By Lee Newhart, Jr.
155 West Haven Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
During the past month we heard from Josh Branscom of Stearns, KY; Ron and Bridget of Caron, South Royalton, VT; Robert Blackford, Garden Grove, IA; Donald Palmer, Jr., Horatio, SC; and Leon Bryant, North Little Rock, AR.
Your letters, inquiries and photos are always welcome. Let us hear from you.
A warm welcome goes out to our most recent new members ... Carl Slusher of Riner, VA and Stan Holland, Grand Bay, AL. Thank you for your support. We appreciate it.
This month's historical feature is a 1930's magazine article entitled Ol' Jake. It was authored by David M. Newell.
About seven years ago a clumsy, flop eared, black and tan pup placed a large, horny paw in the middle of an old tom cat's back. It was a friendly gesture on the part of the pup, an expression of youthful exuberance, suggesting a game of tag, but the tom cat failed to understand. Consequently, it spat indignantly and raked the pup across the nose. And in so doing it sealed the fate of some 17,000 pounds of cat critters.
That was seven years ago. Today the black and tan pup is perhaps the finest big game hound alive. I say "perhaps" not because there is the slightest doubt of the fact in my own mind but merely because I am very busy and haven't time to go to court about the matter. Old Jake's record speaks for itself.
For six years he has been a sworn enemy of the whole cat family and I have never seen a dog who at the same time so heartily likes and hates the tribe. The musty scent of a cougar track in the pine needles fill his soul with joy, and he wades into a big bobcat with wagging tail. The savage, coughing grunts of a jaguar crouched in the bamburra are sweet music to his ears - or rather his ear, for one of these same jungle killers so mutilated his right ear that it had to be taken off close to the head. Undaunted by such trifles, Jake would today ask nothing better than close quarters with a Bengal tiger; and I devoutly hope that I shall yet be the means of gratifying his desires.
But even a well bred black and tan pup with a cat complex has a great deal to learn. To the Lee boys of Paradise, Arizona, belongs the credit for Jake's early training, and it is my honest conviction that the old fellow is the best trained dog I have ever seen. I have known him to make mistakes; what dog does not? A very old or a very fresh bear track, for instance, will often fool the keenest nose at the start, but Jake never backtracked for long. From his bloodhound grandsire, he inherited a marvelous scenting ability and many's the time I have watched him work out a trail that I knew to be over 24 hours old. How does he do it? How does any dog follow such a delicate and elusive scent?
Uncle George Rawls, who has also thrilled to old Jake's hunting cry, once said: "There's three things I don't understand all I know about. One of 'em is how a cow can keep bringin' up a fresh cud an' never git mixed up. The next is radio. And most of all is how a hound dog can tell which way a varmint has gone after the varmint has passed along the day before!"
When Jake went on his first hunt in the Arizona canons, new and enticing odors met his nostrils. The fresh body scent of a deer has more natural attraction for a hound pup than cigarette smoke has for a man who is trying to quit, and of course, Jake followed his natural bent. Away he went, in full cry, after the first deer that he struck. He was not whipped for this first offense, for it is not wise to discourage a young dog on his first trial. He must never get the idea that he is being punished for hunting per se.
Jake was caught, taken off the deer track, scolded a little, and given another chance. This time he tried a coyote, and later in the day a fox. The old heads of the pack failed to strike either bear, bobcat or mountain lion; so Jake went back to camp with nothing to show for his first day in the field but a little negative training.
Positive training is the best training that a dog can have, although negative training is very necessary. In other words, the more experience a dog can be given in trailing desired game, the less it becomes necessary to scold and whip him for chasing undesired game. When a hound pup has treed a few bobcats, bayed a few bears,and worried a few dead cougars, he soon reaches his own conclusions: namely,that bears, bobcats and cougars are what the boss wants; that bobcats are snarly, scratchy things that put up a fine chase and are lots of fun; that bears are too big to engage in actual combat, but furnish much excitement, and that cougars usually climb trees, but are dangerous customers until doctored by the boss and his fire stick. The pup learned through negative training that deer must be passed by unnoticed; that chasing deer is a fruitless quest bringing only sore feet and whippings, and that paying attention to coyotes or foxes is simply anathema.
Gradually, Jake began to show signs of becoming a real big game hound. His hatred of all cats began to manifest itself right at the start. One morning old Ranger struck a fresh bobcat track in the bluffs under the rim-rock and the pup Jake joined eagerly in the trailing. The cat was started in an aspen thicket, and after doubling and dodging for the best part of an hour, climbed a pinon.
Duke was at a loss, of course.That delectable cat trail had disappeared into thin air. He hunted far and wide returning always to the last place where he had smelled it. Strange to say, Ranger and the other dogs sat calmly around looking up in the air and barking occasionally.
The pup did not know what to make of it until one of the Lee boys came up and patted the side of the pinon. Jake sniffed the bark and began to wag his tail excitedly. Here was the lost cat scent! He reared on his hind feet, snuffing the trunk as high as he could reach. The cat scent grew stronger, and naturally, the pup looked up. Luckily the bobcat chose that particular instant to growl and shift its position slightly, and Jake saw it. From that day on he was a natural tree dog. I have known him to remain at a tree for six hours by himself, waiting for the boss to arrive and do something about that cured and impudent cat high above.
Jake was a little careless with his first bear, a big cinnamon that refused to climb and fought the pack across three canons before it was shot. Such a large, bulky animal could not be quick enough to do much damage, thought Jake, and he learned the old lesson that appearances are deceiving. He carries the scar to this day, across his flank, where the big bear's lightning like blow raked the flesh. Since that time Jake has been in at the finish of 27 bears including two grizzlies. He has done his share of the fighting, but not a bear has succeeded in laying a paw on him.
For so powerfully built a hound, old Jake is very quick. He has what Grantland Rice would call "timing," and he has it to a remarkable degree, seeming to know instinctively at what moment his foe will turn to make a charge or strike a blow. Jake is a real bear dog, alright, and many a bear hunter would give his right eye for such a lead dog. But the old hound doesn't like them as well as he does cats.
When Jake left Arizona to venture into the Brazilian jungles with the Matto Grosso Expedition, he already had an impressive record. Sixty mountain lions, 28 bears and scores of bobcats had fallen victim to his keen nose and relentless pursuit. He was noted throughout the Southwest as a dog that never quit a tough, hard working hound that would out-hunt, out trail and out-fight any two ordinary dogs. Now he was to be tested in a new country, under strange conditions, and on more dangerous game than any he had yet encountered. For five years he had consistently refused to pay attention to the undesirables - deer, coyotes, foxes, jack rabbits. He was a trained dog. What would he do when he ran into tapirs, ant-eaters, capybaras, monkeys, peccaries and a score of smaller mammals that he had never met before in the hunting fields back home?
A 10,000 mile steamer trip is hard on a dog. He misses his exercise, and he becomes very, very seasick. Jake and the rest of our hounds suffered. During the 2,500 mile journey up the Paraguay River, the weather was extremely hot; and although I did everything possible for the hounds, they were in bad shape when we reached our headquarters at Descalvados.
Poor old Jake's feet were soft and raw from standing on decks that were either wet or blistering hot. It must have been a great puzzle to him, this trip, with the endless water around him, the noises, the whistles and the strange jargon, so far from his beloved Arizona hills. Most trying of all must have been the two utterly "catless" months. Not even a moth-eaten tom cat aboard ship!
Sometimes as we plowed our way through the tropic night with the Southern Cross hanging over our stern, the hounds would become restless, and their mournful baying would start the herons from the river's edge. At such times old Jake would stand looking out across the vast marshes, nostrils twitching, ears cocked forward. What strange scents came to him on the night air I do not know, but I do know that he would whine softly and look at me as if to say: "boss, there's some sort of a cat off to starboard. Isn't there anything we can do about it?"
And I would laugh and tell him,"Just you wait, old timer. There's cats in them woods - bigger cats than you ever saw before. In another ten days ..."
The jaguar of Matto Grasso is the largest of the species. It attains a weight of 350 pounds and is a beautiful but savage animal. While rarely dangerous to man, unless brought to bay, it is a grim foe to dogs, often lying in wait on its trail to leap out on it pursuers. No cat in the world has a more savage disposition than the jaguar, as zoo keepers will testify, and it is an exceedingly powerful beast.
In cattle country, the jaguar is a constant menace, preying on calves, cows and even grown bulls and steers. Unlike our western mountain lion, which has a marked taste for horse-flesh, the jaguar prefers beef and I have seen as many as 11 kills during one day's hunting in Matto Grosso. Some of these, of course, were old kills, but they nevertheless represented 11 head of cattle killed by jaguars.
The mountain lion, or onca parda, as it is called in Brazil, is also fairly plentiful but confines itself mainly to a diet of venison and rarely attacks cattle or horses. This is worthy of note, for the South American puma, leon, onca parda, or whatever you choose to call him, is one and the same as our Western cougar or mountain lion.
In the United States, as I have already pointed out this big tawny cat commits many depredations, and the Government estimates that it costs a rancher about $1,500 per year to support each lion on the range. At least these were the figures several years ago when I was working for the United States Bureau of Biological Survey in Arizona. I cannot say how the depression may have affected these lions!
During our first week at Descalvados, a pair of jaguars killed two steers a short distance down river. These steers were the property of our host, John Gordon Ramsay, and we naturally felt that something should be done about it. Mr. Ramsay had made us very welcome at his ranch. He had furnished us with men, horses and oxen; he had turned over certain of the ranch buildings as living quarters for us and our hounds.
It was only right that we should put these hounds to work exterminating the killers of Mr. Ramsay's cattle, but we hesitated for a very good reason. During a large part of the year, the country around Descalvados is under water. The Paraguary River overflows its banks following the "summer" rains of November, December and January, and the pantanal is flooded for a great distance.
At such times hunting is extremely difficult and unpleasant - not to say dangerous. Crocodiles, bloodthirsty little fish called piranhas and snakes are to be found in the most unexpected places. Dogs are obviously under a tremendous handicap in working during the rainy season and it is unwise to attempt to use them at this time. Two of old Jakes' running mates were killed by crocodiles, and another lost two toes to a piranha as the direct result of a hunting trip in the flooded pantanal. It was on such a trip that Jake lost his ear.
An Indian had heard the jaguars roaring after their kill down river and he had pushed his little dugout close enough the following morning to see buzzards sitting in some giant hardwoods close to the river. All this he told us in excited Portuguese. After a man has anticipated a jaguar chase for several months, such talk, even in Portuguese, is almost irresistible.
Then, too, there was Mr. Ramsay to consider and perhaps the most important of all, a promise made to old Jake. Consequently we prepared to seek the jungle killer in his lair, water, crocodiles and piranhas notwithstanding. After some deliberation, Jake, Bob and Buck were agreed upon as the proper dogs for the job, and with the Indian as guide we made our way down river in dugout canoes.
Have you ever tried to manage three eager hounds in a dugout - in the dark, in swift water? This particular dugout was about 15 feet long and 15 inches wide. Jake, of course, as well as Bob and Buck, insisted on standing up. By the time we reached the scene of the jaguar kill, I felt as if I had St. Vitus' dance in the small of my back from trying to balance that canoe.
First, old Jake wanted a drink of water, which he helped himself to by merely leaning far out over the side of the boat. Then he wanted to come back and congratulate me enthusiastically on finally going hunting. And he knew well enough that we were going hunting. To cap the climax, he resented Bob's crowding, and the brief squabble almost put us all into the river. The only times that I have ever felt anything but love in my heart for old Jake have been in dugout canoes. I wish that somebody would do something about dogs in boats!
Although I was firmly convinced in my own mind of what Jake and his mates would do when they struck their first jaguar track nevertheless I experienced a real thrill when the old hound threw up his head and sent the familiar hunting cry echoing across the jungles. Eaglerly and excitedly, he worked, Bob and Buck at his heels. A small forest deer got up off a reed bed, but none of the dogs paid any heed. All of their interest centered in those big round pugs, so clearly outlined in the mud.
The jaguar had feasted heavily and had gone to lie up - probably in a patch of very heavy palm jungle nearby. The trail was now fairly old, 18 hours or more. Although the hounds went steadily ahead, they did not carry the trail so fast but that we could keep up with them fairly well. Of course, we were afoot and floundered along through the marsh and mud as best we could.
The sky was overcast, and the vines hung motionless from the great hardwoods. The Indian who was with us shook his head and muttered something about chuva. I learned afterward - shortly afterward - that chuvas means rain. Just as old Jake's excited baying proclaimed that the jaguar was running, a fresh breeze spring up and the first big drops began to fall.
We stood there in the open marsh, up to our waists in water, and took it. There was nothing else to do. The wind drove across the vast plain of the pantanal, and the rain literally fell in sheets. In ten minutes, my teeth were chattering, and in twenty minutes, I was numb with cold. Where was Jake and what wat he doing? I didn't know where he went and a man couldn't have heard a cannon a 100 yards away during that time, but I was reasonably sure that he was still somewhere in the neighborhood of that jaguar.
Years ago I saw my pack run a fox through one of the worst rainstorms I have ever had the misfortune to be caught in, and I knew that dogs do not lose a hot track because of rain. An old track is quickly washed out, but the hot body scent seems to be increased by rainfall.
The Indian shivered and shook his head gloomily. I endeavored to explain to him by means of a general mixture of bad Portuguese and sign language that it was all right; that as soon as the rain stopped we would go on and find the dogs and the jaguar. I told him that these North American dogs had fine noses, far better than the native mongrels and that they could therefore follow a scent in spite of the rain. He seemed to grasp the idea at last, and splashed off to bring one of the dugouts. There was a deep lagoon just ahead of us and it was across this lagoon that the jaguar trails had led.
Finally, the rain stopped, the sun popped out, and the Indian returned with the canoe. Far in the distance we heard old Jake giving hoarse and challenging tongue, punctuated by Bob's high pitched yelps and Bucks' clear melodious notes. The jaguar either at bay or treed, most likely at bay, for there were no large trees to be seen against the southwest horizon. We hurried as fast as we could, paddling feverishly. It is grim business for dogs, this jaguar hunting, and there was no time to be lost.
Then the Indian spoiled everything. In his eager excitement he let out an ear piercing whoop of encouragement to the dogs. Whooping may be all right for fox hunters and coon hunters. It has its place, and I have often indulged in it. But if a man wants to throw a large monkey-wrench into the machinery, just let him whoop when dogs are fighting dangerous game. It will cause one of two things: either the animal will break bay and run or the dogs will lose their heads, and rush in.
A dog naturally puts a great deal of store in his master. He believes that he boss can do practically anything; and when he hears the boss' voice raised in encouragement, he naturally feels that the time for action has arrived. There is only one way for a hunter to go to his dogs when they are fighting dangerous game, and that is up-wind as quickly as possible, and with as little noise as possible. If neither dogs nor quarry know of his whereabouts until the gun is fired, so much the better.
In this particular case, the jaguar broke bay. He had made his stand at the very edge of the river, in a clump of vines and weeds that barely supported his weight. For an hour and a half, ole Jake and the other two dogs had been swimming around him, worrying him, threatening him, but keeping a respectful distance from those razor-armed forepaws. When the Indian whooped, the jaguar slipped into the water and swam the Paraguay, which at this point was about a quarter of a mile or more in width. It was too far for a shot, and my one thought was to stop the dogs. This we finally managed to do, although old Jake had already started across. Bob and Buck were glad enough to be stopped.
When I dragged the dogs into the canoe, the blood poured from Buck's foot, and I discovered that a piranha had taken a couple of toes. Bob had a long gash in his hip, where the jaguar had reached him with a slashing blow. Old Jake's right ear was in shreds, but he struggled manfully to be allowed to continue the chase. The marvel is that all three dogs were not devoured by piranhas. These fish are maddened by the smell of blood, and the only explanation that I have as to why Jake, Bob and Buck were not eaten alive is that during the wet season the piranhas are widely scattered throughout the marshes. If it had been during the dry season, when the fish are in schools -
An operation was performed on old Jake. The mangled ear was taken off close to his head and sewed up. It gives him a lopsided appearance but in no way affects his ability. And if anything, it increases his hatred for cats. During this stay in Brazil, he was in at the death of 18 jaguars, seven pumas and many ocelots. He behaved himself perfectly at all times, ignoring every scent but that of the cats. He showed neither surprise nor interest at the sight of a giant ant-eater. He paid not the slightest attention to monkeys, tapirs or capybaras. Whenever his hunting cry rang out, the Indian would get ready to ride, for they knew what a jaguar chase was in the offing, or at the very least a pumas or ocelot. To follow such a dog is a pleasure. No time is wasted, no wild goose chases are indulged in. Everything is strictly business - cat business.
Old Jake is now back again in his Arizona hills, making life miserable for cougars and bobcats. More power to him! Some day, I hope, he and I will prowl the Siberian hills in search of the mightiest cat of all, the long haired tiger of the snow. Quien sabe!