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F1 crosses - Pure Breed to Pure Breed (My experiences)

Recent posts on the old Boardogs forum relating to F1 crossbreeds and preferred crosses and subsequently what would be the ideal cross has prompted me to add my 2 cents worth.

In my early dog hunting days, 30 years ago a lot of people were still developing their breeds, and experimenting with various combinations, but most people were still using pure bred dogs on at least one side when breeding. These days that practice is very rare indeed, with various styles and types developed over the years being bred to each other.

From my experience due to high pig numbers most people concentrated on holding type dogs and English Bull Terriers were the main ingredients. But most of the crosses were either F1 crosses, pure to an F1 cross or two F1's crossed to each other such as EBT/Boxer cross EBT/Cattle.

A few local hunters used to run the pure EBT's, one of these blokes is still alive and I often have some interesting discussions on the old style Bullys compared to the current styles. The older dogs I was exposed to had larger heads, the Roman nose not as pronounced as it is today and they were a lot bigger over all. These dogs still exist today but are hard to locate. These blokes used to hunt the watercourse country near Moree NSW and used to catch good numbers of pigs, a lot of which were large boars, purely because of numbers.

Pitbulls were unheard of during this period, but the old Bully could certainly hold, and most of the cross breeds I hunted with had a fair nose, the only problem I could see with them was their speed. Early breeders' added cattle dog to smarten them up a bit and make them a little quicker. A well bred Bully cattle could hold his head up in any top team of pig hunting dogs, and were the mainstay of many tried and proven teams. They did like a bit of a blue though and like most bull crosses, took some separating and the cattle blood made some of them very cagey and sneaky, keeping you on your toes as a fight could start out of nowhere.

Just prior to my interest in dogs, boxer blood had been added, and these crosses had their staunch supporters. One of the earliest breeders in my area of this particular cross added boxer for a little more leg, plus he also liked the look of the resultant Bully/Boxer head. Depending on what was used as the bitch a different style head was thrown in the majority of cases. A Bully bitch and boxer dog tended to throw more towards the Bully style, whereas with a boxer bitch you tended to get a more dominate stop and squarer head. The pug face of the boxer was lost in most cases, but the under/over shot jaws remained in most of the offspring. This seemed to be more prevalent in the litters from the boxer bitches. This particular bloke ended up with a line bred out of a red cattle bitch and a Bully/Boxer dog, and used these till the day of his retirement.

Around the mid to late 70's the more exotic breeds started to show up, Wolfhounds, Bull Mastiffs, English Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Great Danes etc and at this time the Bull Arab also put in its first appearance. These pure bred dogs may have been around for some time prior to this, I am not sure but it was around this period they started to appear as cross bred pig dogs. This was still the time when holding power was the main driver, and it was reasoned that the larger bull headed dogs would add a lot more power to their hunting teams, and no one could argue that they didn't.
The modern day pig dog was now in its infancy and would eventually all but decimate the old style Bully crosses. A few of the diehards continued on with their tried and proven lines, they continued to catch pigs but the lure of the big square heads, huge dogs and immense power soon depleted the market for their pups and eventually these old style dogs were all but gone. The newer styles of dogs had a bit more to offer in most peoples minds, even if it was only owning the biggest boof headed dog in the town, they loved ‘em.

I was drawn into the large dog syndrome and owned many over the years, my current line still carries blood from a number of larger breeds, but eventually my focus was only on dogs that delivered, and I suppose the table was turned, although not F1 crosses like the Bully/Boxers, the size in my working dogs reduced to around 35kgs, which in my mind is an ideal working weight for an Australian pig dog. I Think the early breeders had the size nailed but just didn't realise they had it. My focus turned from holding dogs to a more versatile all round dog that could find, run on and hold when needed. The big driver here was the development of the wild game market, the more pigs you could catch the more cash in the pocket.

The decline in pig numbers (contrary to the belief of a few government agencies) has seen the need to develop specialist finders. These dogs have always been around but it is getting more apparent now that if you want to catch good numbers or even a pig in some cases, you need a top rate finder. I think trying to get a proven finding line happening you need more than an F1 cross to succeed. You may have success with some of the pointers, but my experience is that success is very much hit and miss with these crosses. Don't get me wrong there are some top pointer crosses out there, but they are hard to breed consistently and maybe one of the pure breeds of pointer may be a better option.

Using hound blood as part of an F1 program will give you the same results, dogs that will travel too far and voice on the trail, hence alerting any game with miles of the hunters approach.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you need more than an F1 cross these days to consistently get numbers, unless you are lucky enough to live in the far North of Australia or other isolated areas where hunting pressure hasn't decimated numbers or the need for water stacks the odds in the favour of the hunters. If you are running F1 crosses I feel you will need to have other dogs as part of your team to fill in a few gaps in most cases.

When trying to consider the ideal F1 cross or to use it as a starting point to develop a new line or type, the only thing I am sure of would be bull blood, my preference is the EBT. I feel they are a bit more stable than the other options, they tend to throw a bigger cross than a pit, are closer to an ideal weight than a Bullmastiff etc.

My idea would be to use an established line and then cross a pure back into that line. Old Doug Mummery, who I respected very much and learnt a lot from, advised me to add pure blood every third cross to stabilise the line. I think he had a valid point and he used to do it when breeding his own hunting dogs.

OK, I have decided on the English bull as a starter, not sure where from here but I will discuss a few crosses I have owned or hunted with.

Let's start with the English Bull Terrier. Most have a reasonable nose, devoted, loyal a pleasure to own if you only have one dog. They can be a handful if you have more dogs and need to be watched closely. Once they have a set on a particular dog they pursue it with a passion. They add a lot of value to any cross breeding program, and are my preferred option for adding the bull component.

Boxer. Most pure bred boxers will find and catch a pig, they are extremely hard dogs and most tend to cover a lot of ground and will find both on and off the truck. Once again a good breed for any cross breeding program. My mates and I used Bully boxers for years; all up I have hunted with about 20 cross bred boxers. The best of these was a Boxer/Stag cross. He could catch hares and he would hit pigs that hard it was not uncommon for the pigs to be knocked over. First cross boxers tend to lose their teeth after 2 or 3 years. The period will vary depending on the amount of work they get. Teeth tend to break off and in a lot of cases multiple teeth attached to a part of the jaw will also break off. Another problem I have encountered with boxers is some have a tendency to collapse, they just keel over, will lay there for 5 or 10 minutes, get up and continue an as if nothing has happened. 3 boxer crosses I hunted with would do this, but I have no idea why.

Great Dane. They bring a good nose, size as well as leg; they look good come in some attractive colours. But, like any breed, there are good and bad lines. Some are very timid and shy to the point of being aggressive. They cross very well with Bullys, Bullmastiffs etc but I think second or 3rd crosses are better than the F1. The pure version can be hunted with good success, but are at a disadvantage if heavy cover purely because of their size. Overheating is also prevalent in the pure and cross bred versions, and it is necessary to keep the water up to them.

Rottweiler. Not a common breed in pig hunting circles, a lot of hunters will have a bit of a chuckle about using the Rottie. I have hunted with 2 pure bred dogs, and a couple of crosses. All were good honest dogs, with the pure dogs probably being my pick for a pure bred pig dog. They have a top nose, plenty of weight and will not let go. The male I owned was used to find roos in long grass when shooting pet food, and any pigs we came across were never any drama regardless of size.

I bred two litters of F1 crosses using Rottie to EBT. They were good sized dogs, lots of hunt and bloody hard, probably a little too hard for me but they would find and hang, no matter what. An unusual thing when crossing the Rottie is that nearly all the pups will be red, it is very rare to get a black and tan. Downside is heat; they need a lot of water but no more than other large dogs. They are definitely worth considering in any pig dog mix.

Bullmastiff. Again good nose, if looking for a big dog they throw impressive pups. Pure dogs will hold a bull out to piss, but are bit to slow and heavy to keep working all day.. They are one of the more common crosses these days. They have a reasonable nose, heat again is a problem and need a constant supply of water.

English Mastiff. Big, huge head and tend to throw pups that are more agile than the Bullmastiff crosses. If using a Mastiff breed I would favour the English. I haven't been exposed to the other mastiff breeds but hear good reports from the like of Brazilian Mastiff etc. Definitely, better crossed, the pure dogs are just too big. Old Doug Mummery used F1 EBT/English Mastiffs as his main stud dogs for years and they constantly threw good dogs. They were especially good crossed with running dogs.

Greyhounds. Used a couple in their pure form, but the ones I had were very soft. I saw them used on fox and roo, the pure bred dogs were only good for a few runs, they tended to burn out quickly. The old rough haired stags would still be going long after the greyhounds had chucked in the towel. A mate had an early Bull Arab with a lot of GH blood, this dog was very thin skinned and would start bleeding after hunting sorghum stubble etc, just from the scratches. He was a tough dog but just seemed to get opened up a bit easier than the other breeds. Overheating seems to be a problem with GH crosses also, so you need to be careful when working them in the heat. However crossed correctly they will make a top rate pig dog that most hunters would be happy with. To closely bred to the GH however will tend to give you dogs that bite the legs as opposed to the head, you need to add more bull blood to stop that. If you hunt in areas of extreme heat, regardless of how good they look, crosses with a lot of Greyhound blood are best left for the colder climates. If you are looking for stamina in your dogs, avoid these crosses, as they were not bred with this trait in mind, although Greyhounds are extremely fast, they are not high-energy dogs.

Working dogs (cattle/kelpie/border collies). Most make good finder bailer types. They add brains to any cross, seem immune to overheating and are very busy dogs. You see these dogs working stock behind horses or bikes all day and they just seem to keep going. I used a kelpie/cattle cross years ago that was a handy dog. I think if added to a breeding program correctly they would turn out some top dogs with the ability to handle the harsh conditions in Australia. I would use a dog from a proven working line though.

Pit bulls. I have owned a couple, unfortunately the ones I had didn't mind a bit of a blue. They would hold, reasonable nose but tended to grab the first pig they came to. I have seen them crossed and some of the crosses were top dogs. Probably a better option these days than the EBT but from my experience they tend to throw smaller pups than the EBT.

Probably the biggest downside to the breed is the negative press they generate, and they are banned in some areas of Australia. Not the breeds fault, just irresponsible owners, but unfortunately pig hunting will get buried in the crap that goes along with the negative press. If you can contain the dogs and look after them properly they make a one stop pig dog for the hunter that just wants a dog to go out with and catch a pig.

Foxhounds. Pure form no go, to noisy and hunt too far. Crossed they are a good proposition and are better suited to breeding finders as opposed to pointers in my mind. They bring a top nose and heaps of hunt and stamina to any cross. Getting the right % of hound in a cross is the challenge. My current line has the hound nose, diluted a lot but enough to keep the hunt in the dogs.

Deerhounds. From my experience the most consistent cross for running dogs. They add a relaxed temperament, speed, stamina, unreal eyesight and believe it or not, good nose. The majority of my top producing dogs carried a large percentage of Deerhound. But, like most pure breeds these days, do the research and make sure the pups you buy come from a proven working line. Nail the right line and look out pigs, here they come, and you won't shake them off. They tend to be a bit aloof, prefer to do their own thing, but are loyal to the bone, love to be close to the boss and above all they love to hunt. Basically low maintenance, cheap to run but can they deliver, you bet. Ian Colley

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