to the Treeing Feist
A squirrel dog breed history!
Sweet Briar, Virginia
RESEARCH ASSISTANT DEPARTMENT OF
WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES SCIENCES
DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
Gray has been hunting squirrels basically his whole
life (over 20 years) with his Dad and other members
of the Gray family. He grew up in Central Virginia
and has family in North Central Missouri, where
he also hunts regularly.
nationally-known line of squirrel dog, Gray’s
Mountain Feist is in it’s 5th generation and
has hunters in more than 15 states enjoying the
is a 2006 graduate of Unity College in Maine with
a Bachelor’s in Wildlife Conservation. In
2009, he completed his Master’s in Wildlife
Science at South Dakota State University.
Marc is back in Virginia and working in DC as an
international Conservation Coordinator for large
to the Treeing Feist
A squirrel dog breed history!
squirrel dog is a purebred or crossbred dog that
works with its human handler to tree squirrels.
Squirrel dogs do this to please their handlers,
for the thrill of the chase, and for the kill. There
are many dogs that will chase squirrels in a park
or in their owner's yard. Calling these 'squirrel
dogs' is like calling those honky-tonkin' Romeos,
with their big belt buckles, hats and boots 'cowboys.'
They may look like cowboys and even talk like cowboys,
but they're only cowboys if they work on a ranch
and ride a horse. Similarly, only dogs that consistently
hunt and tree wild squirrels are legitimate squirrel
dogs."--David A. Osborn, 1999
Treeing Feist Squirrel Dog may be one of the best
breeds for your farm or ranch. They are an extremely
versatile dog that can be taught to perform many
tasks that will be consistent with the goals of
many homesteaders. Controlling rodent pests, protecting
livestock from predators such as foxes and raccoons,
hunting small game and notifying your family of
visitors while remaining friendly toward people
are all part of the Treeing Feist job description.
This loyal breed thrives in a rural environment,
has an overwhelming desire to please and gets along
well with children. If you are interested in helping
to preserve and promote this relatively rare breed
or would just like a good "all around"
farm hand, the Treeing Feist might be a good fit
to the United Kennel Club, "the feist breeds
are descended from the terriers brought over by
English miners and other working class immigrants.
These terriers probably included crosses between
the Smooth Fox Terrier, the Manchester Terrier and
the now extinct White English Terrier. Some of these
dogs were crossed with Whippets or Italian Greyhounds
(for speed) and Beagles (for hunting ability.) Eventually,
these tough little terriers evolved into today's
squirrel hunting Feists."
his popular book, Squirrel Dog Basics, David A.
Osborn writes a detailed description about the origins
of the breed. According to Osborn, "Treeing
Feist is a catchall name that includes various types
of small dogs that have proven treeing ability."
Some people use the term "feist" or "fyce"
to refer to any small mongrel dog. In fact, a Treeing
Feist is a small form of American Cur. Some are
the products of generations of planned breeding.
This is why enthusiast groups prefer to call their
dogs "American Treeing Feist" or "Mountain
Treeing Feist." This distinguishes selectively
bred, charismatic hunters from other little dogs
with uncertain lineage and unproven abilities.
word "feist" probably was first used in
Britain to describe what we now call Rat Terriers.
In the U.S., its usage may have been common in Kentucky
as early as 1890. However, there is much speculation
about its origin and how it became associated with
these little dogs. It is suggested that the word
is equivalent to Britain's terrier, referring to
a general type of hunting dog rather than to a specific
thing is for sure: feist-like dogs have been around
for a long time and have played a significant role
in the lives of rural Americans. People eking a
living out of the remote southeastern mountains
particularly cherished them. However, feists became
less important as the mountains became industrialized.
As a result, their numbers are said to have fallen
alarmingly. During the early 1980s, a few people
wrote in Full Cry magazine to rally support for
starting an organization to save and promote the
response was significant. The Mountain Feist Association
was founded in 1984. Any feist-like dogs, regardless
of geographic origin or genetics, were eligible
for registration as Mountain Feists. This association
disbanded in 1985. The American Treeing Feist Association
was founded in 1985 to improve and promote the breed
as a hunting dog. In 1986, the Mountain Feist Breeders
Club was founded to single-register individuals
for the United Squirrel Dog Registry. The Mountain
Treeing Feist Organization was founded in 1992.
These enthusiast groups have influenced the growing
popularity of the Treeing Feist. In 1999, the Traditional
Treeing Feist Club was formed.
many Treeing Feists are first generation, crossbred
offspring of other widely recognized breeds. For
example, some are Rat Terrier and Fox Terrier crosses.
The various enthusiast groups will register any
dog that meets their breed standard; many breeds
may qualify. A smooth-coated Fox Terrier, smooth-coated
Jack Russell Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Rat Terrier,
or a smooth-coated mongrel may be registered as
a Treeing Feist. However, these same groups do not
recognize the offspring of two registered Treeing
Feists if they have long hair, or if they are heavier
or taller than allowed by their breed standards.
Furthermore, these non-conforming feists cannot
participate in sponsored ability-related events.
Shumate of Columbus, Georgia, believes that the
original Treeing Feists were descendants of small
dogs kept by early Native Americans. He suggests
that these small Indian dogs may have been transported
to Europe during the 1500s, influencing the development
of some European terrier breeds. Either way, both
may contribute to the genetics of the Treeing Feist.
Williams of Paintsville, Kentucky, believes that
today's Mountain Treeing Feists evolved because
dogs kept by southern Appalachian Indians bred with
terriers introduced by European and British immigrants.
He believes that these Indians used packs of feist-like
mongrels to catch small game, to pull loads, and
to keep their families warm during cold winter nights.
Dogs that failed to serve these functions probably
of their true origins, there are many widely recognized
strains of Treeing Feist. However, most do not yet
have organized, strain-specific registries, and
crossbreeding of strains is common. Some Treeing
Feists are good combination dogs, hunting both squirrels
and raccoons. They have been used to hunt bear,
bobcat, cougar, fox, opossum, and rabbits; to flush
game birds; and to hunt turkeys. Wayne Cauley, a
hog hunter from Soperton, Georgia, prefers using
Treeing Feists. His little baying dogs compete well
against much larger dogs in field trials and hog
Official Breed Standard of the Treeing Feist as
described by the National Kennel Club includes the
Height is 10-22 inches. Weight is 10-35
pounds (depending on the registry.)
Hair is short. No extremely long or shaggy
coats are allowed. Coat may be any solid-color,
or mixed-colors of any pattern."
United Kennel Club, Inc. (Cur and Feist Page): www.ukcdogs.com/HPCurFeist.htm
National Kennel Club, Inc.: www. nationalkennelclub.com/
Marc and Beth's Outdoor Adventures--Gray's Treeing
(aka Mountain) Feist Squirrel Dogs (Marc Gray and
Beth Kintz): http://squirrelhuntergray. tripod.coral