Have you ever heard about the mountain feist dog? If not, that’s perfectly fine as these dogs are not all that common. Often confused for a rat terrier or a Jack Russell terrier, the mountain feist dog is actually not a breed of dog; indeed, it’s a mixed breed. These dogs are more likely to be spotted in the southern portions of America by the Southern Appalachian and the Ozark Mountains where they were once utilized as hunting companions. “Go back fifty years and just about everybody had a feist” claims Randy Pannell, a founder of the World Saint Jude Squirrel Dog Championship. Nowadays, depending on where you live, you’ll occasionally stumble on one of these intriguing fellows.
History of the Mountain Feist Dog
Also known as American feist or treeing feist, the mountain feist dog is believed to have descended from the many small working dogs kept by miners and field workers in England. There is belief that supposedly these dogs are composed by bloodlines of many terrier breeds including the rat terrier, Jack Russell terrier, Manchester terrier, smooth fox terrier and the now extinct white English terrier. There is also belief that some lines of these dogs contain hunting hound blood to increase hunting abilities and greyhound bloodlines for added speed.
In the United States, these dogs are believed to have played a major role in the lives of early pioneers. The feist is mentioned in a poem by Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington also mentions a feist in his diary. They were quite popular in the rural South where they were bred by those looking for a low-maintenance working companion.
What tasks did these little dogs engage in? Many mountain feist dogs were utilized for hunting down unwanted vermin from mining areas and fields. Many hunters appreciated having a feist by their side to help them hunt small game such as rodents, rabbits, opossum and raccoon. Squirrel chasing comes quite natural to this dog, so don’t be surprised if you find a mountain feist on a tree; these dogs make excellent climbers.
What Does a Mountain Feist Look Like?
You’ll likely recognize the terrier bloodlines in these dogs, but since they are a mixed breed, they are ultimately lacking that uniformity you may see in the standards of purebred dogs. For this reason, the Mountain feist dog isn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club, but the United Kennel Club has included the feist in its registry.
Generally, expect a mountain feist dog to be a strong, compact dog that is longer than it is tall. The head is blocky and wedge-shaped with button or erect ears, a black nose, brown eyes and a muzzle that tapers to a point. The hind legs are very powerful, allowing the needed propulsion to climb up trees and the paws are crafted in such a way as to allow a good grasp.
Generally, these dogs weigh anywhere between 10 and 25 pounds and their height is between 10 and 20 inches at the withers. The coat is fairly short and smooth requiring little maintenance. It can be of several different colors, but a common coat color is a combination of white, light brown and black.
Is the Mountain Feist the Right Match for You?
According to the United Kennel Club, the term “feist” was used to depict a small, often noisy dog. As other dogs with terrier descent, expect the typical feist to be very energetic, highly intelligent and strong-willed. If you are planning to add a feist to your home, consider dog-proofing well your house as these dogs like to chew, and on top of that, consider that they are excellent climbers. Walking on the leash may at times be a challenge as these dogs will want to chase any animal they see. A fenced yard is a must or they will wander off property to hunt. Consider good fencing as they are excellent climbers and diggers.
These dogs are highly active requiring loads of exercise and mental stimulation. They’re not the average house pet who is happy with a walk around the block and a little bit of play time. Given the choice, mountain feist dogs would rather be chasing squirrels than staying curled up on the couch all day as some lazy dog breeds do. Fail to provide them with sufficient activity, and they’ll likely bark, dig and chew out of frustration. Nowadays, feists are still much cherished by hunters, farmers and families for their hunting skills and pest-control abilities.