Tale of Why Dogs Have Long Tongues

A long time ago, when the animals were like people, dogs were noted for telling everything that they knew. In those days there were not so many dogs as now, but the best families always had a few hounds to take with them on the hunt. A man, Running-Water, who was a great hunter, wanted a dog to help him hunt, but he would not have one, because he hated to have some one always tattling on him and telling everything that he did. One time he saw four little pups and he decided to take one of them and try to teach him not to talk so much. He took the pup home, and every day, when he played with him, he would talk to him and try to teach him not to be a tattler like other dogs. The pup grew and was soon big enough to be taught to hunt. Running-Water began to take him out to hunt rabbits and small game. Every time the man killed any game the dog would sneak home and tell; then he would return to Running-Water in a circuitous way and come up to him from behind, as though he had been hunting all the time. Running-Water knew that the dog was trying to deceive him, and he whipped and scolded him. After each whipping he would stop running off and tattling for a little while, but soon he would begin again.

After a time the dog was big enough to go far away into the high timber to hunt with his master. One day Running-Water told his mother to prepare a large quantity of food, for he and his dog were going to the mountains to hunt and would be gone many weeks. He loaded several horses with provisions and started out, with his dog for his only companion. After three days of traveling they came to the mountains and made camp. They hunted several weeks and killed many big animals, and then started home. After a day’s journey Running-Water missed his dog. He called him and searched for him and then went back to camp, thinking that he had perhaps gone back. He could not find him there, and so he gave him up for lost and again started home. He did not think the dog had gone on home ahead of him, for he thought that he had broken him of the habit of running home and telling everything; but when he came home he found the dog there. He had been there a long time and had told many big stories about the number of bears, mountain-lions, deer, coyotes, and other animals that they had killed. Running-Water was more angry than ever before, and he said, “I will make that dog stop tattling so much.” He caught the dog, gave him a hard whipping, and told him he would pull his tongue out the next time he came home and told everything. Then, being still angry, he caught hold of the dog’s tongue and pulled it as hard as he could, and then he ran a stick across his mouth. Ever since then dogs have had long tongues and big mouths.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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