barking up the wrong tree meaning

Barking up the wrong tree meaning

Barking up the wrong tree meaning

Barking up the wrong tree meaning

This is another interesting English idiom (and metaphor) that refers to making a mistake or doing something the wrong way.

The idiom barking up the wrong tree meanings include –

You have misunderstood something completely.

To waste your efforts by doing something the wrong way.

To move forward and act on an idea that will not work.

To make the wrong choice or ask the wrong person.


Example sentences using barking up the wrong tree

He has gone to ask John if he will lend him some money. If he thinks John will lend him money, he is barking up the wrong tree.

The police thought the gang were responsible for the crime but they were barking up the wrong tree.

He wants to open a business selling shoes in the city but if he thinks that will make him rich, he is barking up the wrong tree.

The scientist thought they had found the source of the virus but they were barking up the wrong tree.

dog barking up tree photoshop
Origin of the barking up the wrong tree meaning

It is said to have come from hunting raccoons in North America back in the early 1800s. Raccoon hunting took place at night and dogs were used to help find and catch the raccoons.

On occasions, a wily raccoon would slip into a different tree completely fooling the hounds. At this point the dogs would stand at the base of the wrong tree, barking loudly to mistakenly inform their owners that a raccoon was hiding above. The hunters would arrive at the tree with their rifles only to find that the dogs were in fact barking up the wrong tree!

In print, it appears in the 1832 book “Westward Ho!” by James Kirke Paulding and in “Sketches and Eccentricities of Col. David Crockett”, published in 1833. These are the earliest examples I could find and there are several examples of the idiom being published in the same decade.

Later on in the 1940s, it was often used in cinema and stories, particularly those about detectives and murder/mystery where someone was being hunted.

dog barking at tree photoshop

Raccoon hunting or coon hunting is still practised to this day. Special breeds of dogs called coonhounds are used that originate from scent hounds in the UK and France. Traditionally raccoons were hunted for meat and fur but nowadays it has also developed into a competitive sport.

A 2020 competition in Greencastle, Indiana, USA, had a total prize purse of 200 thousand American dollars! In the modern competitive version, the raccoons are captured then later released unharmed.

Raccoon skins are only worth a few dollars nowadays so the game has taken over instead – hunters want to catch the raccoons again not hurt them. There are over 45 000 licenses sold each year in Pennsylvania alone.

raccoon in the trees
Idioms similar to the barking up the wrong tree meaning

If you bet on or back the wrong horse, you support someone or something that will fail to achieve its goals.

To shoot yourself in the foot is to create problems for yourself or hinder your own progress.

If miss the boat, you lose an opportunity or miss out on something because you act too slowly.

To get the wrong end of the stick is to misinterpret or misunderstand something or a situation completely.

Akita dog with its head over a tree branch
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