The Risky Life Of Pig-hunting Dogs

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - April 14, 2010
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The American Kennel Club groups dogs in eight categories, denoting breeds that share a similar purpose or character trait. For example, the toy breeds like the Pug or Havanese are small in stature and make great companions.

Here in Hawaii there is a group of dogs used for a very specific purpose. The commonality of this group of dogs is that they need to be smart, fast, possess keen senses and display unrivaled bravery. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, many of them poi dogs (mixed breed) but some are of pure breed lineage. This group is known as “pig hunters.” This is a story of one of their kin.

It was a busy morning at the veterinary hospital with sick patients being squeezed in between healthy pet exams. I just completed treating a dog for a urinary tract infection when in walked Walter carrying his canine buddy Kona. At first glance, I thought it was cute that a large rugged dog like Kona wore a cute shirt wrapped around her neck. Upon closer inspection though, I noticed dried blood stains within the folds of the garment. Something was terribly wrong.


“Eh, Doc, I hope you’re able to fix my dog. She’s the best hunter in the pack!” Walter exclaimed. Although he maintained a tough exterior, I could tell his concern for Kona was real.

“Well, Walter, I’ll do my best. Tell me what happened.” Getting a good history is often as valuable as the physical exam.

“We went hunting this past weekend, and Kona was leading the pack as she always does. Did I tell you she’s the best hunter of all my dogs? I raised her from a pup.” Tears welled up as Walter told the story. but though his eyes glistened not one drop spilled. I didn’t expect it would.

“She raced ahead of the group and by the time I caught up to her, she had cornered a large boar. The pig caught her by surprise, Doc. As he tried to run in desperation, his tusk gored Kona and she went down. All I could see was blood gushing from her neck. I tied my shirt around her neck, took her home and hoped for the best. Doc, I’ve stitched up my dogs when they had a small gash but Kona’s wound was bad. I didn’t think she would make it. I figured if she survived the night, I would bring her in to have her checked out.”

“Has the bleeding stopped?” I asked.

“As long as I keep a shirt tied around her neck, the blood stops flowing. I’ve changed the shirt a couple of times.”

As I slowly removed the shirt that encircled Kona’s neck, a trickle of blood oozed from a large laceration. I suspected a punctured jugular vein. After cleaning up the wound and dressing it with a clean bandage, we started her on an antibiotic to prevent infection. We also checked Kona’s complete blood count to make sure she wasn’t critically anemic and in need of a transfusion.

I assured Walter that Kona would be all right and explained that his actions had saved his dog’s life. Coming in sooner would have been nice, but no harm was done.

Pig hunting is not for everyone, or every canine. It takes tenacity and knowhow to be successful. The life of a pig-hunting dog can be dangerous. Kona and all her brethren may not have the pedigree to be classified by the AKC, but they definitely have the heart that comes from living on the wild side.

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