks on, closes his eyes and waits for you. The catch dog is like the line backer that starts the catch and the bay dogs are expected to back his play. Once the dogs are caught they should stay caught until made to release. A dog that bites and barks, or one that chews when heís caught hold of the hog, is not wanted at our place. The first, because he isnít really caught and the second, because heís damaging the hog. We probably could, but don't train our dog to release on command because there's no telling what someone will say when wrestling a wild hog at the bay. People get excited and you'd be surprised at what you hear. So our dogs are trained to hold on until we use a breaking stick. It doesn't hurt them and it prevents any misunderstanding about when to let go of the hog.
Hogs should be caught as humanly and with as little damage as possible. We use Ladner, an old stock, fifty-pound Black Mouth Cur for our catch dog. You point to any hog or bull no matter how big and tell him to catch, heíll catch, solid. If youíre wondering how a fifty-pound dog can catch a two hundred -pound boar, itís simple. When he runs in the other dogs all catch at the same time. Usually we run two BMCs to find and strike and use one more for catching. After the dogs have immobilized the hog we come up and snap the cuffs on the larger hogs or we use cotton rope about the size of a number two pencil on the smaller hogs. Nylon isn't used as it will stretch and allow a hog to recover the use of his hind legs at the most inconvenient time. We then proceed to tie the front legs. At this point we use a breaking stick to release the catch dog and check out the hog. If it's a small young boar we let it go to continue its growth, if it's a good size hog we harvest it unless it's too far to the truck in which case we'd release him with all of us gaining a little more experience.
It's been our experience that dogs suitable for hog hunting are not easily found. With a few exceptional kennels, out of ten well bred dogs you might get one dog that will hunt well, not outstanding, but well. We have had phenomenal success with the Weatherford's Ben line or the Rathke's Reno line of dogs. They have an unusually high rate in making outstanding hog dogs.
Ben was breed by Mike Bauman of Oklahoma City and Reno was bred and trained by Edmond Rathke of Canyon Springs Cur Kennel in Hunt, Texas. We started our kennel with Ben's Winchester, a direct son of Ben, and have constantly reinforced Ben's genetics. Winchester was entered into the Black Mouth Hall of Fame. He died heroically while catching a huge, extremely vicious wild hog. Luckily we and our friends have several sons and daughters to carry on his line. Our breeding stock is also based on TLS Delight, Rio Grande Blonde, and Rathke's Reno, another direct son of Ben, who consistently produces outstanding working dogs used for herding or big game hunting.
We occasionally have a few pups available from our own dogs or our friendís
dogs. None of us breed more than two or three litters a year because weíre
trying to increase the quality of the dogs not the quantity. Since we all hunt
back and forth with each other we know one anotherís stock very well, both the
parental dogs and usually their ancestry back three to six generations. If
youíre looking for a hog-hunting prospect, weíll do our best to match you with a
pup from outstanding working parents.
The two superb pups featured working some wild hogs in this article are Okefenokee Cowboy and his litter mate sister Dancer, back a few years when they were only five-month olds. We start our dogs at an early age of three to four months as we wish them to become bay dogs, not pure catch dogs. And unless they're started young, they wonít bay, theyíre straight catch. Cowboy and Dancer are out of TLS Delight and Rathke's Reno. As you can see, they totally dominate the hogs.
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