Feist (dog)

American > Feist (dog) > Feist (dog)

A Feist Dog
Other names Treeing Feist
Nicknames none
Country of origin United States
Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

A Feist (or Fyce) is a type of small hunting dog, developed in the rural southern United States.


Feists generally are small (shorter than 18 inches/45 cm, and weigh less than 30 lbs/13.61 kg), short-coated dogs with long legs, a pointed (snipy) nose. The ears set high on the head and are button, erect, or short hang ears. Traditionally the tail is a natural bobtail or docked. As Feists are bred for hunting, not as show dogs, there is little to no consistency in appearance (breed type), and they may be purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dogs. They are identified more by the way they hunt and their size than by their appearance.

Individual dogs can hunt in more than one way, but in general, feists work above ground to chase small prey, especially squirrels. This contrasts with fell terriers, earth dogs that go to ground to kill or drive out the prey, usually rodents, European rabbits, foxes, or badgers.

When hunting, Feists, unlike hounds, are silent on track. They "tree" squirrels, keeping them in the tree by barking and circling the tree, in the same manner that a coonhound trees raccoons.

Various named varieties within the feist type umbrella have been developed, including the Mountain Feist which include the Baldwin Fesit, Buckley Feist, Denmark Feist, Galla Creek Feist, Kemmer Feist, Lost Creek Feist, Sport bred Feist, and the Thornburg Feist. The Treeing Feist which include the Barger Feist, Boggs Creek, Cajun Squirrel Dogs, Charlie Feists, Fleming Creek Squirrel Dogs, Hickory Grounds Feist, Horse Creek Feists, Hurley Comb's bred Feist, Mullins Feist, Riverun Feist, and the Rat Terrier. Both the National Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club recognize the Feist breed.


The feist is not a new type of dog. Written accounts of the dogs go back centuries, with several spelling variations seen. Abraham Lincoln wrote about them in a poem, "The Bear Hunt," spelling "feist" as "fice." Reference to them is included in the diary of George Washington in 1770 in which he wrote, "A small foist looking yellow cur," and a feist is also featured in William Faulkner's "Go Down Moses" in the line "a brave fyce dog is killed by a bear," as well as in his short story "The Bear." In her 1938 novel The Yearling, author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings uses the spelling of "feist" to refer to this dog. Claude Shumate, who wrote about the feist for "Full Cry" magazine, believed that the feist was descended from Native American dogs, mixed with small terriers from Britain, and was kept as early as the 17th century. (Full Cry, December, 1987).

Similar Breeds

Similar dogs are the Smooth Fox Terrier, developed to flush out foxes for hunters in England (but now primarily kept for conformation showing and as a pet), and the Jack Russell Terrier, used for ratting. Fox terriers and feists are often predominantly white so as to be visible to hunters. There are many other variants of this type, such as the Parson Russell Terrier and Rat Terrier, and many locally developed purebred breeds. The original fox terrier type was documented in England in the 18th century.

Mt. Feist and Jack Russell Terriers

Because of similarities in appearance, Mt Feists are sometimes mistaken for Jack Russell Terriers, particularly in shelters and pounds. However, certain physical characteristics separate the two, and can be easy to identify if you know what to look for. The coat of a feist is generally softer and smoother than that of a rough coated Jack Russell. Its legs are longer and the tail of a Mt Feist is usually shorter than that of a Jack Russell.

Despite some physical similarities, however, the behavior and temperament of a Mt Feist and a Jack Russell are often quite different.

Most feists are fairly quiet dogs, and lack the tendency to excessive barking demonstrated by some Jack Russells. Jack Russells tend to be more combative. Finally, while active, most Mt Feists do not generally exhibit the frenetic energy of Jack Russells.

Some Mt Feist bloodlines were bred down from Jack Russell Terriers. The Jack Russell Terrier was crossed on tree dogs. Mostly Treeing Walker hounds. While not in these Mt Feists 6 generations pedigrees. Some Jack Russell traits are still visible. These Feist's descendants usually are mostly white in color with brown or black around the head and neck, with tall stand up, or button ears. These dogs are usually hunted in packs in the Appalachian and Ozark mountains. They use their eyes and ears exceptionally well.

Feist and Rat Terrier

There has been considerable crossing of Feist dogs, since they are bred primarily for performance as hunting dogs. Feist dogs are the progenitor of what we now call the Rat Terrier. The Rat Terrier is a specific breed within the "Feist" umbrella. Because the word "Feist" refers to a general type of dog just as "hound" and "terrier" refer to a group of breeds, Rat Terriers are often called "Feist". The terriers brought to America in the 1890s from England were crossed with Feist dogs already here in addition to some of the Toy breeds (Toy Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier and Chihuahua) to develop the Rat Terrier we know today.



The word 'feist' is described in Webster's Third New International Dictionary as from the obsolete word "fysting" meaning "breaking wind, in such expressions as fysting dog or fysting hound". "Feist" is defined as "1. chiefly dial: a small dog of uncertain ancestry..." Related to the word "feisty". More on the Online Etymological Dictionary [1] .

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Feist (dog),
which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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