Don’t be fooled by the small packaging. Feists are equal parts cast iron and nitroglycerin. Ounce for ounce, they may be the toughest dogs in the world. They certainly have my vote as the most versatile.
Feists are working-class in origin and terrier-like in appearance and temperament. Their lineage goes back to terrier breeds developed in Merry Old England to hunt small vermin. Like countless other country traditions, English immigrants brought their terriers to the American colonies. During the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, they bred the little dogs for increased hunting and scenting ability by crossing them with curs, beagles, and other scenthounds.
Today, common types of feist include the DenMark feist, the Mullins feist, the Thornberg feist, and the catchall treeing feist. Consistent with their terrier background, feists are fearless and alert, but also companionable and easy to train.
Feists run 20 to 35 pounds and sport a short, low-maintenance coat. Ears may be erect or floppy; bobtails are traditional but not required.
Most feists are silent trailers. Once treed, they alert the hunter with a clear, chopping bark. Although their treeing instinct and natural prey drive make them popular with squirrel and ‘coon hunters, feists also do well with light stock-herding work. Needless to say, they’re deadly on small vermin.
• Take your feist puppy for frequent walks in the woods as soon as it has completed a course of inoculations.
• Join the National Cur and Feist Breeders Association: 713 E. Sycamore St, Jasonville, IN 47438, (812) 665-3263.
• Introduce a pup to gunfire until it is hunting boldly and shows a strong interest in game.
Henry Chappell’s field reports have been a mainstay of The Land Report since its founding in 2007. In addition to penning Working Dogs of Texas, he recently wrote Under One Fence: The Waggoner Ranch Legacy.