Squirrel Hunting Dogs

What is a Squirrel Dog?

A squirrel dog is any dog that will hunt squirrels. The job of a squirrel dog is cruising the woods, scenting the squirrel and then announcing the find by barking at the base of the tree.

Good squirrel dogs instinctively follow a fleeing squirrel merely by listening for scratches on the bark and the whoosh of the branches as the squirrel jumps from tree to tree.

It is a lot of fun to follow a dog through the woods until it sniffs out a trail or spots a bushy tail and gives chase and keeps it at bay until you arrive.

The primary food of squirrels is nuts and you will find them in forests that consist of oaks, beech, butternut, walnuts, hickories, and other nut trees. The instinct to go after squirrels occurs in Dachshunds, Terriers and a broad group of dogs known as curs and feists which have been bred to do the job for hundreds of generations.

The difference between a cur and a feist is the size, with a feist being smaller. These dogs have terrier ancestry to some degree.

Purebred Dachshunds and Terriers are relatively new to the sport and training with experienced individuals and dogs are commonplace. A talented mountain cur usually requires little training. A cur with talent does the job automatically, or will quickly learn it by watching other dogs.

There are many breeds of true curs – it seems as if a new breed appears every few years. The most popular cur breeds, though – mountain, American leopard, treeing Tennessee brindle and blackmouth – have their own breeder organizations that work to standardize and promote their dogs.

In the large, primarily rural sport of tracking and treeing dogs, squirrel dog hunting and trialing is far less developed and commercialized than coon dog and beagle trialing but is quickly growing into one of the most popular outdoor canine sports.

History of the Squirrel Dog

dog hunting squirrelOur early pioneers brought their early cur/terriers with them from rat infested Great Britain. It was soon found that small game became a principal source of providing food as it was plentiful and it was what could be most easily harvested with the primitive weapons they had.

More than 200 years would pass before a choke system was devised. Compared to modern shotguns, these muskets could be truly called “scatterguns”. These dogs were also used to herd escaped livestock back into pens, protect chickens and eggs from vermin and to hunt for small game. At night, the dogs slept outside to warn of Indian attacks.

The settlers who went through the Cumberland Gap from Virginia to Tennessee and Kentucky brought these dogs with them in baskets on horse or mule. It was here that the squirrel dog would survive.

It has been said that those Southern Mountains couldn’t have been settled without the dogs. Up to about 50 years ago, when the U.S. and Canada were rural, every farm had an all-purpose dog that would go after many things. Squirrel Dogs were popular. All one had to do to locate one was ask around.

Then America and Canada got modern and the sport lost favor. Squirrel dogs even in the Cumberland Gap declined being replaced by the melody -voiced greyhounds. However, it is from this cradle region that the sport is regaining popularity.

Squirrel Dog Trials

Squirrel dog trials are designed to simulate squirrel hunting. Dachshunds, Terriers, Feists and Curs are eligible. Dogs must be registered with the National Kennel Club and should have registry with the AKC, CKC, UKC or with the respective Cur/Feist Association. Point system: First place-40 ; second-35 ; third-30 ; 4th-25 ; 5th-20 ; 6th and 7th-15 ; 8th and 9th-10 ; 10th-5.

Certificate Titles

  • Squirrel Dog Champion: a dog must obtain 100 champion points and one 1st place. Grand Champion Squirrel Dog: must win 5 champion hunts (only Champions allowed to compete).
  • Super Grand Champion Squirrel Dog: must win 8 Grand Champion Hunts (only Grand Champions allowed to compete).

General Rules:

  • Dogs will hunt in the following weight classes:
    (1) 25 pounds and under
    (2) 26 to 40 pounds
    (3) 41 pounds and over
  • Tree points awarded shall be 1st-125 ; 2nd-75 ; 3rd-50
  • Casts shall be 3 dogs wherever possible
  • Dogs are scored by awarding plus or minus points, with plus points for good performance and minus for infractions.

Here are some of the rules: On plus points: Majority of cast must see squirrel (2 persons in either a 3-dog or a 2-dog cast)…When dogs are treed, cast may move at moderate pace close enough to see dogs working but must wait 3 minutes after dogs are declared treed, unless all dogs are treed or hunt time expires, before going in and searching the tree for game. After 3 minutes, tree is closed to other dogs, 10 minutes time is allotted to search tree for game. Squirrel must be seen in tree treed upon or trees that squirrel could have crossed overrto and not over 30 steps from where dogs are treed. Dogs declared treed may receive plus points on squirrel if tree barking at squirrel seen running from tree to tree or on the ground even if squirrel goes into den, etc. On minus points: When dog declared treed leaves the tree before cast arrives and ties dog. When dogs are declared treed, dog must bark 2 minutes until cast arrives within sight of the dogs. When dog trees on tree that obviously contains no squirrel, not within 30 steps of large tree and no squirrel is seen. Dogs can be scratched from the trial for various infractions, including getting lost, chasing domestic animals or fighting. Dog owners also can be disqualified for fighting.

The governing bodies of the trials are the National Kennel Club (NKC) and the National Cur and Feist Breeders Association. (N.C.F.B.A.). The N.C.F.B.A. has members throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Contacts: National Kennel Club

  • (Squirrel Dog Registration – AKC and CKC registered breeds welcome) :Melvin Hopper, 1556 Cherrybrook Dr., Knoxville, TN 37912 615-938-8995 or 615-938-8321 National Cur and Feist Breeders Association ( AKC and CKC registered breeds welcome)
  • President: Dave Burgess, Rt. 6, Box 174, Logansport, IN 46947 219-722-9604 Secretary-Treasurer-Membership: Claude Thomas, 713 E. Sycamore Street, Jasonville, IN 47438 812-665-3263

Events and Clubs

All NKC Squirrel Dog Trials are advertised in FULL CRY magazine. FULL CRY, PO Box 10, Boody, Illinois 62514 217-865-2332 e-mail 75701.3464@compuserve.com Fax (217) 865-233422 Tel (217) 2332

I keep a complete list available for email.
If you would like me to email you the list, email me at dennisr@mgl.ca

Regional Squirrel Dog Clubs

  • – Southern Illinois Squirrel and Coon Club, Rt. 1, Box 635, DuQuolin, IL 62832 618-542-3803
  • – Elnora Outdoor Club, 713 E. Sycamore, Jasonville, IN 47438 812-665-3263
  • -Southern Indiana Squirrel Hunters Association, c/o Frank Cox, HC 70, Box 79, Bristow, IN 47515 812-357-7492
  • – Louisiana Cur & Feist Association, 39021 Camp Drive, Prairieville, LA 70769
  • – Foothills Squirrel Hunters Club, P.O. Box 309, Moravian Falls, NC 28654 919-667-6627
  • – Canadian Cur Breeders Association of North America, 5501 Eaton Road, Bucyrus, OH 44820 419-562-7161 * ( Canadian Contact – David Rogers, Route 1, Thornton, Ontario Canada LOL 2N0 705-458-4064)
  • – North Central Ohio Cur Dog Club, 750 Main Rd. 5, Ashland, OH 44805 419-962-47322
  • – Carter Cur Association, 924 E. Owens Road, Chattaroy, WA 99003 509-276-7071111

(E-mail your club info for inclusion to dennisr@mgl.ca)

Squirrel Dog Events

  • November2/96 – Tennessee State Squirrel Dog Championship and Event – ASANHA and CSANHC sanctioned – hosted by The American Squirrel and Nite Hunters Association – At the The Outback Events Building behind the Days Inn, Jellico, Tennessee. Contact Rocky Jenkins at (423) 784-9850 for details.
  • November 9&10/96 – ASANHA 2nd Annual World Championship Squirrel Hunt – At Wilburton, Oklahoma – Contact Jerry Rutledge at (918) 754-2840 or Keith Sutmiller at (918) 426-4876 for details.
  • Dec 14 & 15/96 – The National Kennel Club Championship Hunt and Bench Show – Hosted by Mid-South Squirrel Hunters – At the Fairgrounds, Highway 1, South, Forrest City, Arkansas. Contact Jim Rhea at (501) 238-4441 or (501) 238-9110 or Claude Thomas at (812) 665-3263 for details.

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