Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rabies Scares


More than a century ago, rabies scares left authorities with few options. So-called “mad dogs” were to blame, and essentially all that could be done was to order all dogs tied up or muzzled. Strays were often shot.

During this week in 1906, a rabies scare struck Ellendale when “a fine bird dog” was thought to have been bitten and infected. Other dogs that were bitten were killed, and authorities ordered all dogs not tied up to be killed. Every stray was shot on sight. The Ellendale rabies scare followed others in Forman, Wahpeton and nearby in South Dakota.

At the same time, Wahpeton was dealing with a months-long typhoid fever epidemic due to contaminated river water that sickened dozens of people.

Also around this time in 1906, a man thought to be rabid was taken from Grand Forks to his parents’ home in Minnesota. He “showed signs of insanity.” He barked and tried to bite two attendants. 

In April, a dog acting strangely attacked a 5-year-old girl at a schoolhouse near Oakes. The Oakes City Council immediately passed a special order to kill all dogs found unmuzzled, running loose. The city marshal killed five dogs in the week afterward.

By May, rabies hit Fargo-Moorhead. Fargo’s mayor issued a muzzle order after the state veterinarian confirmed rabies in two or three dogs that had been killed after acting strangely. 

A panic occurred during a Memorial Day celebration in Moorhead, when a mad dog attacked a smaller dog near a crowd. A police officer shot the rabid dog, which ran through the crowd. 

As summer wore on, Fargo residents became lax to the muzzle order, and after several dogs were bitten by one running loose, the mayor renewed enforcement. During Fargo’s outbreak, the state veterinarian was bitten during an examination. He went to Chicago to be treated at the Pasteur Institute. He survived.

Mad dogs also bit horses and cattle, which left farmers and ranchers no choice but to kill their own livestock.  

In Kenmare, a collie was killed after biting a 12-year-old boy, several other people, and a number of dogs. Everyone who was bitten had their wounds cauterized.

Into the fall, other dog attacks had to be quelled, from Goodrich to Granville and Minot to Mandan.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


Van Es, L. (1906). Annual report of the chief state veterinarian to the governor of North Dakota for the year ending November 30, 1906. Tribune, State Printers and Binders: Bismarck, ND

State of North Dakota. (1906). Ninth biennial report of the state board of health to the governor of North Dakota for the years 1905 and 1906 also registration report of vital statistics. Tribune, Binders and Printers: Bismarck, ND

The Oakes Times. 1906, March 22. Pages 1, 3

The Wahpeton Times. 1906, April 5. Page 1

The Bismarck Tribune. 1906, April 17. Page 2

The Oakes Times. 1906, April 26. Page 5

Grand Forks Herald. 1906, May 17. Page 8

The Oakes Times. 1906, May 24. Page 3

The Wahpeton Times. 1906, June 14. Page 2

The Bowbells Tribune. 1906, June 15. Page 11

Grand Forks Herald. 1906, June 29. Page 2

The Bismarck Tribune. 1906, July 7. Page 2

Courier Democrat. 1906, July 12. Page 2

The Bismarck Tribune. 1906, July 25. Page 4

The Ward County Independent. 1906, August 23. Page 9

The Ward County Independent. 1906, September 13. Page 7

Grand Forks Herald. 1906, September 26. Page 7

The Bismarck Tribune. 1906, October 29. Page 6

Prairie Public Broadcasting provides quality radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.
Related Content