Information about the Panther Dog

The panther dog of Pennsylvania is an American extinct crossbreed dog developed in the 19th century to hunt cougars, for which ‘panther’ was a colloquial name. It is the only breed known to have been specifically bred for hunting large felines. Note that the panther dog should not be confused with the “canis panther” dog, a crossbreed created in the 1970s.

Henry W. Shoemaker wrote in 1907, “Packs of panther dogs would soon spring up in the mountainous settlements, and the breeding of these animals would give an impetus to the canine industry in these regions. Small bulldogs are said to be best for this purpose, though many prefer the ordinary whippet or “fice”. Aaron Hall, the “Lion Hunter of the Juniata”, slayer of fifty panthers in Pennsylvania between 1845 and 1869, bred a race of panther dogs. They were part bulldog, part bloodhound, part Newfoundland, and part mastiff. They were so large that C. K. Sober, of Lewisburg, former State Game Commissioner, when on a visit to Hall at his hunting cabin on Rock Run, Centre County, was able to ride on the back of one of them. They were trained to hunt in pairs, and when the quarry was overtaken, to seize it by the ears on either side, holding the monster until the hunter appeared. With Hall’s death, in 1892, this interesting breed of dog was allowed to become extinct.”

Another breed based, like the panther dog, on the Bulldog – Mastiff cross is the Bullmastiff, which was used against poachers (as it was deemed quicker than the Mastiff), as was the Boerboel of South Africa (known to contain Rhodesian Ridgeback and Bullmastiff).

The Bloodhound – Mastiff cross is the basis for the Fila Brasileiro, a guardian dog of Brazil. The dogs used in Australian wild boar hunting (called pigging) are compounded of some of these breeds plus others, but have no uniform formula for breeding. Dog breeds used specifically against the wolf are large sighthounds (Irish Wolfhound, Borzoi), rather than molosser mixes such as the panther dog. (See Wolf hunting with dogs.) It can only be a matter of speculation as to why the Newfoundland, a breed associated with aquatic rescue, should have been included in the panther dog development, except for the addition of size, as its long coat might be a detriment to movement in heavy cover, as was the case in heavy snow, when that breed was bred into the St. Bernard.

The hunting of cougars is still permitted in some American states, but the dogs are utilized to track the cat, tree it and bay to alert the hunter, rather than to engage the cougar in combat as the panther dog did.