Essay on `` Negro Dogs `` By Robert J. Butler

1012 Words May 8th, 2016 null Page
“Negro dogs” were scent dogs of various breeds. Usually they were trained specifically for pursuing escaped slaves. For some slaveholders, this training included having enslaved people simulate escape so they could be pursued by the dogs. Sometimes however the same animals were also used for fox chases. Slave catchers were often proud of the prowess of their dogs. They advertised the speed in which their animals could retrieve a runaway in local papers. Due to the level of training, a good “negro dog” was expensive. At one estate sale conducted in the spring of 1862, four dogs purchased for a total of $300. Despite the cost of the dogs, the slave catchers who owned them were usually not members of the planter class which most often enlisted their services.
Robert J. Butler rose to the planter class on his success apprehending runaways with his dogs. Louis Schiller, a black man from Hamburg, would testify in 1876 that Butler “was an old negro-hunter. He has made his living, all he had made, by hunting negroes before the war. He kept a large number of hounds.” Census records support Schiller’s testimony. While the Census of 1820 did not record the occupations of heads of households or any dollar value of the individual’s estate, it did record the amount of human property in each household since they could be counted as two-thirds of a person for the purpose of representation in Congress. In rural South Carolina, this was a clear indicator of an individual’s social class.…

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