Destination: the World’s Only Coon Dog Cemetery (Alabama)
It’s a resting place for a very specific type of dog — and there’s a lot more going on than you might think.
For my non-American readers (or you city slicker types): Coon dogs are a specific breed of hound dogs regarded for their prowess at hunting raccoons. Not as tasty than corn dogs.
Alabama isn’t known for having tons of tourist attractions. We found a few while driving through, sure, but this one is quite a bit off the highway.
Started in 1937 by Key Underwood to honor his coon dog Troop, the story goes that today’s cemetery was yesterday’s hunting camp area. You’re several miles from the nearest state road, and miles more from what might be called civilization. In any case, Troop was laid to rest here on Labor Day 1937 with a hand-chiseled gravestone, a rock from a nearby chimney.
According to the website, there are three requirements to getting your coon dog buried here:
- The owner must claim their pet is an authentic coon dog.
- A witness must declare the deceased is a coon dog.
- A member of the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, Inc. must be allowed to view the coonhound and declare it as such.
It’s a high bar — but one that each of the residents here has met.
Unfortunately, some of the gravestones are a bit more.. cryptic. While there’s no cheat sheet on site, there are long lists of abbreviations online used to describe the championship status of dogs. A Grand Nite Champion and (probably) Grand Show Champion are the ones I can work out.
These gravestones come in all shapes and sizes — some that are as modern as you’d find in any human cemetery and others that were hand-made decades ago. What’s with the coins?, you ask? There wasn’t anyone around to ask, but my best guess is that they’re emulating a military tradition of leaving coins on the gravestones. A penny might mean you visited, a nickel might mean you trained your dogs together, a dime might mean you entered competitions together, and a quarter might mean you were there when the dog died. This is all conjecture, so if you know more, comment away!
I’ll refrain from any jokes about outhouses in Alabama, except to say it was obviously no longer usable and off on its own.
There are more flags and flowers here than at a cemetery for people.
Hopefully that’s ‘A joy to hunt with‘…?
It’s the handmade ones that are perhaps the most touching…
It’s definitely out of the way (we lost all service on our phones driving here), but it’s a unique place to explore. Aim to head here on Labor Day for an annual event involving barbecue and bluegrass music.
Name: Coon Dog Cemetery
Address: 4945 Coondog Cemetery Rd, Cherokee, AL 35616 (GPS: 34.630052, -87.966840)
Directions: From Alabama state road 247, turn onto Coondog Cemetery Rd. and drive for about 5 miles. This is a semi-paved road with no lines and lots of hills, so drive slowly. It’s about 45 minutes southwest of Florence, Alabama.
Hours: daylight hours (no artifical lights around)
Phone: (256) 412–5970
Ratings out of 5 globes (How do I rate destinations?)
Ease to arrive:
Worth the visit:
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