The View from Plum Lick
Catahoula cattle dog
do you get when you cross a German shepherd with a Dober-man
According to one legend going
back to the 16th century, military leaders in Europe crossed the
two breeds and what resulted came to be known as the indomitable
European War Dog.
We're talking some kind of dawg. Not your everyday lap snuggler.
Modern historians of the breeds may dismiss this folk tale as
far-fetched, so anybody with a better version is encouraged to
throw it over the fence.
The way we heard it, Charles V
(1500-1558), ruler of Spain and Spanish America, used these War
Dogs to help drive the French out of Italy, conquer Tunis, and
defeat Barbarossa, the terror of the Mediterranean.
The conquered must have had a
sneaking suspicion they were up against the Hounds of Hades
because the European War Dog was seldom in a mood to take
According to the story written
by the late R.T. Bonnette, a newspaper reporter near Catahoula
Parish in Louisiana, there was a 19-year-old soldier in Emperor
Charles' army who took several litters of European War Dogs to
Peru. This was back in the time of Francisco Pizarro, conquerer of
the Incan empire. The dogs played a fanged role in it and when
Spain annexed Cuba (Pizarro became the first governor), the War
Dogs were there too. They went wherever there was a need for
courage, strength, cunning, and terrible speed.
In 1539, it was a short boat
ride to Florida with Fernando De Soto, and the War Dogs went
along. De Soto was as hungry for an empire of gold as most all
dogs who dream of bone heaven. The famous explorer anchored in
Tampa Bay with 600 men and about 100 War Dogs.
Two years later, De Soto
finally reached the Mississippi River, crossed it, didn't find the
Promised Land, was wounded in a battle with Indians, contracted a
fever, and died. His men weighted his body, and dropped it into
the river so that it could not be found.
As the explorers straggled south, they failed to gather up all the
War Dogs. According to Cajun Bonnette, the warrior's best friend
wandered in the wilderness and had the good sense to survive by
obeying natural instincts.
So, what do you get when you
cross a European War Dog with a wolf?
You get a Catahoula Cur, named
for the Catahoula Indians in what is now Catahoula Parish,
Which brings us home to Alvin
"Dub" and Judy Allen, consummate breeders of the
Kentucky Catahoula Stock Dog in Bourbon County: "Broke dogs,
puppies, and started dogs-will help you pen your cattle and work
your cattle. Problem cattle caught."
On a Sunday afternoon in late
winter, it's a joy to sit with Dub and Judy surrounded by their 15
award-winning Catahoulas (not counting the litter nursing in the
Judy thinks of Red Dog and
sighs: "He works so quickly and so beautifully and he's got
this husky-sounding voice, and he works and makes your hair stand
up on your arms."
"There ain't no pain in
these dogs…there ain't no such thing as pain," says Dub,
recalling Spike. "I've worked them 10 or 12 hours, all day
"What bonds you to these
makes the cattle so much easier to handle. With these dogs here it
ain't no problem. I can pull a trailer right out here in the field
and load up the cattle right there."
By their double glassy eyes
you'll always remember the Catahoula Cur. Depth of stare. Round
head. Loyalty and commitment to the notion that tough jobs require
Judy says, "When they
look at me with those eyes, they make me feel like I'm the only
thing on this earth."
Speed? The warning that hangs
on the back rampart speaks volumes: "I can get to the fence
in three and a half seconds. How fast can you?"