Reprinted from the September issue of NOW Magazines SW September Issue
If you grew up in Texas, you probably learned about many of our state symbols in school: the bluebonnet, the mockingbird, the pecan tree, the nine-banded armadillo, a bowl of chili. But you may not know much about one of the newest official state symbols, our state dog, the Blue Lacy.
While the Blue Lacy was only recognized as the official state dog in June 2005, when Governor Rick Perry signed a bill establishing the title, this dog has deep roots in the history of our great state. Back in 1858, when Texas had been a state less than 13 years, the four Lacy brothers, George, Ewin, Frank and Harry, moved to the Marble Falls area of Texas from Kentucky. They were a family who bred cattle, hogs and chickens, and they kept dogs to work their stock. They are known to have owned Greyhounds and various scent hounds. Today’s Blue Lacy is descended from these dogs – and something else.
Marlo Ondrej, a great-great-granddaughter of Frank Lacy, has researched the history extensively. “The Lacy brothers were big in government circles. They donated much of the pink granite for the capitol building.” she said. “They also collected data on coyotes for the state and sometimes held them in pens on their land. At that time, there were still Indians living in the area, and they kept coydogs. Some people think the other element in the Blue Lacy is wolf. I’m pretty sure it’s coyote, but officially it’s listed as pariah dog.”
For a long time, the breed was mostly known in the Marble Falls area, where they were just called Lacy dogs. As cattle ranching faded into history, the breed was nearly lost, but now they are going strong with breeding populations in other states and even internationally, though the majority still call Texas home. The Blue Lacy is a recognized breed in the Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World and various kennel associations. It is the only breed created in Texas. They’re big, intelligent, short-haired dogs with lots of energy. All of them, whether blue, red or tri-colored, carry the gene for blue fur, thus the addition of the word blue in the modern name of the breed.
They are all-around working dogs, used for droving, herding, and for hunting. Blue Lacys, unlike many other herding dogs, are headers, not heelers. They control the cattle from the front, rather than from the back. According to Marlo, that means they don’t keep aggravating the cattle once the cattle are doing what they want them to do. This means they don’t cause the cattle as much stress as some breeds of heelers do. Blue Lacys also make great hunting dogs, who are willing and able to take on game as large as the wild boars that are such a problem in some parts of Texas today. But they are also smart enough to hunt wily raccoons and just about anything else.
Blue Lacys are very much a working breed, so they will find a way to occupy their time. If kept as a pet, they need big yards and owners with active lifestyles who enjoy taking their dogs for runs and playing lots of fetch or Frisbee. “Lacys meet the needs of country life,” Marlo explained. “They have to have outdoor exercise to be the dogs they were meant to be. And you need to be an alpha. You have to be their pack leader, or the dog will be in charge! They aren’t a dog for the meek and mild. They have a big Texas personality.”
Marlo, as a descendant of the breed’s originators, held the files on the breed for years and led the fight to get these dogs the recognition they deserve as a Texas original breed. In 2001 the Texas Senate gave honorary recognition to the breed. Then in 2005 the Texas House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 108, stating:
WHEREAS, The Blue Lacy is a Texas native, a working dog bred to play an essential role in ranch operations, at a time when ranches themselves became one of the iconic Texas symbols, and a dog that has more than pulled its weight on many a Texas spread; this proud heritage assuredly gives the Lacy a unique and powerful claim of its own to represent the Lone Star State; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the 79th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby designate the Blue Lacy as the official State Dog Breed of Texas.
The Pet of the Month for November is Kai!