One evening when I was clicking my TV remote, I happened across a so-called educational program that had a panel of assorted know-it-alls discussing mankind’s greatest achievements. I’m normally suspicious of people who declare themselves experts on all subjects, but after watching for a while, I found myself agreeing with much of what they had to say.

I went along with their ranking the ancient Roman aqueducts with the great bridges of modern day, and had no quarrel with them equating the cave paintings of prehistoric man with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Especially since those cave guys created some great art without indulgent patrons or handouts from the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). The panel didn’t seem off base in praising the literary labors of the likes of Homer and Cervantes. But to my acute annoyance, the program ended without their once mentioning what I consider one of mankind’s most exquisite achievements—the bird dog.

Yep, that’s right, bird dogs didn’t just happen you know.

They were invented.

We can suppose, with reasonable certainty, that at some instant in unrecorded time a hunter realized that his wolf-like companion was “seeing” game that was invisible to his own eyes. And from that moment of brilliant cognition, man began refining that unique gift and perfecting it to his own needs.

Nowhere does the genius of man glitter more brilliantly than when he recognizes the genius of another species and harnesses it for the betterment of both himself and that species. And to my mind, the invention of the bird dog is all the grander because it is the result of many generations of humanity sharing a dream no less inspiring than those of the greatest artists, writers, and bridge builders.

Even as we marvel at ourselves for piercing the heavens, spanning great waters, and creating worldwide communications, what other invention can we lay claim to that finds a quail with breathtaking precision, brings it to our hand, faithfully trusts and tolerates us in spite of what we are, asking only in return the pleasure of our company, a scratch on its ear, and a murmured “well done, old boy.”

Which is why I’d rather spend my days with marvelous creations called bird dogs than with artists, bridge builders, and writers.


“Marvelous Creations” is a chapter in the new book Classic Carmichel—Stories from the Field. Bringing together articles from Jim’s nearly 40 years as the shooting editor for Outdoor Life, this collection is an indispensable source of wisdom for hunters and shooters. Get your copy in the Sporting Classics Store today!