JJ (left) and Duke ride on the hood to scent hogs while Brian Miller drives down trails. Hunters call this technique rigging, and once the dogs cut a fresh pig scent, they'll start barking. That's when the hunters let the dogs loose and the chase begins. Tom Fowlks
Randy Brown has been fascinated with blackmouth curs ever since he read Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller as a kid. As he grew up and got into hog hunting, that fascination became an absolute passion. Brown owns 17 of these curs—“yellow dogs,” as he calls them—and four American bulldogs for chasing wild pigs near his home in central Alabama with his best hunting buddy of 25 years, Brian Miller.
It took Brown a decade of researching, testing, and breeding dogs before he was able to assemble a pack that perfectly fits his style of pig hunting. Brown and Miller hunt by rigging—which means they have two of their best scenting dogs ride on the front of their truck (the rig) while they drive down trails. When the dogs catch the scent of a pig, they start barking, and the hunters cut them loose. Then the chase begins.
Rigging is a common practice among Western houndsmen who target bears and mountain lions, but it’s unusual in the South to use hog dogs to hunt this way, Brown says.
Blackmouth curs are athletic, protective dogs that are eager to please and extremely loyal. Brown makes the most of those personality traits. If his dogs can’t strike a pig from the truck, he’ll cast them in a 300-yard loop, and then they’ll come back—unlike some big-running hounds that could be gone for the whole morning.
“There are so many pigs down here, if I can’t find one in a spot, I’ll just pick up and move to another spot,” Brown says. “I want to be chasing hogs. I don’t want to be chasing after my dogs [trying to get them back] all day.”
But once the curs get on a hog’s scent, they stick to it—especially JJ, the lead dog, Brown says.
“You can watch him on the GPS. When he loses a track, he’ll make circles until he picks it up again. Then he’ll shoot out of there on a straight line, and you know he’s back on that hog,” Brown says.
Once the curs have a hog bayed, Brown and Miller rush to the spot with their catch dogs—two massive American bulldogs. The breed is a descendant of the now extinct Old English bulldog, which was brought to the States by working-class immigrants hundreds of years ago. Ever since then, the American bulldog has been catching feral pigs for Southerners and guarding their farms.
During that time, the role of the catch dog has not changed. His life’s work is to bite the pig and hold it so his hunters can move in and kill it with a knife to the heart, an adrenaline-kick ending to a wild chase through the backwoods.
“I just love the thrill of watching the dogs I’ve trained,” Brown says. “No two hunts are ever the same. You never know what’s going to happen.”