Hangin’ Tree: The Old West or a Cattle Dog?

As time tells, we no longer have many trees around for this use even though they are a major part of our history. During the slave days, they were a common sight to see. Now days however, the term “Hangin’ Tree” has a whole new meaning (thank goodness!)

Many ranches today use Heelers, Collies, Shepards, etc to move cattle from one location to the next. While all these dogs have their strengths, they also have their weaknesses which made it difficult to see them as the “perfect” dog. A guy by the name of Gary Ericsson (with a little help from his son Choc) one day decided to develop the PERFECT cattle dog. You might be wondering… “what is the recipe for this dog?” Brace yourself!

Gary and Choc’s recipe:

– 3/8 Border Collie

  • for their intense herding instinct and intelligence


(This is Maggie, my best friends Collie who just happens to love cows!)

– 1/8 Catahoula

  • for the ability to trail and find cattle, also for their toughness and slick hair coat


(Catahoula dogs can come in various patterns!)

– 1/4 Kelpie

  • for endurance and also herding instinct and short hair


(Kelpie’s can be a range of colors)

– 1/4 Australian Shepherd

  • (only a dog named Hangin’ Tree Black Bear went into this breed. Bear was a super dog with courage and ability to handle any kind of cattle)


(This is the actual Hangin’ Tree Black Bear who was used in the breed development)

*These dogs are registered with the Hangin’ Tree Cowdog Association Inc.

With a recipe like that, it seems the end product could turn out many different ways, right? And it does! The puppies born can be solid black all the way to spotted blue and EVERYTHING in between! The great thing about this breed? They have the desire to work cattle. (There are many slang terms used in production agriculture that I will try and explain the best I can when I use them in my blogs! Work cattle– move from one location to the next, a broad term used when you will be doing something with them that requires effort (tagging, vaccination, many other things)) These dogs are “fearless” and have the endurance to work all day long rain, snow, or shine.

I know, now you are probably thinking, “How does she know all this?” “She just looked up the breed on the internet, did a little research, and now is trying to pretend she knows everything and is an expert on the breed.” (Or something along those lines!) I actually did have to look up the breed and do a little research on the history of it but back home in Elk City, KS we currently have two of these dogs! My inspiration for the blog? This past weekend, I spent Friday afternoon with Jim and all day Saturday with Top!

Jim and Top are our second and third Hangin’ Tree dogs. They are even half brothers to make it better! Our first was Rooster. (A dog named Rooster? He came to us named, don’t worry, we aren’t that crazy!)


(This is Rooster. He was a great dog even though he had a short life. He was hit by a truck near our house 😦  )

Jim is my brother Flinton’s dog. He is much calmer than Top as well as stouter.


Aren’t they cute? He absolutely LOVES Flinton.

On Friday, we used him to gather bulls so we could work them. There are several commands that these dogs learn when they are being trained. Here are the ones that we commonly use:

Come By– send the dog clockwise from you to bring cattle

Away To Me– sends the dog counterclockwise from you

Down– lie down (the dogs can get a little excited and it is used a lot around our place to stop and “reset” the dog to listen again)

Get Back and Bring ‘Em– sends the dog to the back of the group and brings the cattle to you or the rest of the group

There– used to tell the dog that is where he needs to be (can be used along with Come By and Away To Me), also to turn cattle

Get Ahead– exactly what you would think it means, go ahead of the group to turn them which ever way is needed

Look Back– means to literally look back behind at one that was missed or one that is starting to go the wrong direction

That Will Do– we are finished with that, good job

Go To Water– find water and get a drink

When we gather big groups, we use both the dogs together and it is amazing how they can work together, feed off each other, and get the job done much more efficient than with just people working. They can actually replace people and one person can go out and gather the group with a dog and not have trouble. We have learned that if it can’t be done with a person and a dog, more people won’t be able to do it either.

Here is a couple of pictures of Jim working on Friday.

IMG_5351 IMG_5347

Top… Top is a whole different story. He is very energetic and needs lots of reminding to slow down and just be calm. He is my other brother, Ethan’s dog.


They love each other. While Top doesn’t really like to listen to Flinton, he thinks Ethan walks on water and will do almost anything Ethan wants (with reminding every now and then!). They came most of the way trained to us for working in a pasture setting. Ethan has other ideas though… He wants to be able to have a dog help around the chute and move cattle through the system.

Quick Vocab!

Chute– a device used to cradle, hold, and keep the cattle as well as us safe while working them

The System– at our place, we refer the the lane and the chute as the system

Lane– ours goes from outside to inside the barn and the cattle walk through it to reach the final destination of the chute

Here is a couple of videos so you can see exactly how helpful Top is around the system! (Click on the link to view, please excuse poor quality, I took it on my phone!)




Even when he is not able to help, Top watches and keeps an eye on Ethan to make sure nothing happens to him!

Since we have pasture gathering and working the system down, Top has a new idea of what he wants to learn…Any guesses…?


He thinks it is time to learn how to drive… I will let you know how that one turns out!

Explore posts in the same categories: Agricultural Issues, Life Back Home, Random, Uncategorized

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