There are ranches and there are ranches. Some are lived on and operated by affluent owners and others are occupied and run by low-paid, uneducated hired managers. The worst are hired louts that act like barbarians, cruel to the bone. One such fellow I met gave me an education about rednecks hunting feral pigs, and it is everything a sensitive human being could dread.
They have “bay dogs” and “ketch dogs.” He says ketch dogs (you and I would say, “catch dogs”) are a “dime a dozen,” and talks about them like they are throwaway appliances. A ketch dog will hit the trail to sniff out a pig, follow the scent trail to the pig and then clamp down on the victim with its powerful pit bull jaws. This is quite painful for the pig, duh, which commences to squealing mightily. Believe me, it is an awful, heart-wrenching sound. The pig tries to throw the dog off, but a toothy dog-vise cannot be slipped. The pig tries anyway, slamming the dog around brush, briars, rocks and trees, and occasionally the pig’s “tushes,” or tusks and hooves meet dog meat too. The damage to the ketch dog can be so severe that it has to be killed. Why take the appliance to the vet and spend a few hundred dollars healing it when it costs only twenty-five bucks to get another? They just shoot ‘em and leave ‘em in the woods for vultures and ‘possums.
The bay dog is another matter. Dogs so want to attack the pig in the heat of the hunt when another dog is attacking the porker, but that is not allowed to bay dogs. You see, the job of the bay dog is to follow the ketch dog, perhaps even help sniff out the trail, and then bay (howl) loudly and constantly until the hunter reaches the trio and shoots or spears the pig (and maybe the ketch dog). If the bay dog attacks the pig, the bay dog could get hurt and not be able to tell the hunter where the trio is located, so breeders train bay dogs not to attack. As I said, it is hard to train a dog to sit back and let the ketch dog have all the fun, so bay dogs go for up to a thousand dollars each, and if you sell a redneck a bay dog that attacks pigs, you can expect to have to give the barbarian his money back and take a lot of heat, too. At this point I should point out that my informant has prison tattoos on his knuckles and says that he had to quit drinking because his “personality changes when [he] drink[s].”
These dogs are kept in small pens way out back away from the house, not so far away that they cannot be heard barking and howling all day long and some of the night too, just far enough away that you can’t smell the stench of dog feces from the back porch. The dogs are not allowed physical contact with each other despite their being highly social animals. They cannot touch or groom each other, as they want to do, cannot establish a pecking order as they need to do and cannot play together as their intelligent brains insist they should do. They cannot get out and run and run and run as a long distance running animal is built to do, so when they are let out to hunt they tire easily, get hurt easily and get lost and sometimes killed by predators and starvation. Of course, being done in winter, lost hunting dogs also have to face the cold and sometimes the rain, too. Their pens are extremely small, generally less than 6ft x 6ft, so they cannot even pace about to maintain muscle tone. They defecate and urinate on the floor that they sleep on, and the feces are simply hosed out every week or so, resulting in a very stinky environment. Nor do their owners offer them any affection or attention (surprise!).
These rednecks care not a whit for any but their bay dogs, and them only because of the expense. When I look into the eyes of these penned dogs, I see misery, plus hopelessness in the older dogs and pleading in the younger. Why is this cruelty allowed? I simply cannot understand why the authorities do not put a stop to this egregious inhumaneness. Surely, this is illegal under any animal cruelty law or ordinance? Why is this butcherous behavior tolerated by the ASPCA, PETA and animal control organizations?
But let’s get back to the pigs. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I despise feral pigs due to their significant, adverse impacts to native vegetation and wildlife. I would like to see feral pigs eliminated from the US by the use of traps and euthanasia or by well-placed gunshots, but not by cruel means. My informant has other ideas. After trapping young boars, he breaks off their upper canines with pliers so their lower canines will grow longer and be more impressive as a wall mount, and so the dogs and hunters are less likely to get injured. Then he cuts off their testicles so they will grow larger and taste less rangy. He will sell the large boars to hunting concessions for a hundred dollars, where they will be hunted as described above. Smaller pigs will be sold to hunting concessions for “meat hunting” at a rate of twenty-five dollars, and these too will be hunted but not wall mounted. Many older sows will be released so’s they can reproduce. He will relocate some sows and small “uncut” boars to places that “don’t have enough hawgs.” By the way, this latter is one of the main reasons that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ceased offering bounties for feral pigs. They learned to their dismay that rednecks were deliberately releasing pigs on state lands so there would be more to hunt there and nearby!
As I said in a previous post, Okeechobee is culturally grim.