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Hunting Dogs

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<SPAN name="C19"></SPAN> <h3>CHAPTER XIX.<br> SLEDGE DOGS OF THE NORTH.</h3> <p>Not a hunting dog in a strict sense of the word, yet most important in that connection, is the sledge dog, in transportation of hunters and their outfits to and from the hunting and trapping scenes.</p> <p>Following is a first hand, specially written article by Colonel F. H. Buzzacott, the intrepid Arctic explorer. That he writes from experience is evident, which necessarily adds interest and value to his highly interesting contribution.</p> <p>What the Indian pony is to the plain Indian, the Pack Horse or Mule is to the White Settler, Hunter or Trapper, the Sledge Dog or Reindeer is to natives of the distant and Far North. An old saying among frontiersmen is that a white man will abandon a horse as broken down and utterly unable to go when a Mexican will take that same horse and make him go a hundred miles further, while an Indian after all of this will mount and ride him for a week still.</p> <p>With all Indians, natives of the north or Esquimaux, knives are luxuries, ponies and dogs, necessities. Yet, for all that, they are never stabled, curried, washed, blanketed, shod, seldom protected or even fed. When the icy cold wintry blasts sweep the drifting snows over plain and valley and buries under his white mantle his food he either digs for it, finds and eats what he can, or starves.</p> <p>In my plains experience with the Indians or in the Polar Regions with the natives of the north or Esquimaux, I have observed that the love of an Indian for his ponies, an Esquimaux for his dogs or Laplander for his reindeer consists in seeing how much he really can get out of them with the least trouble or effort to him.</p> <p>I have seen the Indians or natives of the northwest and the Esquimaux of Hudson's and Baffin's Bay, Greenland, etc., drive half starved dogs to the sledge until they fell or froze, only to be eaten by their masters or mates, whom for a lifetime they had pulled with or served faithfully. Necessity recognizes no law &mdash; man is but an animal himself &mdash; and in the struggle for life or gain it is everywhere but the "Survival of the Fittest" or strongest and passing of the weak, be it white man or Indian.</p> <p>The best of the "Sledge Dogs of the North" are to be found in Greenland or Siberia, "Samoyed" dogs or its Esquimaux cousin, the "Immit Dog", used by explorers and Esquimaux generally. Those with short, thick hair, medium build, size and full breed are considered the best for all around work. They will exist and work well on one pound of food per day, or a big feast once a week. Their food consists mostly of dried and fresh fish, carrion or fresh, or, if with explorers, dog biscuit added.</p> <p>They closely resemble a wolf and howl like one. Are of various colors and sizes, iron grey predominating. They average about two feet four inches in height by three feet six inches in length, of unusually light weight for their size, owing to the bristle out appearance of their hair which adds to their real size. As a rule females are killed at birth, except those few to suffice for breeding. Commence training at six months to a year old and when two or three years old and seasoned to work are considered prime and preferable for long heavy distant sledging and hunting.</p> <p>The best trained of the team (eight, twelve or more in number) is selected as a leader. They are guided by voice and whip, a loud "Brr-Brr" taking the place of our "Gee" in starting and the word "Sass-Sass" used as "Whoa." "Hi" and "He" for right and left, "Ho" to correct, or speed, as they are trained, of course. A good leader possesses the quality of rarely failing to lead one safely over any route once traveled by them, bringing you safely to the place even if buried under the snow.</p> <p>They eat each other's flesh wolf-like with gusto and will tear their fellows to pieces in fight or injury, unless beaten, torn apart or separated by a man of whom they are afraid. They hate water in winter as much as they love it in summer when they frequent the salmon streams and support themselves by fishing, pounce upon nearing fish of any size that approach them, much as does the bear, two of them even tackling an immensely big fish and fighting to secure and bring it to shore. As bear, muskox, or reindeer, dogs, a pack of them will invariably round up, hold or drive anything sighted within reasonable distance so long as the hunters will follow on, needing but little urging, as they realize the prospect of a "good big feast," hence get busy to the end; younger dogs often paying the penalty with their lives but seldom older ones.</p> <p>As a rule, rawhide or seal harness is used in the far north, Alaska and Greenland and by the Esquimaux but with the explorers these consist mostly of canvas collar like attachments made of fourfold strips, two of which pass or slip over the critter's back, the other two between the forelegs, the whole united to a trace and this in turn fastened by a toggle, hook or ring to the sledge or drag rope. The dogs are hitched to this, either side of the drag, or alternately single or double, distant a few feet from each other. The guiding dog or leader is ahead leading while the others follow. Where canvas harness or steel wire rope is used on the drag by "Expeditions" it is because it lessens the chances of the harness being stolen, chewed or eaten, when rations become scarce.</p> <p>In heavy traveling they are used and hitched double for fast travel, alternate and single as exigencies require and will travel from 10 to 50 miles a day according to conditions of road, load, snow, ice, etc. When hitched or prior to it, they are usually lightly fed so as to bring them to reach their destination and "Tether," loafers soon learn that they must earn their food. At times when worked hard, they get off feed, so to speak, sulk and refuse to come up to a drag. In which case the remaining dogs must do the work and rarely do they fail to whine, show their contempt for such action and punish "His Nibs" at the first chance later on, even pining to get at him, sled and all, as they observe him following behind alone.</p> <p>On hard pulls, or uneven drags, they play out easily, act mulish, refusing to budge until the sled is started or at variance with each other. Otherwise, the start is a steady pull until well under way. A good team double will pull easily a load of 1,000 pounds or more, single about one-half, depending largely on condition of themselves and the road they travel. The Esquimaux seldom spares them or the whip, "Brring" them on and "Hi-ying" if needs be.</p> <p>About eight hours' work constitutes a day's travel or they go until played out, the latter case most likely. When traveling they are fairly obedient and preserve a steady equal pulling that occasionally is relieved by a jerky, gallop-like pace. Well trained dogs preserve their pace and tug on the harness for hours at a time. Usually they stop every hour or so for breathing spells as the atmosphere in those regions winds them easily. If traveling fast on ice and one falls or slips, he is dragged along, half strangled, until he regains his feet, place and position in line again, or, becoming tangled he is loosened up. By this time he has been snapped a few times by the dogs about him as if to punish him for his carelessness.</p> <p>Ordinarily, the leader responds promptly to the driver's voice, guiding, turning, halting or increasing speed at the given command. When, however, they scent game, they become difficult to manage, requiring utmost application of the whip to keep the trail or direction and this invariably ends in confusion, hopeless tangle and upset sledge.</p> <p>Handling, feeding, training calls for more judgment and patience than skill, driving especially. They refuse to cross apparently weak yet tested ice, pressure ridges, ice or snow cracks and mule-like, will make a plunging jump over a depression (when in trace) which ordinarily would not call for a leap at all. They require watchfulness on the part of the driver over cross country or when not following the trail, lest they sheer off from a given direction or straight line.</p> <SPAN name="pic184"></SPAN> <h5><ANTIMG src="images/184.jpg" alt="Sledge Dog. Photo From Life."><br>Sledge Dog. &mdash; Photo From Life.</h5> <p>When following the trail much confidence is vested in the leader and should perchance it strike a blind or cross trail, it will howl to attract the attention of the driver and by these means verify directions, as if to ask if it is leading right. In case it loses the track it will slow up, whine, run up or criss-cross its tracks, sniffing and smelling in an anxious, expectant way, until it finds or is led correct, when it howls with delight and pulls off "like blazes" again.</p> <p>They have strange likes and dislikes. As entire pack will punish one who incurs the displeasure at times to an extent of crippling or killing each other. If a strange dog comes amongst them he is pretty sure to get "mauled" or his scraping abilities put to test, which usually ends in a free-for-all fight, catch as catch can rules predominating.</p> <p>When in harness training a young dog gets punished frequently by its mates for any awkwardness it shows. Old dogs especially show contempt for a new or strange dog which takes its mate's place, be it pup or otherwise, and will often sulk if their place is changed. Each seems to think his place is best, the leader especially being particularly proud of his honored position in "Dogdom." As a rule, existing difficulties or arguments in harness are stored up until that day's march is over, because of fear of punishment from the driver, but as soon as turned loose, they settle the difficulty of the day by another scrap, in which often one bunch will participate in, "take sides," and chew up each other, until all pitch in, aiming to settle things somehow. If too tired, they await the morrow. As a rule, the best sledge dogs are the poorest scrappers (so we have to be partial at times) especially to the leader who is usually the most intelligent; hence favored.</p> <p>In a pinch, when game and rations are scarce, they make good eating, of course, being sacrificed. At these times, their peculiar savage nature asserts itself, when you kill one for food, by signs of joy, rather than fear for they seem to be devoid of sympathy or unaffected by the scene. Their flesh is pale, tender and tasteless much like rabbit, bloodless and poor, and they will eat anything from a tin can label to Kipling's "Rag, Bone or Hank of Hair." When meat is plenty, they take on flesh and fatten quickly but seldom does this happen as the Esquimaux says, "Him no good, lazy, much fat."</p> <p>Wolf-like, stolen food tastes better and one will leave his own ration to steal a fellow's equal share and risking by his greediness both, as it is stolen in turn by another. Their thieving propensities are great, a tin can of meat, skin boots, oil lamp, old soup kettle, or their own harness if sealskin or rawhide.</p> <SPAN name="pic187"></SPAN> <h5><ANTIMG src="images/187.jpg" alt="Rough and Ready Sledge Dog."><br>Rough and Ready Sledge Dog.</h5> <p>Tied, penned up or left harnessed any length of time, they assert their belief in "Liberty and Equality" by chewing their way to freedom if it takes a week to do it. As a rule, the dogs respect a female and will seldom molest her. These give birth to a litter of from 4 to 8 pups which are generally killed at birth, unless a scarcity of them, fat "puppy dog" being with the paunch of the reindeer considered a regular "Delmonico" dish. The average usefulness of their existence is about 6 to 8 years, the old dogs following the same road as fat puppies, after their usefulness has seen the limit. Fall bred dogs are best. Alaskan dogs are larger and heavier and the same rule applies to Labrador species, but as they are of mixed breed, lazier and require more food they are only used to advantage where they belong &mdash; at home.</p> <p>As a rule, they exist, breed and sleep in the open, the soft side of a drifting snow bank being a luxury, especially if it drifts about them up to the muzzle, and it is only vacated when dangerous. They seek the warmest spots they can find, a rope coil, rag or paper, or even a tin can to lie on, in preference to ice or hard snow. Failing in this, they will dig a hole in the soft snow and bury themselves in this, lying one on top of the other in bitter weather. The best of Arctic or Polar dogs, while they withstand cold to surprising degree, nevertheless, suffer with the cold and danger of freezing, especially in winter time when food is scarce or frozen and snow serves to quench thirst, a wet foot or crippled limb being the first to suffer. In bitter weather I have seen them roll and run to maintain circulation. They huddle together, shivering, hold up their paws and whine pitifully and appealingly.</p> <p>They receive a kind word by a show of teeth instead of a wag &mdash; indeed, are anything but friendly, except at "chuck" time and then limit it to the grub with a few exceptions, of course. Most of them, however, Indian-like, believe in the old maxim "Familiarity breeds contempt" and thus they treat kindness with suspicion and turn tail as if it preceded work or a licking and perhaps both.</p> <p>If left alone any length of time, one will start up a coyote-like howl and all join in one after the other in the chorus that takes the appearance of a man with a "big stick" to quell. If left alone they will keep it up for hours, stopping as it commenced by degrees, apparently without reason. They are fed when circumstances permit and if permitted, will gorge themselves to the point of bursting, eating enough to last a week and camping alongside of it until even the bones are cleaned up and not enough left to feed a fly. Indian-like, however, they are always on hand for the next meal, hungry again. When traveling, they are fed a little daily, but when not, exist on wind, bones and kicks, fish offal and refuse thrown out, or hunt for themselves like wolves, after Arctic hares, lemmings or anything they can find.</p> <p>In winter time, dogs are often the main food of the Esquimaux and as fat or oil is generally scarce, are eaten raw instead of cooked, oil being too valuable at this time to be wasted on dog. Its taste to the white man largely depends on one's hunger or digestive cravings. If half-starved, it is voted "just excellent." If not, it is "just dog," that's all. Yet, if the pangs of hunger gnaw one's vitals, repugnance, position in life, creed, superstition, opinions, likes and dislikes, self-respect, all give way to the cravings of an empty stomach; especially in that trackless great white desert called the "Distant Polar Regions."</p> <p>Such is the life and existence of these, the sledge dogs of the north.</p> <hr> <h2>PART IV.</h2> <h3>THE HUNTING DOG FAMILY.</h3> <hr> <SPAN name="pic192"></SPAN> <h5><ANTIMG src="images/192.jpg" alt="Worthy of the Name, Fox Hounds."><br>Worthy of the Name, Fox Hounds.</h5> <hr>
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