What is a Feist Dog?

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Nope, we’re not talking about a high-spirited, “feisty” pooch… we’re talking about an actual type of dog known as a Feist. And while the jury’s out on where the unusual name came from – Abraham Lincoln called him a “Fice” when writing about this small hunting pooch, and other iterations have included Fyce and Foist – his lineage is equally intriguing. The general consensus is that he’s a combo terrier (likely brought to North America by the Brits around the 1700s) and Native American Dog. The end result is a compact little hunting dog that is sturdy, muscular, and with a rather spirited personality.

Related: What is a Sighthound?

Now, in spite of his vague ancestry, there is an overall “look” you can expect with a Feist dog. Typically, he will be smaller, weighing just 15 to 30 pounds, and stand between 12- and 16-inches in height. He’ll also have a short, smooth, bi-color coat, erect ears, and long, upright tail. So overall, a pretty perky little dog. If you were trying to envision a similar breed with a recognizable name, you could look to a Rat Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier or Parson Russell Terrier.

While he isn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the “Treeing” variation of the Feist is acknowledged by Britain’s United Kennel Club (UKC) as an identifiable breed. And as the name implies, he was used for tracking and “treeing” small prey such as squirrels and rodents, while he waited for the hunter to arrive.

In spite of his dubious history, and prowess for the hunt, this spunky little dog makes a great companion animal. He’s smart which makes training quick and teaching him special commands, or tricks, easy. While he’s highly energetic and needs regular daily walks, he also loves to nest with his human pack and enjoys nothing more than a snuggle on the sofa after a long and busy day. So, you do get some down-time with this pooch.

Of course, like any terrier you’re going to run into a personality that is more pronounced, and more territorial than you’d find with a Lab, Golden, or other non-terrier breed. He’ll also have a stronger prey drive which can make him a problem around smaller family pets including cats if you choose to adopt an adult Feist. But either of these traits can be tempered through training and proper socialization – particularly if you start while he’s a puppy or young dog.

When it comes to care, a Feist dog is a dream. His short, light coat is low-shedding and requires brushing just a couple of times a week to keep him looking his best.

And perfectly in line with what you would expect from a busy dog with a spirited personality and perky appearance, the Feist enjoys a good play session. This love of all things interactive makes him ideal for families with older kids or outdoorsy adults who want a companion dog to take on hikes or runs.

Now, the upside to any dog that’s a mixed bag of breeds is that they tend to be healthier than a pure-bred pooch. And the Feist is no exception because this generally healthy little guy can live up to 18 years – well beyond what you would expect from a larger breed. He’s a perfect companion for a family that can keep him busy, or even a senior that can devote the one-on-one time this dog craves.