Until the last dog is hung

Posted by ESC on May 02, 2000

In Reply to: Not until the last dog is hung posted by NancyRose on May 02, 2000

: What is the derivation of this phrase? I never heard it, but my husband and his male friends have. (I don't think a woman would ever talk of hanging a puppy!) Does this refer to the dogs in fox hunting, dog sled racing, U.S. posses chasing escaped convicts with blood hounds, or a butcher making sausage-shaped treats?

From the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988): "until the last dog is hung - The earliest appearance of this phrase in print that we have been able to locate is in a novel by Stewart Edward White. Called 'The Blazed Trail,' it was published in 1902 and contains this line: 'They were loyal. It was a point of honor with them to stay 'until the last dog was hung.' White spent much of his early life on the frontier, first in the West, later in the Hudson Bay country. We would hazard the guess that the original 'dogs' hung were of the human species and that the reference is to the kind of vigilante lynchings known as 'necktie parties' in the early West. Nowadays, of course, the expression is most often heard in reference to the inevitable two or three people at every cocktail party who hang around everlastingly -- 'until the last dog is hung' and the host shows them the door."