The Hog Dogs of Alabama

THE BAWLING OF A BLACK­MOUTH CUR IS MU­SIC TO A PIG HUNTER’S EARS. BUT ONCE THAT HOG BAYS UP, THE REAL EX­CITE­MENT BE­GINS

Outdoor Life - - CONTENTS - PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY TOM FOWLKS, TEXT BY ALEX ROBIN­SON

Randy Brown’s pack of black­mouth curs will track pigs through hell and high wa­ter. And once they’ve got one bayed up, the Amer­i­can bull­dogs charge in to fin­ish the hunt.

RANDY BROWN HAS BEEN FAS­CI­NATED WITH BLACK­MOUTH curs ever since he read Fred Gip­son’s Old Yeller as a kid. As he grew up and got into hog hunt­ing, that fas­ci­na­tion be­came an ab­so­lute pas­sion. Brown owns 17 of these curs—“yel­low dogs,” as he calls them—and four Amer­i­can bull­dogs for chas­ing wild pigs near his home in cen­tral Alabama with his best hunt­ing buddy of 25 years, Brian Miller.

It took Brown a decade of re­search­ing, test­ing, and breed­ing dogs be­fore he was able to as­sem­ble a pack that per­fectly fits his style of pig hunt­ing. Brown and Miller hunt by rig­ging—which means they have two of their best scent­ing dogs ride on the front of their truck (the rig) while they drive down trails. When the dogs catch the scent of a pig, they start bark­ing, and the hunters cut them loose. Then the chase be­gins.

Rig­ging is a com­mon prac­tice among Western hounds­men who tar­get bears and moun­tain lions, but it’s un­usual in the South to use hog dogs to hunt this way, Brown says.

Black­mouth curs are ath­letic, pro­tec­tive dogs that are ea­ger to please and ex­tremely loyal. Brown makes the most of those per­son­al­ity traits. If his dogs can’t strike a pig from the truck, he’ll cast them in a 300-yard loop, and then they’ll come back—un­like some big-run­ning hounds that could be gone for the whole morn­ing.

“There are so many pigs down here, if I can’t find one in a spot, I’ll just pick up and move to an­other spot,” Brown says. “I want to be chas­ing hogs. I don’t want to be chas­ing af­ter my dogs [try­ing to get them back] all day.”

But once the curs get on a hog’s scent, they stick to it—es­pe­cially JJ, the lead dog, Brown says.

“You can watch him on the GPS. When he loses a track, he’ll make cir­cles un­til he picks it up again. Then he’ll shoot out of there on a straight line, and you know he’s back on that hog,” Brown says.

Once the curs have a hog bayed, Brown and Miller rush to the spot with their catch dogs— two mas­sive Amer­i­can bull­dogs. The breed is a de­scen­dant of the now ex­tinct Old English bull­dog, which was brought to the States by work­ing-class im­mi­grants hun­dreds of years ago. Ever since then, the Amer­i­can bull­dog has been catch­ing feral pigs for South­ern­ers and guard­ing their farms.

Dur­ing that time, the role of the catch dog has not changed. His life’s work is to bite the pig and hold it so his hunters can move in and kill it with a knife to the heart, an adren­a­line-kick end­ing to a wild chase through the back­woods.

“I just love the thrill of watch­ing the dogs I’ve trained,” Brown says. “No two hunts are ever the same. You never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

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