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Early American Hunting Dogs, Part 1: HDC Episode #28

Early American Hunting Dogs, Part 1: HDC Episode #28

Illustration of the Hare Indian Dog by J.W. Audubon

The origins of hunting dogs in North America from indigenous peoples through the end of the pre-colonial era

This season of Hunting Dog Confidential will explore the history of hunting dogs as a function of place and time. We begin in North America, starting with the earliest evidence of domesticated dogs from about 10,000 years ago. This episode brings us right up to the end of the pre-colonial era in the fifteenth century. We’ll continue our exploration of North American hunting dog history in the next episode.

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Fossil and DNA evidence suggests that dogs arrived in North America about 5,000 years after the first humans arrived. These dogs were descended from wolves but were partially domesticated. It’s believed that these dogs aided in hunts and likely provided guardian assistance around camp, too.

Tales abound of tribes using dogs to pursue everything from polar bear in the far north to otters and fish in the most southern reaches of South America. Many of the stories share similar characteristics, such as small dogs being used to distract the quarry from the approaching hunter. This is reminiscent of the way in which terriers are still used today in Germany once larger dogs have a boar at bay.

Early North American dogs were not selectively bred in the same way that we produce “breeds” today, but circumstances certainly led to the selection of dogs with certain characteristics and abilities. Those that were useful were kept around and allowed to reproduce, while those that weren’t useful were likely culled.

Offering the same disclaimer as we do in the podcast episode, we acknowledge that North American history is fraught with bias, racism, and erasure. While our research is conducted with that in mind, we also realize that the facts we report are not free from bias. Please don’t hesitate to reach out via email if you have any corrections or perspectives to share.

We read a few passages from the book A Dog’s History of America by Mark Derr

As always, we thank you for listening and invite you to submit feedback or questions to us at

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Hunting Dog Confidential is presented by Eukanuba Premium Performance Dog Food and supported by Dakota 283, Syren USA, SportDOG Brand and Kent Cartridge.

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