Feist or Mountain Feist dog was developed in the Southern part of North America to hunt vermin. It is a breed developed from the Jack Russell terrier and rat terrier and often mistaken to be one of them. The word feist means ‘small and often noisy dog’. There are many variations of this breed including the Treeing Feist, Smoky Mountain Feist, Blue Heeler mountain feist, and so on. The mixed breed variations of the Feist, particularly the Mountain Cur and Mountain feist cross and mountain feist and pitbull mix are extremely popular today. Let us study some characteristic features of this breed:
Facts about the Mountain Feist
- There are written accounts of the Feist dog breed in Abraham Lincoln’s poems and George Washington’s diary. Even William Faulkner’s Go Down Moses talks about the breed.
- The South Appalachian and Ozark Mountains are home to the Feist that was only recognized recently by the UKC.
- Mountain Curs are considered the larger relatives of the Feist.
- This breed is old enough to have played a role in the lives of the early Pioneers. They were mainly bred to rid homes of vermin and also to flush out game and hunt small animals like the squirrel, raccoons and possums. They are natural born hunters.
- This all-round dog is considered the pride of the South. Their agility is unparalleled.
- Feists have a long life span of about 13-18 years.
Physical Characteristics of Mountain Feist dogs
- Height at withers is about 35-45 cm or up to 18 inches. Weight is between 12-30 pounds.
- Feists come in various colors like white, light brown and black.
- Like the Jack Russell terrier, their coat is short, dense and smooth.
- Feists may be small, but they are fast. They can be considered ‘sturdy little terriers with a touch of beagle’.
Treeing Feist vs Mountain Feist
- Treeing feist height – 10 to 17 inches and weight between 11-30 lbs.
- The treeing Feist is a scent hound developed in the United States and recognized by the UKC in 1998. It is a small agile dog that is slightly longer than it is tall. It has a blocky broad head with a broad muzzle. The Mountain Feist was recognized by the UKC in 2015.
- In treeing feists, the nose is black or self colored. Ears are erect and set at the outside edges of the skull. They have clean muscular neck, wide deep chest and round, well arched feet. Their hind legs are very well developed to help them chase squirrels and small animals. Treeing Feists love to place their front paws on trees when they chase small game.
In short: there is not much difference between Mountain Feists and Treeing Feists but the UKC and NKC see them as separate breeds. The only small difference between the two breeds is the ears are pricked in the mountain feist while in treeing feists they are flopped or hanging. Pricked or tipped ears are a breed standard requirement for Mountain Feists. Mountain Feists also have bob tails while treeing feists have longer tails.
Curs versus Feists
Both curs and feists have similar characteristics but Curs are larger and weigh up to 45 lbs. Feists are smaller and weigh up to 25 lbs. Both are hunting breeds and they are compact, well built and muscular dogs. Curs and feists both have very good eye sight and their agility in the field is unparalleled. Both dog breeds make great companions and house pets and both get along well with kids.
Top breeders for treeing feists and mountain feists:
Buckley Mountain Feists. Buckley Mountain feists have been around for more than 60 years. The Buckley family has raised hundreds of generations of these beautiful animals.
Smoky Mountain Feist forums- This is a great place to find reputed breeders of squirrel dogs.
Ethical breeders will ensure avoiding breeding conditions that are detrimental to the health, welfare, essence and soundness of this breed. So only buy your Feist from a reputed breeder. You can also visit rescue shelters and animal welfare homes to adopt a feist rescue.
Temperament of Feists
Feists are energetic, active and tenacious dogs. They are highly courageous and love to run around. This isn’t a dog for a couch potato; be prepared to spend a lot of time running around with your pet so he can expend all his energy. Feists are not the usual household companions. They have too much ‘gameness’ in them. So you need to tame and socialize them early on, in order to make them ideal household companions. Feists are mainly hunter dogs and are likely to will do well with an owner who is used to dogs and is fond of hunting. These pack dogs love pack activities and will get bored in a city home or small apartment. Rural or working home set up is best for Feists. They are curious and alert and will communicate by growling, barking and making plenty of noise. Once they commit to you, they will be loyal and protective about you all their life.
Feists need plenty of exercise. Without exercise, they are bound to get bored and indulge in destructive behavior. Feists have hunting and tracking instincts so make sure your yard is well fenced or they are prone to running. The good thing is that they have the instinct to check back with the hunter, so they won’t go too far. But you still do not want to take a risk; so keep him leashed or at least install a sturdy fence around your property. It is best to walk your dog for at least 2 hours each day so he will not indulge in barking, chewing and other unwanted behaviors.
Training your Feist
Feists need lot of attention, training and early socialization to prevent unwanted behavior. They are intelligent which makes training easy. But you need consistency and gentle firmness. Most dog breeds respond well to positive training and the Feist is no different. Use plenty of reward based, consistent training and you will surely get the results you seek. Remember: this dog has a hunting heritage so you may want him to utilize those instincts and capabilities your dog has.
This is a hardy, rugged dog that does not need much grooming. However, that does not mean you do not brush or bathe him at all. Once a month baths are necessary to keep him clean and also prevent parasites. Use tick and flea collars or drops to protect your pet if you live in an infested area. Also inspect his ears from time to time. Dental hygiene is very important too as these dogs are prone to oral issues. Check out my guide on ways to keep your pet’s teeth clean and healthy.
These sturdy dogs live a long life with an average life span of 15-18 years. However, they are prone to patellar luxation, dental problems and demodectic mange. Regular health checkups can prevent many of these issues and help you give your buddy the best possible care.