The state’s official dog breed is smart, hardworking and good with kids.
By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers
For several days, Marlo Riley could not figure out how her dogs were escaping from their outdoor kennels at her family’s home near Helotes. So one morning, she watched from a window, hoping for a clue. Soon Riley caught the culprit in action. It was Moose, a blue Lacy male who’d wait until he thought no one was looking, then he’d stretch up high and use his nose to unhook the latch on his kennel’s gate. Once freed, he’d trot around and spring his buddies, too.
“Blue Lacys are intelligent, almost to a fault,” Riley says, chuckling. “You have to be smarter than them sometimes. To keep Moose in his kennel, we ended up putting a clip on the latch.”
Historically, Texas ranchers have long valued blue Lacys like Moose for their sharp intellect, hardworking nature, and companionable disposition. Designated in May 2005 as the official state dog breed of Texas, blue Lacys are named for brothers George, Ewin, Frank and Harry Lacy, who moved to Marble Falls from Kentucky in 1858. The ranching family reportedly mixed greyhound, scenthound and coyote to create a versatile working dog breed.
For more than a century, descendants of the Lacys’ sleek-haired, blue-slate-colored canines rounded up cattle, herded hogs, and trailed game on Texas ranches. Many owners swore that one dog could do the work of five cowboys on horseback. What’s more, they could also tree raccoons, bay wild hogs and retrieve fowl on bird hunts.
The breed nearly disappeared as the family-owned ranching industry declined and the use of all-terrain vehicles increased. However, efforts since the 1970s to preserve blue Lacys have increased their purebred numbers into the thousands. Today, government trappers as well as some search-and-rescue teams use blue Lacys for their keen scent-trailing abilities.
Not all Lacys are blue, though all carry a rare blue-color gene. The medium-sized dogs — which weigh from 30 to 50 pounds — may also be classified as red or tri-colored. Their distinctive eyes range from bright orange to yellow.
Riley — who owns and maintains the Lacy Game Dog Registry — spends much of her time promoting blue Lacys. Ironically, she has ancestral ties to them through her great-great-grandfather, Frank Lacy. “I wanted a blood-tracking dog that was good with kids,” recalls the avid bow hunter and mother of five. “I actually picked the Lacy breed before I knew about my family heritage.”
“Blue Lacys are good all-around working dogs,” Riley adds. “They can work cattle, but they can also hunt hogs and not bother the cows. They even know what you’re hunting by what gun you pull out.”
Ben Glenn, foreman at the 4,100-acre Diamond A Ranch near Lipan, runs cattle with eight blue Lacys. Their instinctive ability to herd and handle livestock constantly amazes him. For instance, Oz — at four months of age and with no training — rounded up four heifers and herded them through a gate.
“It was his first time to go out alone,” Glenn says. “I told him what to do, and he did it. I’d read that blue Lacys have some logical thinking abilities, and — dadgumit — they do.”
For more information, go to <www.lacydog.com> or <www.bluelacydogs.org>.