History As Stories

Plott Hound: The Dog That Trees Bears – Update

Plott Hound: The Dog That Trees Bears – Update

I originally posted this in August of 2015, and received some lovely comments and emails from people who had known Plott Hounds. I was reminded of this post last week when I got to meet a puppy that looked just like Felix, but was only two months old.

Felix is 16 years old now, but as you can see in the photo above, he can still get on the couch.

In 2006 my daughter adopted a 3 year-old dog from the Humane Society in Spokane, Washington. Don’t worry, this isn’t a eulogy. Felix is very much alive and spry enough to jump over the back of the couch when he hears his leash jingle.

IMG_2811 Felix

Felix in action indoors. Photo: Cathy Hanson

The Humane Society listed Felix as a pit bull/labrador retriever mix. We always assumed there were some other things mixed in there, especially because he has brindle coloring. But we never thought much about it because he was just Felix. His pedigree was unimportant.

Felix in action outdoors. No boars or bears in sight. Photo: Cathy Hanson

Felix in action outdoors. No boars or bears in sight. Photo: Cathy Hanson

Then one day we ran into someone walking a dog who looked almost exactly like Felix. She had also originally been told that he was a pit bull mix, but then someone told her they were sure he was a Plott Hound. We still didn’t care about Felix’s pedigree, but couldn’t resist learning about a new breed.

Plott Hounds during walk time in Halifax. Photo:  Mw2bonn at Wikimedia Commons

Plott Hounds during walk time in Halifax. Photo: Mw2bonn at Wikimedia Commons

Most of the information available about Plott Hounds concerns their physical attributes and conformation requirements for showing. But even dogs have histories, so enjoy the information below.

Another example of a Plott Hound. Photo: James Emery at Wikimedia Commons

Another example of a Plott Hound. Photo: James Emery at Wikimedia Commons

  • Johannes Plott first brought Plott Hounds to America from Germany in 1750.
  • Plott hounds were bred for strength and stamina to hunt wild boar. There weren’t that many wild boar in the area where Plott settled, so they used the hounds to hunt bear. Yes, bear.
  • It’s possible that while still in Germany Plott used the Hanoverian Hound and the Weimaraner to create this hardy and distinctive breed.
  • Johannes supposedly kept this new breed entirely pure.
  • They are named for the family that still maintains the breed.
  • Since 1989, the Plott Hound has been the official state dog of North Carolina.
  • There is an American Plott Association and a National Plott Hound Association, which don’t agree on all issues about the breed, especially regarding brindle coloring.
  • Plott Hounds were first registered as a breed with the United Kennel Club in 1946.
  • Plott Hounds were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2006.
  • In 2008, Plott Hounds were finally exhibited as part of the Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show.
  • They have a distinctive high-pitched bark.
  • There is a North Carolina State Historical Marker noting that Plott Hounds are the state dog and that the breed was refined in the 1800s by Henry Plott and family.
  • The Road author Cormac McCarthy hunted with Plotts in Canada.
  • In his 2008 Slate.com article “Great Plott! The toughest dog on the planet makes its debut at Westminster”, Richard B. Woodward calls Plotts “the ninja warrior of dogdom”.

Even in dogs that are unquestionably Plott Hounds, there is a lot of variety in terms of brindle and color, and some of those dogs do look like Felix. Felix doesn’t have a high-pitched bark, but he can howl on command. There aren’t a lot of wild boars in Southern California coastal communities, but he does love to chase flies. Is our Felix part Plott Hound? It still doesn’t matter, but now that I know more about these fearless dogs I will pay more attention to that group next time I watch Westminster.

Felix today, believing that if he doesn't see the camera, then it's not there. Photo: Cathy Hanson

Felix today, believing that if he doesn’t see the camera, then it’s not there. Photo: Cathy Hanson

What about you, readers? Have you ever met a Plott Hound? Do you care about your dog’s lineage?

You Can Change the World

From 1981 until 2011 I lived in Spokane, Washington. Inside the city, there are various types of deciduous and evergreen trees lining the streets. But once you leave the city, you are in the land of pine trees.

When I moved to Southern California, I expected the palm trees and succulents, but was surprised by the general variety of trees and plants. I figured it was the climate difference, moving from an area with snowy winters and a distinct growing season to a more temperate climate. It’s not 70 degrees every day, but it’s close enough for me.

Kate Sessions, 1884. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

It turns out that the wide variety of trees and plants are not all native to the area. We can thank Kate Sessions, fondly known as the Mother of Balboa Park, for that. I’ve previously written about the famous San Diego park in The Military Takes Over Balboa Park and How Do You Feel About Zoos?.

Katherine Olivia “Kate” Sessions (1857-1940) was born in San Francisco and earned a degree in natural science from the University of California in Berkeley. In the early 1880s she moved to San Diego. The region was drier than the Bay Area, which was reflected in the landscaping. Soon after her arrival she partnered with some friends to purchase the San Diego Nursery and set about making some changes.

Sessions entered into an agreement with the City of San Diego in 1892. She would lease 30 acres in City Park (now Balboa Park) to grow plants for her nursery, and in return she agreed that for the next 10 years she would plant 100 trees per year in the barren park and supply an additional 300 trees per year to be planted throughout the city.

She imported seeds from around the world to see if they could grown in San Diego. At one point she spent seven months touring Europe, collecting a variety of plants to bring home.

Over the course of her life, she owned a succession of nurseries, taught horticulture and botany to school children, corresponded with like-minded people around the globe, published articles, and was involved in the foundation of the San Diego Floral Association. And she continued collecting seeds and plants and planting them around the San Diego area.

Statue of Kate Sessions, “Mother of Balboa Park”, installed 1998. Photo by
RightCowLeftCoast via Wikimedia Commons

Her life is inspiring because she got stuff done. She found something that she was passionate about and spent her life doing that. She took action to train and inspire others and to figure out ways to make her part of the world more beautiful.

Think that sounds like a great story for kids? Check out this children’s’ book from 2013, The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, written by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. There is also a biography from 1976, Kate Sessions: Pioneer Horticulturalist by Elizabeth C. MacPhail. And if you’re really interested in digging into some detail, the San Diego History Center has a ton of stuff.

Let Kate inspire you to use your passion to change your world!

What Happened When?

I sometimes get comments about how difficult it is to place different historical periods in time. Some people have not heard the various terms used by historians, and some have only a vague idea of when a historical period is or what it signifies. If you don’t spend your time immersed in history, it can be difficult to keep them all straight.

I’ve been keeping a running list of those terms and thought I’d go through them a little at a time. For more information on anything I mention here, use your favorite search engine and prepare to get lost in the links.

Interwar Period

There are other time periods in recorded history between wars, but this usually refers to the period between World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945). These two decades are important not only because it is between two wars that both involved most of the globe, but because in many ways the results of the first war led to the second.

The Council of Four at the Paris Peace Conference. Left to right: Lloyd George of Great Britain, Orlando of Italy, Clemenceau of France, and President Wilson. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

During this period, many countries were recovering from the first war, both physically and economically. Partly because a war had just ended, and partly because stuff happens, there were changes socially, economically, and politically. One of the political changes was the growth of fascism.

After losing the first war, Germany was presented with (and agreed to) what they saw as humiliating peace terms. These included the loss of all colonies and other territory, a prohibition against raising and maintaining a real military, and the requirement that they pay war reparations to other countries.

In 1933 the German people backed a new leader, Hitler, who convinced them they didn’t have to follow those terms. They began building a military and nobody stopped them. The peace that ended World War I led to World War II after only twenty years.

What else was happening during this period? In the U.S. we had the Roaring Twenties, a time of wealth and prosperity, and then starting in 1929, the Great Depression, which also effected other parts of the world. In Europe there was the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which drew interest and fighters from other countries.

Ming Dynasty

The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644, a period of almost 300 years.

Zhushan Ming Dynasty porcelain exhibit. Photo by
David Schroeter from Melbourne, Australia via Wikimedia Commons.

Considered one of the golden ages of Chinese history, here are some of the accomplishments during that period.

  • Much of the parts of the Great Wall that remain today were built during this period.
  • The incredible sailing fleet of Zheng He and his Indian Ocean voyages that expanded trade. I’m a fan of Zheng He and have written about him in earlier posts, The Cure for Scurvy and The Diversity of Eunuchs.
  • The arts flourished, including a great expansion of printing and literacy.
  • Construction of the Forbidden City.
  • The creation of the largest written encyclopedia, which was not exceeded in size until Wikipedia in 2007.
  • Blue and white porcelain, which became famous around the world.
  • The expansion of trade and contact with other parts of the world.

But not all was golden. There were still wars, politics, palace intrigue, natural disasters like flooding, famine, and a 1556 earthquake that is estimated to have killed 820,000 to 830,000 people. Yes, that’s close to a million people.

Peasants, starving and not able to pay their taxes, formed rebel bands. In 1644 Beijing fell to a rebel army and the final Ming emperor hanged himself in the imperial garden.

What else was happening during this period? The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the last of the Mayan civilization.

That’s enough for today, but let me know if there are any historical time periods that particularly interest you. I would love to include them the next time I write about this.

Kings and Quislings

I recently heard someone refer to a group of people as quislings, meaning traitors or collaborators. It’s not a word you hear often and if I had to guess, I would have said it was medieval in origin.

Turns out it only dates back to World War II Norway. As an American of Norwegian descent, I gotta say I much prefer Viking history to a history of Nazi collaborators.

In April 1940 the powerful German army invaded Norway.

Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) was the leader of Norway’s fascist party. He had met with Hitler several times and admired his ideas and shared his hatreds. This is the man who was nominally in charge of the Norwegian government during the Nazi occupation of Norway. I say “nominally” because, of course, there was a German appointed by Hitler who was really in charge.

This post was going to be about Quisling, but I got stuck during the writing, not sure where I wanted to go with it. Honestly, fascists are bad people and I am not in the mood for that. So I changed course.

King Haakon VII of Norway (1872-1957). Source: Scanned from Norges historie, vol. VI-2, p. 312. Kristiania: Aschehoug, 1909. via Wikimedia Commons

Luckily for me, there was resistance to this invasion and occupation by the Nazis. The king of Norway, Haakon VII (1872-1957), who reigned from 1905 until his death in 1957, was a symbol of that resistance during the occupation, which ended in 1945. A man of honor and integrity beats a fascist any day, so we’ll talk about him.

Right after the invasion, the German Minister to Norway told Haakon to do as Hitler demanded. Haakon was to end all resistance and appoint Quisling as Prime Minister. He said it wasn’t his decision to make and he needed to confer with his cabinet.

He told his cabinet that although there was the possibility of disaster to his people and his country if he did not comply, agreeing to Hitler’s demands would be against everything he believed to be his duty as King. He offered to abdicate if the cabinet did not agree.

The government agreed with Haakon that they could not collaborate with Hitler. They notified the Germans, who started a bombing campaign, apparently hoping to wipe out the entire royal family and Norway’s government. They survived and were evacuated from Norway in June 1940 and formed a government-in-exile in England.

Haakon was respected among his people and his monogram became a symbol of resistance to the occupation.

Royal Monogram of King Haakon VII of Norway. Author:
Glasshouse via Wikimedia Commons.

The exiled royal family and government returned to Norway after World War II ended, five years after they had evacuated.

The Norwegian Royal Family waving to welcoming crowds from HMS NORFOLK at Oslo, June 1945. Author: Royal Navy official photographer, Zimmerman, E A (Lt) via Wikimedia Commons.

Although I haven’t seen it, there was a movie made in 2016 called “The King’s Choice” about this issue. You can view the official trailer here.

Oh, yeah. Want to know what happened to Quisling, whose name has become a slur? He was arrested in May 1945 and executed in October 1945.

What’s Your Historical Catnip?

What’s Your Historical Catnip?

For the business that I just launched (www.HistoricalResearchUpdate.com), I spend a lot of time looking at titles and abstracts for scholarly journal articles about history.

Not all of them interest me, and the stuff that interests me may not interest others. As with music and movies, we don’t all like the same stuff.

In scouring thousands of articles, I’ve noticed several topics that are my catnip. I will always stop to check these out.

Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great (849-ish – 899) was the King of Wessex and then King of the Anglo-Saxons. He was a well-traveled scholarly warrior and I had a huge crush on him when I was young. We know more about Alfred than other

read more…
Let’s Take Another Music Break

Let’s Take Another Music Break

There is a lot going on this week, so I’m doing a birthday music break.

Today in 1950, Lou Gramm, lead singer for Foriegner, was born. For me, their music hasn’t aged well since the 70s, but I still love “Juke Box Hero“.

Today in 1946, Lesley Gore was born. She recorded her first hit at the age of 16 in 1963, the year I was born. Her producer at the time was Quincy Jones. Check out that first hit, “It’s My Party“.

And today in 1936, Engelbert Humperdinck was born. Not his real name, but much more memorable than Arnold George Dorsey. This song, “After the Lovin’” is from 1976, when as a 13 year-old I believed I knew everything. More importantly, Engelbert and I support the same English football team.

If you learn nothing else from me, know that when you have a crazy week, you may simply need to find some music that speaks to you.

Convict Mutiny Meets Samurai

I love breaking news about history. With new technologies like sonar, DNA testing, drones, radar, and chemical analysis, we are resolving historical mysteries faster than ever before.

But sometimes we still find answers through old-fashioned research like poring over primary sources. This is one of those research stories, about Australia during the age of convict ships and Japan during their age of isolation.

In August 1829 the ship Cyprus set sail from a port in Tasmania, heading to the a penal station also in Tasmania. The ship was carrying supplies and 62 people, 31 of whom were convicts. This was a routine trip. Easy.

read more…
Art and Branding Lollipops

Art and Branding Lollipops

Sometimes I learn tidbits of history from the most unexpected places.

I listen to a lot of podcasts on a variety of topics, one of which is Lineker & Baker: Behind Closed Doors. It’s generally about English football and broadcasting, but sometimes goes a bit off topic. It’s great fun.

In one episode, during a story about a footballer who likes Chupa Chups lollipops, one of them mentioned that the logo for Chula Chups was created by Salvador Dali.

read more…

Rock Springs, Wyoming

Rock Springs, Wyoming

Rock Springs is a small town in southern Wyoming with a population of about 23,000. It was created by the coal industry in the 19th century as coal was needed to fuel the trains. Those coal mines largely employed immigrants.

Historic downtown Rock Springs in 2007. Author: Milonica at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Rock Springs has self-designated as the “Home to 56 Nationalities” due to those immigrants, from Albania to Wales, who came to work in the mines. They have an International Day festival to pay tribute to those immigrants.

Rock Springs Coal sign, 2007. Author: Milonica at en.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

But those immigrants of 56 nationalities didn’t always party well together. There was a time when, rather than inspiring local pride, this diversity sparked a massacre. read more…

Rerun: 888,246 Stories (With New Foreword)

Rerun: 888,246 Stories (With New Foreword)

I originally posted this story on Veterans Day four years ago. At the time, it was the 100-year anniversary of the year that World War I began, in 1914.

This year is the 100-year anniversary of  the year that World War I ended, so I want to take this full circle. Also, I have some new readers who may not have seen this the first time around.

As a visual person, I still like that this story helps show that 888,246 is not just a really big number, but represents so much more.


Tomorrow, November 11, is Veterans Day in the United States, and Remembrance Day or Armistice Day in many other countries. In the United States, this is about all veterans and active duty military, whereas in other countries, it’s a memorial for those military members who died in war. No matter where you are on November 11, thank a veteran or active duty service member for their service. I’m pretty sure they don’t suffer from receiving too much gratitude from those they serve.

This observance began after World War I and is held on the day the armistice to end hostilities between the Allied Powers and Germany was signed, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. read more…

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