For a long time I have been very interested in the Ridgeback as a hunting dog, and also if it would be able to be used on search after bear, both as an hunting resource and to search for wounded bears. The number of bears is increasing in Norway and Sweden, and were we live there are a slight possibility to meet bear, or get close to it without knowing.
The hunting association in our area arranged a test on what they call a “line-bear” (linebjørn på norsk). It is a bear-skin mounted on a line, and moves around and back and forward on the line. The bear-skin have the smell of predator (rovvilt) and the dogs act totally different around this smell, than they do on for example elk or horses etc. As the Rhodesian Ridgeback originally was bred to be a resource in hunting lions, I thought it would be interesting to se how they would react to the sight and smell of a bear. A dead bear, but it still have a lot of predator-smell, because the skin have been added smell regulary.
I don’t know how the lion-hunt actually took place, if the dogs were quiet and controlled the lion with a minimum of sound, or if they had a lot of sound and “irritated” the lion. As a bear-dog one would prefer a dog with little or no sound, with the courage to hold the animal at a distance, without being to bold or to get to close. A dog with a lot of sound and noise would more likely irritate the bear, and try to defend it self and get aggressive. Maybe it also would try to attack the dog that makes all that noise, and If the dog didn’t have all the courage it pretend it have, and hide behind the owner, guess who’s in trouble?? If the dog would get to close to the bear, it is a very high risk that the bear would kill it with one bite or with one hit by its paws.
It is also very good to know how your dog would behave around bear, if you suddenly was to meet a bear in the forrest. Would the dog bark and irritate the bear, would it have respect and be silent etc? It is very good to know how your dog would sound like in these situations. I experienced that it was easy to hear the difference in the bark in everyday life and when the dog faced a preditor.
First dog out was Sheriff. He was more occupied with peeing on top of the other dogs pee, than see what was around the next corner.. Suddenly he saw that there was something there.. He didn’t make a sound, he showed very much respect for the “animal” and moved around the bear at a distance on 4-5 meter to figure out was this was, and use the wind to get the smell of it. He solved everything about this himself, and didn’t even one time ask for my support. After a while he decided that the bear only “hung” there, and then he had one eye on the bear, and continued to pee where the other dogs had been. He never let his tail down, and showed that he was comfortable with the situation, he never wanted to run away, neither did he show aggression to the bear. When I approached the bear, Sheriff came right away and smelled on it’s coat. He showed that he had a lot of respect for the predator-smell, and handled the situation very very good.
“so, what’s next?”
“yeye, what’s the fuss about..”
Next one up was Kiwi. She immediately started to smell and try to figure out was the smell was all about. When she saw the bear, she went strait towards it, with her tail held up and bristle, making no sound. She very quickly made contact with the bear, smelled at it and understood that this was a predator. She backed away from it, showing that she had respect but still had it under control. She started to smell around in the forest, keeping an eye on the bear, and she neither didn’t showed any fear, rather than respect for the predator. When I approached the bear, she checked it out with her constantly wagging tail, but still with respect. I was so surprised that she actually was more triggered by the predator-smell than Sheriff, and she really showed that she is not only beautiful, but a true Ridgeback.
The judge said that I could walk these dogs in forest with bears, without being afraid that they would irritate the bear. They wouldn’t’ run away, but carefully check it out, and keep on doing their own business with an half eye on the bear.
As Isi kept one hell of a noise while the other dogs got to go in the forest, we decided that she also could give it a try. She started running around in the forest, having fun, and then she suddenly saw the bear. She ran away from it, placing her self on the highest point, were she had an good overview of the bear. She started to bark at it, showing both respect and fear, but as the time went by she started to show a little bit authority and one could se that she thought the whole thing was exiting and scary at the same time. When I approached the bear, she didn’t quite had the guts to come near it, but she stood there barking and looked angry! 🙂 Isi would easy irritate the hell out of the bear, so if I hear this kind of barking in the forest, I should be aware that suddenly a little Airedale terrier could come true the forest with one angry bear after her. When she barks like that, it wouldn’t care if she had all the courage in the world, because the bear would be angry. But if Isi were trained for this from she was a little puppy, she probably could make a very good bear-dog. She has the terrier-aggression in her and they also have been known to hunt predators as mountainlions. After this session she was probably 10 cm higher, and thought that she was the toughest little girl in the world. So she needed the self-esteem this gave her. Lets only hope there are no bears in the forest we track or search in! 🙂 Then I would be in trouble!