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Temuera Morrison with Joshua Kauta
Joshua Kauta with Temuera Morrison on the set of "What becomes of the Broken Hearted".

Pig hunting dogs require
cunning and intelligence

JOSHUA Kauta runs the only pig dog training school in the world, as far as he knows. He also trains a number of pigs that are used with the dogs in film-making. Several pig hunting and wildlife documentaries have been shot on the property, the most recent being for Danish television featuring host Vagn Gammelgaard who goes out pig hunting with Joshua - they catch a 180lb boar with two dogs and then carry it out of the bush.

A successful pack in training heads home.
Pig hunting to many New Zealanders is a recreational pastime. Dogs used for pig hunting are selected from breeds that possess such attributes as tenacity, courage, stamina and the ability to work intelligently. Having regular access to areas that are well populated with wild pigs is important in order to get a young dog started. Joshua runs his dogs daily on a little over 1000 hectares that he has set aside for that purpose and upon which he has built up a good population of wild pigs.

The types of country that the dogs have to work when pursuing wild pigs is rugged and hilly, so the dogs need to have the inclination to work away from the owner or trainer - a much sought-after quality in a dog as far as a pig hunter is concerned. The New Zealand working sheep and cattle dog crossed with some of the hunting breeds such as the labrador, well known for their ability to pick up scent from the air as well as the ground, or with breeds of dogs that possess tough and pugnatious natures such as bull terriers, are also favoured among pig hunters.

The sheep and cattle dogs are bred for a specific purpose and that is to work or herd stock - they are born with the natural tendency to work. Joshua has been training pig dogs for his own use and for other pig hunters as a recreational hobby for over 40 years now and has handled a great number of pig dogs during that time of all different breeds and crosses.

Joshua with two dogs in training
Joshua at the training base with some of the dogs he trains. Wild pigs, pig dogs and aspiring pig hunters receive on-the-spot tuition on 1000 hectares of wild-pig-infested rugged hill country at Torere just east of Opotiki. Joshua has been called upon to train both boars and dogs to perform live action hunting sequences in movies such as "What becomes of the Broken Hearted" where Jake the Muss goes out pig hunting, and "Young Hercules". Joshua now dedicates most of his spare time to training dogs for pig hunters.
For dogs to be trained and skilled to hunt and capture wild pigs they need to be introduced to the sport at a young age - as soon as they are ready and able to negotiate the rugged hill country environments. Large boars roam the areas and Joshua says it is usually these that the dogs prefer to chase. Boars will challenge and dogs tend to be attracted to them for the mere fact that they put up a good fight.

There is always the risk of dogs getting injured or killed by a wild boar, which are armed with razor-sharp tusks that they use primarily for the purpose of fighting other boars during the mating season. Unlike the wild boar with its tough, thick protective shield around its shoulders, the dog has no such protection. A razor-sharp tusk thrust into a dog by a fighting boar is often fatal. The most effective dogs that Joshua has had over the years are those that will find a pig and keep it at bay by barking at it - this is referred to as the bailing dog. The hunter can line the pig up and shoot it without too much risk of the dog getting injured. The dogs that have the tendency to grab hold of the pig by its ears are referred to as holders. An experienced pig dog will know by instinct what type of pig to grab and hold onto and what type of pig to be cautious with.

The best result from any form of training is achieved when a man and his dogs have secured a close working relationship - often for their lifetime, at least as far as the dog is concerned. Joshua said he has had several dogs of his own that have worked faithfully for him throughout the whole of their natural life span - such dogs can never be forgotten.

Dog pack on the way to a hunt
Joshua takes a pack of pig hunting dogs out to the field for training.
Although the majority of pig hunters will hunt wild pigs with a pack of dogs, one dog that is trained properly and in the hands of a good handler can acquire the skills to hunt very effectively indeed. Joshua has had dogs over the years that have been able to hunt very effectively as individuals. Such dogs learn to be skillful in finding and keeping a pig in one place by not applying too much pres-sure. Large amounts of pressure would force a pig to break away.

Only if a pig decides to break away would the dog bite at its rear end in order to pull it to a halt, but it would then stand back once the pig has backed up to a tree or stump, to continue on barking.

"I have had dogs that will never work for anyone else, and the older the dog becomes the harder it is for that dog to adjust to another person," Joshua says. "I have also had pig dogs that will sacrifice their own lives in a given situation to protect me from the danger of being attacked by a wild boar that, while fighting ferociously, decides to go for the man."

It has been said that the average pig dog needs little in the way of intelligence, but nothing could be further from the truth. Quite often a courageous dog is mistaken for a dog having little or no intelligence. Although courage is a required attribute in a pig dog, intelligence and skill also play a very important role when it comes to hunting wild pigs effectively. The wild boar has a reputation of being a highly intelligent animal that becomes very skilled at hiding and deceiving its adversary.

"He has the reputation down my way of being the Houdini of the forest, so to hunt him down effectively requires a dog with equal cunning, skill and courage."

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