Was Major General George Armstrong Custer A Devout Pet Lover?

When we discuss Major General George Armstrong Custer in the context of American history, it’s almost impossible to do so without mentioning the Battle of the Little Bighorn (hint hint). But the man was more than one battle. He lived his life gaining the attention of both his superior officers and those who served underneath him. More than that, he gained the attention of dozens of dogs — all of which he loved.

Documentation is scarce before Custer’s time in the Civil War, but we know a little of what came next. His first dog after the war was Byron, an English Greyhound. When he and his wife, Libby, were living in Hempstead, Texas (where he was stationed at the time), the dog came into his life. 

Not long thereafter, Custer’s friends gifted him one or two hunting dogs — Scottish Staghounds (or Deerhounds). He fell in love.

During his time in Hempstead, he could have been called a collector of the animals. By the time he and his wife picked up and moved to Austin, Texas, they had acquired a whopping 23 dogs at least. Back then they weren’t spayed or neutered, of course, and so when new dogs were born, they quickly became a part of the family.

One story describes Ginnie, a setter who gave birth while they were in Austin. A few of the puppies were struggling. Custer apparently nursed them to health, walking with them until they were as strong and as fit as the others.

Custer’s favorites were the young, strong dogs he used for hunting antelope or buffalo.

According to notes from before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send his dogs back home with Libby. This was unusual as Custer usually kept a number with him even when traveling or on missions. Some historians interpreted this as an acknowledgment that the mission was both important and dangerous. But several of the dogs went along anyway.

We may never know what became of the dogs who joined him for his last adventure, but we do know that Custer had asked a soldier under his command to keep the dogs as he went into battle.

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