Hunting Dog (Felids)

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Hunting Dogs (Felids) refers to those few hunting dogs which are used primarily to aid in hunting large felids (members of the cat family), typically lions in the Old World and cougars in the New World. A pack may be used to track the animal and keep it at bay, which combines giving voice to the sound known as ‘’baying’’ and surrounding and confining the animal or they may be expected to engage the animal in combat and seize it, in the manner of the catch dogs used in boar hunting, until the huntsmen have an opportunity to dispatch it. Because of this dual function, such dogs are often among the largest of all hunting dogs, and typically are of essentially Molosser type.

Lion hunters[edit]

This ancient mosaic, likely Roman, shows a large dog with a collar hunting a lion.

It is thought that in ancient times Assyrian mastiffs were used to hunt Lions and in Roman times mastiffs from Britain were put into combat against them. In the quotation, “...deemed worthy to enter the Roman amphitheatre and in the presence of the masters of the world, encounter the pard and assail even the lord of the savage tribes, whose courage was sublimed by torrid suns, and found none gallant enough to oppose him on the deserts of Zaara or the plains of Numidia.",[1] the “lord of the savage tribes” is thought to refer to the lion. The practice of lion-baiting also occurred as late as the 19th century in England, using Old English Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.[2]

The Rhodesian Ridgeback

The breed most associated with lion hunting is the Rhodesian Ridgeback,[3] an African breed whose history began in the 18th century, when the first European settlers bred their own dogs with dogs domesticated by Khoisan tribes that had a ridge of hair along their backs. Though the resulting dogs were undoubtably used to bay lions, the 2008 Rhodesian Ridgeback World Congress took the view that in its early use, the Ridgeback was more a "hunter's/farmer's ox-wagon dog" than a "lion dog”, and had a general guarding and hunting role, including the hunting of birds. They have also been used to hunt other felids such as cheetahs and leopards[4]

Cougar hunters[edit]

The Blackmouth Cur

The United Kennel Club recognizes a group of dogs originating in the Southern United States it calls curs, which are used in the hunting of a variety of animals, including cougars, using the baying method. Several breeds are distinguished: Blackmouth Cur, Catahoula Cur, Blue Lacy, Mountain Cur, Stephens Cur and Treeing Cur, but only the first two are noted for being used on cougars. Historical references to “curs” do not refer to these breeds, which are of 19th-century origin or later.

The Black And Tan Coonhound

Although bred to hunt the raccoon, coonhounds have been used on cougars. There are several separate breeds, including Black and Tan Coonhound, Bluetick Coonhound, English Coonhound, Plott Hound, Redbone Coonhound and Treeing Walker Coonhound.

The Dogo Argentino

The Argentine Dogo is an all-round big game breed developed in the 1930s from a number of breeds (Cordoba Fighting Dog, Great Dane, Boxer, Spanish Mastiff, Old English Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Great Pyrenees, Pointer, Irish Wolfhound and Dogue de Bordeaux), with use on wild boar and cougar in mind.

Panther dog[edit]

Aaron Hall (1828-1892), hunter, breeder of the panther dog

The panther dog of Pennsylvania is an American extinct crossbreed dog developed in the 19th century to hunt cougars, for which “panther” was a colloquial name. It is the only breed known to have been specifically bred for hunting large felines. Note that the panther dog should not be confused with the "canis panther" dog, a crossbreed created in the 1970s.[5][unreliable source?]


Henry W. Shoemaker[6][7] wrote in 1907, "Packs of panther dogs would soon spring up in the mountainous settlements, and the breeding of these animals would give an impetus to the canine industry in these regions. Small bulldogs are said to be best for this purpose, though many prefer the ordinary whippet or "fice". Aaron Hall, the "Lion Hunter of the Juniata", slayer of fifty panthers in Pennsylvania between 1845 and 1869, bred a race of panther dogs. They were part bulldog, part bloodhound, part Newfoundland, and part mastiff. They were so large that C. K. Sober, of Lewisburg, former State Game Commissioner, when on a visit to Hall at his hunting cabin on Rock Run, Centre County, was able to ride on the back of one of them. They were trained to hunt in pairs, and when the quarry was overtaken, to seize it by the ears on either side, holding the monster until the hunter appeared. With Hall's death, in 1892, this interesting breed of dog was allowed to become extinct."[8]

Wild Boar Hunt, by Frans Snyders, showing the ear grabbing technique by 17th century boarhounds.

Similar breeds[edit]

The Poacher At Bay (1865). Richard Ansdell is thought to have used his Mastiff Leo as the model.

Another breed based, like the panther dog, on the Bulldog - Mastiff cross is the Bullmastiff, which was used against poachers (as it was deemed quicker than the Mastiff), as was the Boerboel of South Africa (known to contain Rhodesian Ridgeback and Bullmastiff).

The Bloodhound - Mastiff cross is the basis for the Fila Brasileiro, a guardian dog of Brazil. The dogs used in Australian wild boar hunting (called pigging) are compounded of some of these breeds plus others, but have no uniform formula for breeding.[9] Dog breeds used specifically against the wolf are large sighthounds (Irish Wolfhound, Borzoi), rather than molosser mixes such as the panther dog. (See Wolf hunting with dogs.) It can only be a matter of speculation as to why the Newfoundland, a breed associated with aquatic rescue, should have been included in the panther dog development, except for the addition of size, as its long coat might be a detriment to movement in heavy cover, as was the case in heavy snow, when that breed was bred into the St. Bernard.[10]

The hunting of cougars is still permitted in some American states, but the dogs are utilized to track the cat, tree it and bay to alert the hunter, rather than to engage the cougar in combat as the panther dog did.[11][dead link][dubious ]


  1. ^ Cynographia Britannica, (1800) Sydenham Edwards , London: C. Whittingham
  2. ^
  3. ^ How to Raise & Train Rhodesian Ridgeback”, Frank C Lutman. TFH Publications, 1966, ISBN 0876663722/ ISBN 978-0-87666-372-1
  4. ^ National breed—South African dog, Showdogs
  5. ^ Canis Panther, Strongdogz
  6. ^ A Passion for the Past, Carnegie Museums
  7. ^ Popularizing Pennsylvania Henry W. Shoemaker and the Progressive Uses of Folklore and History, Simon J. Bronner. 1996 ISBN 978-0-271-01487-6
  8. ^ "Extinct Pennsylvania Animals", pg. 51, Henry W. Shoemaker. Altoona Tribune Publishing Co. 1907
  9. ^ Boardogs: F1 crosses, Boardogs
  10. ^ St Bernard, Canada's Guide to Dogs
  11. ^ Cougar Hunting Seasons and Regulations[dubious ], Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife