that dog won't hunt



Hound not taking part in a hunt

Apparently originating from the southern United States,[1] the phrase may refer to a hunting dog that refuses to do its job.



that dog won't hunt

  1. (US) That idea will not work; that is an inadequate explanation or proposition.
    • [1939 December, Paul Brewster, “Folk ‘Sayings’ from Indiana”, in American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage, volume XIV, [Tuscaloosa, Ala.]: Published by the University of Alabama Press for the American Dialect Society, ISSN 0003-1283, OCLC 8831888, page 266:
      ‘If the’ ain’t no fools, the’ ain’t no fun,’ said usually in self-derision; and ‘That old dog won't hunt,’ meaning that an excuse offered will not serve. These and the numerous specimens which follow have simply been grouped by the present writer under the heading of Miscellaneous, explanations being made only when the meaning is not clearly evident.]
    • [1965, Jesse Hill Ford, The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones, Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Company, OCLC 291992; republished as The Liberation of L. B. Jones (Signet Novel; Y4209), New York, N.Y.: New American Library, 1967, OCLC 29459320, page 41:
      "Calling her house help Mr. and Mrs. just won't get it! That old dog won't hunt," Oman had confided. / "I know, but let her discover it herself," Steve had said.]
    • 1970 February 7, “Rusk advocated halt of bombing: LBJ says in interview”, in Sarasota Herald-Tribune, page 3A, column 1:
      On the [Arthur] Goldberg proposal to stop all the bombing, [Ellsworth] Bunker "came back strong and said, 'I just can't. That dog won't hunt. We just cannot get that over, it would just blow everything.' []"
    • 1987 August 6, Tom Wicker, “In the nation: That dog won't hunt”, in The New York Times[1], archived from the original on 24 May 2015:
      If, as is more likely, Mr. [Ronald] Reagan's plan is just a ploy to win votes for renewed military aid to the C.I.A.-organized and C.I.A.-controlled contras in Nicaragua, a Congress burned once too often should be able to see right through it. Either way, as Lyndon Johnson used to say of losing propositions, "That dog won't hunt."



  1. ^ that dog won't hunt” in Barbara Ann Kipfer and Robert L[undquist] Chapman, editors, Dictionary of American Slang, 4th edition, New York, N.Y.: Collins, 2007, →ISBN; reproduced on Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present, retrieved 22 February 2017.