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General Custer and his Deerhounds
by Steve Tillotson Jan 2013



General Custer and his brother
Boston Custer, and Chief Bloody Knife.
The dog is General Custer's famous deerhound, Tuck
Irish Wolfhound Times - Photo General Custer with Grizzley Bear and Deerhound


General Custer was a keen hunting man and we find many reports of his involvement with Deerhounds.

1. "Cardigan", Custers favorite hound in the Minneapolis Museum
(Source - "A Painted Herbarium: The Life and Art of Emily Hitchcock Terry, 1838-1921 By Beatrice S. Smith, 1992").

Finally the long trek was over; their new permanent base was Fort Lincoln, south of Bismark. Mrs Custer recounted the events of the trip and her subsequent life in Dakota in her book Boots and Saddles;or, Life In Dakota with General Custer (first published in 1885).

For our purposes one of the most noteworthy ingredients of this large westward moving military asseblance was the pack of about forty staghounds and deerhounds (not to mention new puppies, half grown dogs, and cages of mockingbirds and canaries) that acompanied the general and Elizabeth wherever they went. The general was an ardent hunter. When the column made a halt the hounds wer released and the hunt was under way. "The pack of hounds were an endless source of delight to the general,: wrote Mrs Custer. When making camp at night the dogs all followed them into their tent. She continued, "If it were very cold when I returned from the dining-tent, I found dogs under and on the camp-bed and thickly scattered over the floor... If I secured a place in the bed I was fortunate,:. In the pack was Cardigan.

Custer took several of his favorite dogs with him on his campaigns, The first expedition was to the Yellowstone which took place the summer of 1873, ' the Black Hills expedition in the sumer of 1874, and the second expedition to the Yellowstone in 1876, which ended so disastrously at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Cardigan was with him in the Black Hills in 1874, but he was not along on the ill-fated journey to the Yellowstone in 1876 - perhaps he was too old to withstand the rigors of the march. It has been said that Cardigan was the general's favorite dog, but he was in fact Elizabeth's favorite. She described him'; "My favorite, a grat cream-coloured staghound, was named Cardigan, he never gave up trying to be my lap-dog. He was enormous, and yet seemingly unconscious of his size. He hept up a perpetual struggle and scramble on his hind-legs to get his whole body up on my lap".

After Custer's death at the Little Bighorn, Elizabeth was faced with the task of disposing of the hounds. She sought the help of Mr C W McIntyre of St Paul; what the overall result of this effort was we do not know. We do know very well, however, what hapened to Cardigan. Elizabeth herself gives us this account: "I will speak... of the final fate of Cardigan. When I left Fort Lincoln I asked some one to look out for his wwelfasre, and send him, as soon as possible, to a clergyman who had been my husband's friend. My request was complied with, and afterwards, when the poor old dog died, his new master honored him by having his body set up by the taxidermist, and a place was given him in one of the public buildings in Minneapolis. I cannot help thinking that he was worthy of the tribut, not only because he was the bravest and most faithful of animals.". That the Minneapolosis Clergyman was Cassius Terry there can be no doubt, as the accompanying photograph here attests (IWT Ed note, we don't currently have a copy of the photograph). The public building Elizabeth Custer refers to was the University Of Minessota's zoological museum, where Cardigan stood on view in a glass case for the nedt forty years.

In 1923, for reasons not now known, someone no longr identifiable appeared at the university looking for Cardigan. The dog was no longer there. Ths precipitated some concern and discussion. Dr Thomas S. Rogers, then director of the museum, explained that two yeas earlier he had discarded the mount because it was not of general interest, and because of its condition it was thrown onto a pile of refuse. Cardigan's fate thereafter is unclear. Someone reported that the discarded mounted animal had been rescued from the rubbish heap by a janitor with a strong historical sense. It is said that the dog was later displayed in a small museum of sorts in downtown Minneapolis. And there the trail ends. Accounts of the investigations of the whereabouts of Cardigan, his identification as the mounted hound on public display for so many years, and the identification of Cassius Terry as his owner were all reported in the Minneapolos Tribute (22,24,25 and 27 March 1923). Had the inquirers of 1923 known of Elizabeth Custer's account of her disposition of Cardigan they would have had to look no further for answers to many of their questions,

2. Miscelaneous Snippets about Custers Hounds
2.1 Custers First Grizzley - (from "Recreation Magazine" October 1894) See photo top of paged

The group on the title page of this issue of Recreation is a reproduction of an historical painting. In a letter written by General Custer, dated at Camp Bear Butte, in the Black Hills, August 15, 1874, he says:

"I send you a photograph to-day which will convince you that I have, at last, killed a grizzley bear, after a most exciting hunt and contest. The bear measured eight feet. I have his claws."

This was General Custer's first grizzly, though by no means his last. Persons who are familiar with the history of the opening of the Black Hills to settlement will remember that, in the summer of '74, General Custer made a careful exploration of the Hills and of some of the surrounding country. His official report of that expedition reads like a romance. He found beautiful valleys which were overgrown with rich grass and painted in many colors, with thousands of acres of flowers. He found placer gold so near the surface that the horses' hoofs turned it up when cantering over the soft soil. He found rich deposits of copper, valuable bodies of timber and great cliffs of mica, marble and gold-bearing quartz. He found an abundance of large and small game, and clear mountain streams teeming with fish. All these he described with the pen of a Verne.

The picture here referred to was painted from a photograph, taken on the spot, by James H. Beard, N. A., the father of Dan. C, J. Carter and Frank Beard, of this city, under the personal direction of General Custer, so that each face shown in it is an actual portrait. With the General are his brother, Boston Custer, and Chief Bloody Knife. The dog is General Custer's famous deerhound, Tuck, who, the General states elsewhere, caught and pulled down several antelope, at different times, in straight-away races.

The original painting is 24 x 36 inches in size and is offered for sale, by the widow of the deceased artist.



2.2 Custers Deerhounds (New Owner, New York)
(Source The Army and navy journal on the Battle of the Little Bighorn by..James S. Hutchins - 2003)

Custers Deerhounds - A dog fancier in New York thus remarks to a Herald reporter the dogs used to belong to Gen Custer and Mrs Custer has sent them on to Col Frank Howe. I am taking care of them for him. The breed comes from Scotland, and will hunt on scent and on sight. The Smooth-hair greyhound will only hunt as long as he sees his game. These deerhounds of Col Howe are fine dogs. Such animals, when full grown are worth $100 to #200 a piece.

2.3 Deerhound by Theodore Roosevelt
(Source "Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter By Theodore Roosevelt 1885")

During the last score of years an entirely different type of dog from the fox-hound has firmly established itself in the field of American sport. This is the greyhound, whether the smooth-haired, or the rough-coated Scotch deer- hound. For half a century the army officers posted in the far Wet have occasionally had greyhound with them, using the dogs to course jack rabbit, coyote, and sometimes deer, antelope and gray wolf. Many of them were devoted to this sport - General Custer for instance. I have myself hunted with many of the descendants of Custer's hounds

2.4 Westminster Kennel Club Show 1877 Deerhounds
(Source - "The American kennel gazette - Volume 58, Part 1 - Page 17, 1941)

It is of interest that at the first Westminster Kennel Club show in 1877 there were two entrants sired by General Custer's Dirk. Mrs. Huntington's deep interest in the Scottish deerhound stems from the breed's marvelous disposition

2.5 Westminster Kennel Club Show - Queen Of England and General Custer Deerhounds
(Source :Dog Show: 125 Years of Westminster - William F. Stifel - 2003"

There were two Staghounds from the late General Custer's celebrated pack. They had been presented to him by the G rand Duke Alexis. Named Stanley and Madgie, they were shown by J.B.Miller of Newburgh, N.Y., taking 1st and 2nd in their class

There were two Deerhounds, Oscar and Dagmar, bred by the Queen Of England from the Prince Consort's famous stock. T Medley had sent them over from London. Though Medley had put a price of 10,000 pounds ($50,000) on each, the Times said they "did not approach in beauty, height, length or general excellance Mr Paul Dana's Brau" who took 1st in the Deerhound class

2.6 Custer accidentally shoots his own horse
(Source - "The Encyclopedia of North American Sporting Dogs: Written by .Steve Smith - 2002")

As settlement expanded westward onto the Great Plains,a handful of sportsmen capitalized on the opportuniites these vast, game-filled expanses offered for coursing dogs. (The few contemporary practitioners of coursing are still found there and in the Desert Southwest; greyhounds are the breed of choice, coyotes the preferred quarry.) The most famous - or, depending on your point of view, infamous - of these sportsmen was none other than George Armstrong Custer. Custer adored dogs, hunting dogs in particular; they were in effect the children that he and his devoted wife, Libby were themselves unable to conceive. And when he was posted to the West following the Civil War - during which his well publicized exploits had made him a national hero - his gazehounds accompanied him.

Most of Custer's dogs seem to have been large greyhounds and even larger "staghounds" rugged rough-coated brutes that these days would be identified as Scottish deerhounds. He was almost never without them, and during his various "Indian" campaigns he would frequently leave his column for hours at a time - deserting his command in effect - galloping off in a cloud of dust to follow the pack as they coursed everything from pronghorn antelope to wolves.

On one such foray in 1867, he was miles from his unit when he accidentally shot and killed his horse while firing at a buffalo bull (Custers markmanship - or lack thereof - remains a hotly debated topic.) Luckily for him - and for his dogs Rover, Lu, Sharp, Rattler and Fanny - the Seventh Cavalry found them before the Cheyenne did.

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