General Custer, Libbie Custer and Their Dogs

A Passion for Hounds, from the Civil War to Little Bighorn


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About the Book

General George Armstrong Custer and his wife, Libbie Custer, were wholehearted dog lovers. At the time of his death at Little Bighorn, they owned a rollicking pack of 40 hunting dogs, including Scottish Deerhounds, Russian Wolfhounds, Greyhounds and Foxhounds. Told from a dog owner’s perspective, this biography covers their first dogs during the Civil War and in Texas; hunting on the Kansas and Dakota frontiers; entertaining tourist buffalo hunters, including a Russian Archduke, English aristocrats and P. T. Barnum (all of whom presented the general with hounds); Custer’s attack on the Washita village (when he was accused of strangling his own dogs); and the 7th Cavalry’s march to Little Bighorn with an analysis of rumors about a Last Stand dog. The Custers’ pack was re-homed after his death in the first national dog rescue effort. Well illustrated, the book includes an appendix giving depictions of the Custers’ dogs in art, literature and film.

About the Author(s)

Brian Patrick Duggan is a canine historian and author of several books and numerous articles about dogs in history. He is a retired university technology educator and an American Kennel Club judge.

Bibliographic Details

Brian Patrick Duggan

Foreword by Paul L. Hedren

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 361
Bibliographic Info: 55 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6954-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3487-6
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Dogs in Our World

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Foreword by Paul L. Hedren 1
Preface 3
A Note to the Reader 9
Prologue 11

1: Judge Bacon’s Daughter 13
• Tail Piece: The ­Havelock-Hollywood-Custer Connection 22
2: That Custer Boy 23
• Tail Piece: A Cadet and His Dog 32
3: Armstrong Ascendant 34
• Tail Piece: P.T. Barnum’s Civil War Dog Show 46
4: My Husband’s Dogs 48
• Tail Pieces: The Sporting Ritual of Foxhunting in America 62
• Slave Tracking and Prison Guard Dogs 62
5: The Texas Pack 64
• Tail Pieces: Libbie Custer and Persian Greyhounds—Two Degrees of Separation 85
• Dogs as Property in the 19th Century 85
6: Kansas—Hunting Game and Chasing Indians 87
• Tail Pieces: Scotch Stag Hounds and Chinese Edible Dogs—Victorian Breed Terminology 109
• Army Dogs: Birth, Sutures and Death 109
7: Kansas and Indian Territory: Bloody Snow 111
• Tail Piece: Did Armstrong Kill His Own Dogs at Washita? 127
8: The Tourist Hunters 131
• Tail Piece: Plagiarizing Lord Byron 153
• Barnum and the Grand Hoboken Buffalo Hunt 154
9: Blue Grass, Pvt. Burkman, and the Grand Duke Alexis 155
• Tail Piece: Russian Wolfhounds Emigrate to America 170
10: Paw Prints on the Yellowstone 171
• Tail Piece: Sir St. George Gore’s Greyhounds Populate the West 193
• Sighthounds vs. Antelope 194
11: Fort Lincoln and the Black Hills 196
• Tail Piece: California Joe and His Custer Hound 216
• Tailless Dogs 216
12: The Last Dog Deals and the March to Little Bighorn 218
• Tail Piece: Custer’s First Stand 236
13: Dog Rumors and the Last Stand Hoax 238
• Tail Piece: Rusty’s Improbable History 262
14: The Widow Custer’s Burden 264

Epilogue: Custer’s Last Hound 283
Appendix: General Custer’s Dogs in Art, Literature and Film 289
Chapter Notes 301
Bibliography 321
Index 331

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Duggan delivers a well-researched and elegantly written work…Custer’s hounds, instead of being shunted into the footnotes, are front and center, brought vividly to life by a careful historian who is also an authority on sighthound breeds…Duggan’s book is a love story: Man loves woman, woman loves man, and both love dogs…The field of Custer scholarship has been enriched by Duggan’s work, and it is hoped that future biographers of history’s heroes and rogues will learn from its example.”—AKC Gazette

• “A delightful and objective biography of George and Libbie Custer that is driven by their love of dogs…Duggan [is] an expert on all things canine…amazing research…intriguing bits of information…[contains] some of the best new information…filled with portraits of the Custers and their dogs…a great read”—Montana the Magazine of Western History

• “This book is chock-full of photos—many of which I have not seen before—sketches, and paintings, but the meat of it is in the research, which to me is remarkable and clearly establishes Brian as one of the best and most definitive writers on the Custers and their lives together with their animals. The book is even better than its content, for Brian is one fine writer. This is a curl-up-with-a-good-drink book, one of those whose only fault is that it ends.”—Frederic C. Wagner III, author of The Strategy of Defeat at the Little Big Horn: A Military and Timing Analysis of the Battle and Participants in the Battle of the Little Big Horn: A Biographical Dictionary of Sioux, Cheyenne and United States Military Personnel, 2d ed.
• “Who knew that a book tracing the fascinating life of George and Libbie Custer through their love for animals could be so enjoyable? Not only is the author an excellent writer, but his research is groundbreaking and his knowledge of the subject unequalled. I loved this book. I loved this book.”—James Donovan, author of A Terrible Glory

• “Brian, I wanted to let you know how much I REALLY enjoyed your book on Custer and his dogs! It was worth every penny of full price.”—Paul Andrew Hutton, Western historian and author of The Apache Wars