Chasse en badinage - duck tolling in action

Duck Tolling and the Murray River Retriever: HDC Episode #11

Discovering the Murray River Retriever and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

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In this episode, we respond to some listener feedback about a couple of more unusual retriever breeds and a strange way of attracting ducks to waiting hunters.

First up, we discuss the Murray River Curly-Coated Retriever. A listener from Australia alerted us to this rare landrace which has been used for centuries along the Murray River of South Australia. This dog’s short, strong build and curly, brown coat share many similarities with other breeds developed around the same time. While its exact origin story is unknown, several theories abound. Could it be the result of Flat-Coated Retrievers mixed with curly coated water dogs such as the Irish Water Spaniel? Could it be an offshoot of the Curly-Coated Retriever? Or, most curiously, could it be a surviving landrace from the now-extinct Norfolk Retriever? Descriptions of the Norfolk Retriever certainly seem to fit the look as well as the working style of the Murray River dog.

Whatever the origins of the Murray River Retriever, it maintains a small but passionate group of enthusiasts who are striving to gain breed recognition within the Australian National Kennel Council.

The last of the retriever breeds to cover in this series is the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. The “Little River Duck Dog” is a symbol of Nova Scotia and a nod to the rich history of duck hunting in local waterways across the eastern seaboard of North America. But what exactly is “tolling” and how did it originate?

We discuss the various origins of canine tolling behavior, which is when a dog plays along the shore to lure curious ducks closer to within gun range. Foxes exhibit this behavior in the wild, but there are no confirmed records of foxes and dogs breeding to form hybrids. Instead, domestic dogs were selected for a fox-like appearance and trained to mimic the fox’s behavior in cleverly luring ducks toward a waiting hunter.

The English and Dutch used similar methods to lure ducks into a cage, pipe, or trap called a “decoy”, but there are no records of them using guns to kill the ducks trapped while using a tolling dog. This unique method of hunting appears to have originated from French practices, which may well explain the origins of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

We wrap up the episode with a discussion of the forthcoming Hunting Dog Confidential Magazine. We are in the final stages of editing Issue One and can’t wait to take readers on a journey to learn about hunting dogs from all around the world. The articles and photography are firsthand accounts from many of the sources that we’ve used for episodes of this podcast. If you are enjoying the podcast and like learning about the history and modern-day use of all kinds of hunting dogs, you will love this coffee-table-quality magazine.

As always, we thank you for listening and hope you’ll continue to reach out with your comments, questions, and ideas. Who knows what other unusual types of dogs are out there? We can’t wait to find out. We can be reached at HDC@northwoodscollective.com.

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Hunting Dog Confidential is presented by Eukanuba Premium Performance Dog Food

Last modified: September 29, 2020

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