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Mountain Feist

Nicole Cosgrove

The Mountain Feist is a small to medium sized breed bred in the US and has been around for hundreds of years, having ancestors dating back to pioneer times. It is a smaller relation of the Curs and is sometimes compared to a Jack Russell Terrier or Rat Terrier. It is also known as the American Feist and Mountain Terrier and its average life span is 10 to 15 years. It was bred to hunt small game like birds and rabbits and also specialized in following and killing squirrels. In the right home it can also be an affectionate and loyal companion. As well as the Mountain Feist other varieties include the Pencil-tail Feist and the Bench Legged Feist.
The Mountain Feist at a Glance
Name Mountain Feist
Other names American Feist, Mountain Terrier
Nicknames MF
Origin USA
Average size Small to medium
Average weight 12 to 30 pounds
Average height 12 to 18 inches
Life span 10 to 15 years
Coat type Short and smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Tricolor with spots, red and white, red, black, black and tan, blue and white, red brindle, and white
Popularity Not yet a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Good to very good
Tolerance to cold Good to very good
Shedding Moderate – some hair will be around the home
Drooling Moderate – not especially prone
Obesity Average – measure food and make sure it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Occasional – brush twice a week
Barking Frequent – does bark a lot so training to stop it on command can help
Exercise needs Fairly high – needs owners who are fairly active too
Trainability Moderately easy
Friendliness Very good
Good first dog Moderate – best with experiences owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization and training
Good with children Good but needs socialization and training
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization and training
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization and training is essential especially around small pets as it has high prey drive
Good with strangers Good but wary so socialization is needed
Good apartment dog Moderate – frequent barking can be trained away but only to a certain extent and does best with a yard
Handles alone time well Low to moderate – prefers not to be left alone for too long
Health issues Quite healthy, a few issues include allergies and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $130 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $225 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $815 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $400
Rescue organizations Rescue Me! Feist Rescue, Feist for Adoption, check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Mountain Feist’s Beginnings

The Mountain Feist does not have much details really known when it comes to its origins though we know its ancestors were part of the early pioneers lives, coming to the US for a new life. One of the earliest descriptions can be found in a diary belonging the George Washington dating to the late 1700s but other famous authors have also mentioned it, Lincoln and William Faulkner included. There are of course theories about its initial development. The most popular suggests that European terriers (British is most likely) were crossed with hunting dogs owned by Native Americans.

Others disagree with this theory saying this is not really a breed of dog but a type, a working dog that can therefore have obvious differences amongst them but still be a skilled hunter, be pliable and be robust. Whichever origin you think is more likely this dog was developed in the southern states of North America more specifically along the Ozark and Southern Appalachian mountains.

It was bred to be small but stocky and could track and kill squirrel specifically but also other small game, it was a good vermin hunter and was easy to maintain. The name Mountain Feist refers to where it comes from and then the word Feist means a small and usually boisterous dog. Over the years there have been several different spellings such as fyce or fice. It is a cousin to the Cur breeds who were also bred in the south by rural breeders and hunters.

New Lease on Life

In 2015 the Mountain Feist was given full recognition by the UKC (United Kennel Club). It is still commonly used in the southern states for hunting small game but it is not recognized by the AKC. It is more popular in the south than the rest of the US and is barely known beyond that. It is also slowly becoming a companion dog as well as just a working one.

The Dog You See Today

The Mountain Feist is a small to medium dog weighing 12 to 30 pounds and standing 12 to 18 inches tall. It has a medium length neck that is strong and a chest that is quite deep. The back is level and its forelegs are straight. The muscular back legs have hocks that are a little bent and its feet are compact with thick pads and toes that are arched. These paws are great for climbing. The tail is set high and the dog holds it erect.

The coat is smooth and short and common colors are light brown, red, white, black and blue. Their skulls are somewhat rounded and they have a wedge shaped head and a muzzle that is medium length and tapers to a black nose. It can have two types of ears, either pointy that are long and held erect or they can have button ears that fold over. Its eyes are dark colored and small.

The Inner Mountain Feist


The Mountain Feist is a very spirited and energetic dog and does best with someone with experience in handling high energy and hunting dogs. Owners need to be confident with it and firm in leadership so it behaves appropriately. It is intelligent, very curious and alert too. It will bark to let you know of an intruder so makes a good watchdog. It is a vocal dog though so that barking may carry on and having a command to stop it is a good thing to include in its training. It is protective and will be wary around strangers until it gets to know them and proper introductions are a good idea.

When hunting it is focused, driven, has good endurance and in its element. It loves to be active like this. As a companion dog it is cheerful, loving, devoted to its family and likes to be close to them at all times. It is territorial but though it is a good watchdog it is not as effective as a guard dog just because it is not that ferocious and it is small! It does not like being left alone for long periods.

Living with a Mountain Feist

What will training look like?

If you have some experience and are confident in your handling of this breed it should be moderately easy to train. Of course the dog’s temperament can affect that so some may be easier and some a little more stubborn. Obedience training, house training, socialization all should be started from a young age when it is able to soak it all up and has not had a chance to develop bad habits. Dogs need to know the rules and that they should be followed. Stay firm and be consistent and positive, encourage it and offer praise. Keep training sessions interesting. Introduce it to different people, places, sounds, animals and situations and such so it learns how to deal with them.

How active is the Mountain Feist?

This dog was bred to hunt and be active and it will not be happy if it does not get that. It is best in a home where it gets to hunt regularly but if that is not possible it still needs other forms of exercise, physical and mental. Owners need to be active and happy to be so. It should taken out for a couple of longer walks and get some physical play with you. It is not an apartment dog, it needs to get out and it is too vocal! Make sure it gets off leash time where it can explore safely too. It has a great deal of energy and stamina so do not be surprised when that little dog can go for a long time.

Caring for the Mountain Feist

Grooming needs

Taking care of and grooming the Mountain Feist is not a difficult procedure, it has a short coat so that makes it easy to brush and rub down to clean. Brush once or twice a week. It sheds an average amount so there will be some loose hair around the home to clean up too. The Mountain Feist should only be bathed when it really is dirty and smelly, has rolled into something nasty and so on. Otherwise doing it too often damages its natural oils. For the same problem always use only shampoos designed for dogs. Make sure when you come in from a hunt you give it an inspection for things like ticks, burs and such.

Other care needs include looking after it ears on a weekly basis, its teeth and gums at least three times a week and its nails when they get too long. The ears can be cleaned by wiping them with a dog ear cleaning solution, not by inserting a cotton bud. Check them weekly for signs of infection such as a bad odor, redness, inflammation, discharge and such. The teeth should be brushed with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste at least two to three times a week. Then its nails clipped at an acceptable length using dog nail scissors or clippers. Make sure you avoid cutting too far down its nail as pain and bleeding can occur if you get into where the blood vessels and nerves are.

Feeding Time

Mountain Feists are active so need a good diet. Avoid foods that full of filler ingredients rather than the protein and nutrients the dog needs. It will probably eat between 1 to 2 cups of a good or better quality dry dog food a day, and that has to be given to it in at least two meals. The actual amount can change from one Feist to another as it depends on things like its health, age, specific size, metabolism and activity level. Also it should have access to water that is kept as fresh as possible.

How is the Mountain Feist with children and other animals?

The Mountain Feist does need good socialization to get along with children well. Being raised with them is another good way to help balance some of the issues that can come up. This dog is possessive of its belongings so does not like children or anyone really messing with its belongings or toys. It also does not like to be handled roughly and some can have a short temper. Therefore if it has not been raised with them it is better with older children who can be taught the rules and follow them. Socialization also means it can learn to get along with the family cat but is likely to be less welcoming with strange ones and it does have a high prey drive so small pets might have to be kept separate or supervised. Most Mountain Feist can live with other dogs without problems though there is usually some dominance shifting until they learn their pecking order!

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Mountain Feist has a life span of 12 to 15 years and is quite a healthy breed but a few issues may include hip dysplasia, ear infections, allergies and bloat.

Biting Statistics

In reports of dogs attacking people in the last almost four decades in the US and Canada the Mountain Feist is not named as having caused bodily harm. It is not a people aggressive dog but it is territorial, possessive of its people and belongings and so there is some potential there for it to be triggered into a physical reaction. Make sure you train it, socialize very well, give it lots of physical exercise, play and mental challenge and that you give it lots of attention. While you can not completely guarantee a dog will never turn aggressive you can do things to limit it.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Mountain Feist puppy from a good breeder will cost about $400 on average but might go for more should you go for a top breeder. It is important to consider carefully where you buy from. Spend some time finding a reputable breeder with good references and avoid awful places like backyard breeders, puppy mills or pet stores. There are shelters and rescues as another option that you could look at. It may be that most dogs there are mixed breeds if you do not have one that specializes in Feists near you, but these can make great companions too! Fees tend to range from $50 to $400.

Once you have found a breeder you are happy to work with and have a puppy or dog chosen and on its way home there are initial costs to deal with next. Health checks include a check up, blood tests, deworming, micro chipping, neutering or spaying, vaccinations and such for about $270. Then there are items it will need like a carrier, collar and leash, bedding, bowls, crate which would be around $120.

Then there are continuous costs when you own a pet, taking care of its health, feeding it, the items it will need, and more. Health basics like vaccinations, check ups, flea and tick prevention and then medical emergency savings or pet insurance will be about $460 a year. A good quality dry dog food and canine treats will be another annual cost of $130. Then other factors like basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items will be another $225 a year. This means a starting figure annual cost of $815.


Looking for a Mountain Feist Name? Let select one from our list!

The Mountain Feist is not a dog for just anyone or any family. It loves to hunt and would be best with owners who intend to use it as such as well as being a companion to them when it is not out. If that is not possible but you are still set on one be sure you can meet its physical needs, it will not be happy staying indoors all the time and just getting a couple of short walks, this is not a lap dog. It needs good socialization too and owners who can give it the kind of attention it needs.

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.