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Feist: Info, Pictures, Characteristics & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Mountain Feist and Beagle mix puppy_Catherine Murray_shutterstock

Height: 10-18 inches
Weight: 15-30 pounds
Lifespan: 15 to 18 years
Colors: White, white and black, white and fawn, white and chocolate, tricolor
Suitable for: Hunters, families with older children, singles, outdoor enthusiasts, retirees
Temperament: Affectionate, lively, intelligent, curious, alert, protective, loyal, loving

The Feist dog breed, also known as the Treeing Feist, is a small hunting dog originating in North America and is a terrier breed closely related to the Fox Terrier. They were traditionally used predominantly for hunting small mammals and ratting on farms and have a ton of playful energy and an affectionate nature. They are one of the oldest breeds native to the U.S., but despite this, they are still fairly uncommon and relatively unknown.

These agile and lively pooches were developed to chase small game into trees and keep watch until the hunter arrived. The Feist was developed from a wide variety of breeds brought over from Europe, and as such, they have loose breed standards and come in a wide array of coat colors and patterns. Other than height and weight, almost anything other physical traits are fairly loosely defined.

Read on below for more in-depth information about this lively and athletic breed.

Divider 1Feist Puppies — Before You Bring One Home…


With their hunting, treeing, and ratting history, you can expect these dogs to be highly active, with a powerful prey drive. As long as they get the required exercise, these little dogs are highly adaptable and can happily live in apartments or homes with small yards. While they make ideal working dogs on farms, they are also great family dogs and are loving and gentle around children.

Before bringing home a Feist puppy, you’ll need to make sure you have the time and dedication to give these dogs adequate daily exercise to prevent any bad behavior. While they are fairly easy to train, they can be a bit high energy and boisterous around small children, and they have a strong prey drive, so proper training and socialization are essential.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Feist Dog Breed

1. They are American originals

The origins of the Feist are largely a mystery, but most breeders agree that the breed was developed by several different breeds brought over from Europe in the late 1700s. These breeds likely included the Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Jack Russell, and the now-extinct English White Terrier. One thing is for sure, though: This breed originated and was developed right here in the United States. Oddly, the breed is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, but it is recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC).

2. They are not Jack Russells!

The breed is often confused with Jack Russell Terriers, and although they may have genetic history within the Feist breed, the two dogs are actually quite different and have different characters and temperaments. Feists are typically calmer and more docile than Jack Russells, and they have shorter tails and longer legs and a softer coat. To be fair, there is little consensus around the breed standard of the Feist, so their appearance can vary widely, and it is easy to confuse them with their Jack Russell cousins.

3. They are a healthy breed

Likely due to their mixed-breed heritage, the Feist is a super healthy breed with a lifespan of up to 18 years, often more in some cases. They are hardy and healthy dogs with no real hereditary diseases to be concerned about and are known for rarely falling ill.

mountain feist
Image Credit: Kyler Mitchell, Shutterstock

Divider 5

Temperament and Intelligence of the Feist 🧠

The Feist is a curious, intelligent dog with moderate to high energy levels. While these dogs are highly adaptable and do well in apartments and small homes, be aware that these pooches are vocal animals, and this may cause tension with the neighbors! They will bark and howl when bored or on alert, but once they are on a scent, they become quiet and focused.

These dogs have a long history of working closely with humans, usually in packs, and tend to form strong bonds with their owners and other family dogs. Be prepared to have a dog that is attached to you and your family and that doesn’t enjoy being left at home alone, even for short periods.

While these dogs are generally easy-going and fairly docile in temperament, they do have a powerful prey drive and hunting instinct, and this desire to track and hunt down prey needs to be kept at bay by plenty of interactive exercise and play. With the proper energetic output, Feists are affectionate and loving dogs that will jump on their owner’s lap with every chance they can get. They are alert and intelligent pooches and consequently make great little watchdogs, although without the proper training, their barking can get out of hand, and they may be prone to alerting you of every small sound and movement!

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Feists are great little family dogs that have an abundant amount of love and affection to give their owners. They are rarely aggressive and are great with children, although their high energy may be a bit too much for smaller kids. They are wary around new faces and may make a fair bit of noise upon their arrival, but they will soon warm up to strangers and quickly bring them a ball to throw!

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

These dogs have a powerful prey drive due to their hunting history, so small family pets like hamsters may be too much of a temptation. The family cat will often become a target too, but with early socialization and good training, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Other dogs are usually no issue with the Feist, as they are used to living in packs, but they can display dominant and territorial behavior at times, a common trait among small dogs, but this is mostly mitigated by good training.

mountain feist
Image Credit: Kyler Mitchell, Shutterstock

Divider 4Things to Know When Owning a Feist

Food and Diet Requirements 🦴

These energetic little pooches may not need large amounts of food, but they’ll need good quality food that is high in animal protein. They’ll need around 1 cup of high-quality kibble per day, and we recommend supplementing this with occasional lean meats and organ meats or canned food for variety. Check your food’s ingredient list, and make sure that the first one or two listed ingredients are from animal sources and that the food is free from any “filler” ingredients, such as wheat, corn, and soya. These ingredients are not nutrient-dense, and the extra calories can quickly cause your Feist to become overweight.

We recommend dividing their meals into two, one in the morning and one in the evening, and avoiding too many treats or table scraps. As with any dog, make sure they have constant access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Exercise 🐕

Feists are energetic and enthusiastic dogs that are always up for a walk, jog, or play session, as long as they are with their owner. You’ll need to commit to at least 30-60 minutes of exercise per day to keep these pooches happy and healthy, as well as regular interactive play. This is all the more important if your Feist lives in an apartment or home with a small yard, as they’ll need regular time to run off-leash and exercise their natural instincts. Check your yard’s fences for any holes or gaps, as these dogs are expert escape artists, and once they are on a scent, they’ll stop at nothing to find it. Their small size makes them adept fence-jumpers, so you may need to add extra protection to your yard’s fence.

Feists will love interactive toys that allow them to play and spend time with their owner, and the more variety, the better. They are intelligent dogs that need adequate mental stimulation and physical exercise, so puzzle toys, ball toys, and games of fetch are all winners with these pooches.

Training 🦮

It’s important to begin training your Feist from as young an age as possible, preferably from the day that you bring them home. This will prevent any bad habits and make the entire training process a far easier one. Luckily, they are intelligent, eager-to-please pooches that are easy to train, even for novice dog owners.

Since these dogs love hunting and scenting, it’s a great idea to incorporate this trait into their training. Teaching them to sit and wait before running after a scent or obey commands even while on scent is a highly valuable skill and one they’ll learn with ease within the correct context. With their propensity for bolting after small prey, both leash and off-leash training are essential skills that need to be learned as early as possible.

Grooming ✂️

Feists are extremely low-maintenance dogs with short, smooth coats that require minimal brushing. They are moderate shedders, so a light brushing once a week is plenty to remove any dead hair. They don’t need regular bathing unless they get particularly muddy, and even then, a rinse with warm water is all that’s required.

Check their nails regularly, and keep them trimmed to prevent cracking and breaking. Brush their teeth once a week to avoid plaque build-up and potential dental issues.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Feists are a tough, hardy, and healthy breed that has almost no breed-specific genetic diseases to be concerned about. Indeed, the breed is renowned for its great health and long lifespans. The only real concerns are joint issues, such as patellar luxation and hip dysplasia, and even these are rarely observed in the breed. Some Feists have also developed skin and food allergies, but again, this is exceedingly rare.

Minor Conditions
  • Obesity
  • Allergies
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation

Divider 3Male vs. Female

There are few differences between male and female Feists, and even physically, they are almost identical. Males may be slightly larger and more muscular, but not by much, and they may be a bit more loving and affectionate than females, which are moodier and tend to show affection only on their own terms.

These small differences are largely anecdotal, though, and your Feist’s character and temperament are affected far more by their upbringing than their sex. We highly recommend neutering males and spaying females, as these simple procedures have health benefits and can negate most of these differences in temperament.

Divider 5Conclusion

The Feist is a tough, hardy, and agile little dog that will bring an abundance of vibrant energy and excitement to your home. They are loving, affectionate dogs that are easy to train, require little grooming and maintenance, and are healthy and robust with few health issues. They make great family dogs and are great with children and other pets. Bear in mind that they do have a fairly strong prey drive and are known to be vocal dogs, so while they are adaptable and fine to live in small apartments, they will need exercise and training to keep their yapping at bay.

All in all, the Feist is a healthy, loving, and intelligent pooch that makes a great companion to owners that love spending time outdoors.

Featured Image Credit: Catherine Murray, Shutterstock

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