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"The Country Magazine" The Irish Wolfhound In America
By Mrs John C Fremont, 1878. The Country Magazine


A few weeks since, in a conversation about dogs generally with Mrs. Fremont, the Irish wolf-hound was mentioned. Mrs. Fremont alluded to the fact that a pair of these dogs were at one time well known on the frontier, and at our request has written the following interesting account of them:

"I had not forgotten about the Irish wolf-hounds, but was trying to learn more of them for you. Perhaps this may meet the notice of officers stationed at. Fort Snelling about that time—'38 to '43—and from them you may get fuller details, especially of the wolf-hunts, for which they became famous. What I can give is rather 'Rab and his friends,' than Rab alone; an illustration (in the sense of an illustrious example) of the finer traits of dog nature. The whole hound family is rated inferior in affection to other breeds, but there is so much human nature in dog-nature that perhaps they too are apt to give according to what is given to them. Kennel or stable trained dogs, who know chiefly the whip as instructor, are not likely to develop as they would under the educating power of friendly companionship.

"This pair of wolf-hounds were sent from England as a present to Mr. Henry Sibley, a gentleman who lived on his property, named by him New Hope—the opposite point of land facing and south of Fort Snelling, Minnesota, at the mouth of the Minnesota River, where its 'clear waters' enter the troubled waters of the Mississippi. It was a distant and seldom visited spot then, but the Government was making a survey of the sources of the Mississippi, and when the surveying party, to which Mr. Fremont was Topographical Engineer, came through this region, Mr. Sibley gave them the large hospitality of the frontier. Later, when Mr. Sibley was with us in Washington, I knew from himself much about Lion and Tiger—Lion espeoially, whose pencil likeness he carried, and of whom he spoke, unconsciously, as one speaks of what makes the coloring of domestic life.

"While his many other dogs had every provision made for them outside, Lion alone lived in the house. His place was the bear-skin rug in front of the fire. Over the mantelpiece was his portrait, in oils, life size, and well done, by an English artist. It was Lion's home and hearthstone, and he was as peaceable in repose there as he was valiant afield.

"Both dogs were fine specimens of their noble kind; much larger and heavier than the deer-hound, while equally quick in their motions. They were short-haired and brindled. Lion with the tawny yellowish coloring from which came his name, while Tiger was a bluish-grey brindle. With much the build of the Siberian blood-hound, their heads were finer—less animal. Well matched outwardly, there resemblance ended, for Lion was exceptionally friendly and of a generous nature, while Tiger was innately violent, jealous and revengeful. He was not to be trusted, and could not be disciplined or domesticated. One fight I had described to me, where, without cause, unless jealousy, he attacked his master in the dining-room, Mr. Sibley having only a large chair with which to defend himself, while Tiger fought in earnest. In time he became so dangerous that Mr. Sibley had to shoot him, leaving Lion his master's happy friend and companion, and commander-in-chief of the other dogs.

'' Mr. Sibley had built for these a 'look-out'—a strong, elevated platform surrounded by a high bulwark. To this, by a regular flight of steps, the dogs could ascend to enjoy a change of view or take a far look for wolves. At any time this platform could be seen surmounted by the heads and chests of dogs resting on their fore-paws, and surveying the landscape o'er with all gravity and satisfaction.

"Lion had the honor of interesting Landseer. When we were first in London in '52, we were one evening at the house of Sir Roderick Murchison, who, as President of the Royal Geographical Society, had gathered 'a lot of people who knew large subjects and had done large things, and who had comprehending interest in the new geological features of California. I was feeling somewhat out of my element, and silent, which Lady Murchison seeing, she took me into another room to look at a new picture on an easel.

"It was a portrait of her Skye by Landseer, and in answer to her, 'You are fond of dogs, then?' I said something which gained forth a charming talk from Landseer himself. Lion came up in relation to prairie-hunting, and it pleased the great artist to hear of so fine a creature having such appreciative care and such ideal happy hunting grounds.

"' What became of him?'

"This. Large property and health and a fine climate and hunting and friends are all good, but do not fill the whole of a man's heart. Mr. Sibley's visit back to 'the East' resuHed in a very lovely little wife being installed as crowning perfection of the home. Lion, as well as Lion's master, was delighted, but it is not given to every one to understand dogs, and Lion's good will even was full of terrors to this lady. She simply could not accept him as anything but a danger. So Lion was reduced to the ranks and sent to live outside. Coming in as usual, he caused a scene of fright, and his master—his own familiar friend !—put him out. Then he disappeared altogether.

"Later, word was sent from the Fort that Lion was there, 'acting strangely.' Mr. Sibley, on going over for him, was welcomed by the dog with every mark of the old affection, and together they came down the bluff to the river's edge. But there Lion stopped, and nothing could make him enter the boat. Nor did he ever again cross the river to his old home. He always met his master with joy—stayed by him content, accompanied him to the boat, and there stopped. Between them henceforth lay an impassable barrier.

"The dog was a thoroughbred, and made no weak attempts to reconcile impossibilities. He could best prove his love by Btaying away, thankful for such chances of the old companionship as accident gave him.

"He became the guest of the Fort. Every one loved him, and felt for the separated friends—it is not saying too much to say it that way—separated, because, as Landseer said, 'a woman came between them.'" J. B. F.

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