As birds go, it’s rather pretty, we think. Known as the Capercaillie, it is the largest of the grouse family. Because it eats bud, shoots, and berries, it spends a lot of time feeding on the ground, but it can be found in trees, as well. That said, the birds don’t fly well. Male chicks with smaller breast muscles, and adults with short, rounded wings and a heavier body weight makes their ability to escape predators inferior. Indeed, an increasing number of small mammal predators such as the raccoon dog put the birds more at risk from natural predators than they are from hunters.
Vegetarians look away, but the birds are described as very tasty, and that makes them a favorite of hunters in Finland who often hunt with a dog. Indeed, the Capercaillie is the chief quarry of the Finnish Spitz who uses a surprisingly reasoned method (some say “veiled intelligence”) to hunt the birds. A large, round black bird frequently found on the ground is hard for a dog to miss, but decent scenting abilities also contribute. Once spotted, a Finnish Spitz (aka “Finkie”) will follow the bird until it takes wing and lands in a tree. At that point, the dog runs back and forth, around and around.
Back and forth.
Around and around.
Like a person mesmerized by a hypnotist’s swinging timepiece, a Capercaillie becomes enthralled, and some say calmed, by the Spitz’s perpetual motion. It’s then that the “Finkie” starts to bark.
Louder and louder.
The idea isn’t just to alert the hunter to the dog’s whereabouts, but to camouflage any noise the hunter makes as s/he approaches the dog and bird. The hunter takes the shot, and if the shot misses, the process starts over again.
How does the dog know to do this?
In our world, we call it instinct, and the beauty of predictability in this purebred dog.
We mentioned before the importance of barking in this breed, but we’ve read that it is possible to train the dogs not to bark for the sake of barking if the lessons begin early. That said, the breed’s distinctive escalating bark and pointing stance is used by hunters to follow game, and in Finland, a conformation championship title is based on these attributes. According to the Canadian Finnish Spitz Club, no Finnish Spitz can earn a championship without proving their ability to exhibit these traits.
Image by © Pavel Rodimov | Dreamstime.com