Corinthian Clippings for January 14, 1903
BEAR HUNTS IN THE SOUTH
Ancient Function to Which President Roosevelt Was Introduced
in the Mississippi Lowlands.
The recent trip of President Roosevelt to the
Mississippi lowlands shows that the method of hunting black bears in southern
swamps has not altered a particle in a hundred years. Somebody living down
there once found out the best way in which to get them, and the southerner is
wise enough to know that there is no sense in trying to improve the best.
Then, as now, bear was hunted with a huge pack of nondescript
dogs, containing pretty nearly every known breed, mixtures of all the breeds
and some breeds unknown. The planters and other Mississippi residents did
their best for the president, and that he did not get anything was due wholly
to bad luck. The bears are there, the horses, the men, the swamps and several
hundred thousands of the dogs.
When a lot of men in Mississippi or Louisiana or lower
Alabama, says the New York Sun, want to go bear hunting they begin, as a
general thing, to talk about it six weeks beforehand-the southerner always
likes to talk a hunting trip over before he starts; he gets almost as much
enjoyment out of the preliminary talk as out of the hunt; and, as he is never
in a hurry about anything, he talks slowly and at length.
The long talk ended, arrangements for the chase begin with the
parties to it stealing every stray dog they can lay their hands on within a
month. These dogs are shut up in a pen on some plantation and get well
acquainted with one another, as torn ears testify when they are let out.
Dogs of every conceivable shape and color are prisoners, and
of all sizes, from the little fice which runs along inside of the dooryard
fence and barks at small boys to the heavyheaded, heavy-lidded cross between a
mastiff and a dearhound. Sometimes a lucky man picks up the product of a
Newfoundland sire and a dachshund mother, and the product is welcomed by all
as a mascot.
Southerners preparing for a bear hunt will steal any kind of a
dog except a hound which shows blood or a bird dog. Those two varieties are
sacred and not to be sent against a bear to be smashed up.
Dog appearances are deceitful. Occasionally a splendid
specimen, with a bull or terrier strain, will turn tail and run like a streak
at first sight of a bear; while a miserable, half-starved, droop-tailed,
slinking brute, a mixture between a cur and a spitz poodle, will fight like a
drunken devil, sailing straight in, with abject tail defiantly rigid and ears
laid back, fastening a hold on the bear and enduring a death hug without a
Almost all these dogs have nose enough to follow a bear scent,
which in the slushy, watery soil of the swamp is strong. They are taken from a
big wagon when camp is reached and they stay there because they know that is
the only place within 20 miles where they are likely to get anything to eat.
It is their business when the trail is found the next day to
stay on it and run it out and bring the bear to bay, and they must be good
enough fighters to keep the bear at bay until the hunters, guided first by the
sounds of their barking and then by the sounds of conflict, approach near
enough to shoot.
To the credit of these nondescripts it must be said that,
while every pack contains a few defaulters, most of them go in as if they
liked it, and are knocked right and left with smashed ribs or ripped sides,
rolling over and over in the ooze and bloody from nose to tail root, but
getting up and going in again if they are strong enough. Some great fights
happen under these circumstances-fights wild enough and savage enough to make
the men with the guns stand still and watch with staring eyes until pity for
the dogs compels them to shoot.
There are plenty of bears in the southern swamps, and a hunt
down there is probably the noisiest thing in the world except a
socialist-labor convention. It is full of hard riding and hilarity, mud and
blood, strange scenes and sounds and healthy fatigue.