Sayings and their meaning: BARK UP THE WRONG TREE

by Peg Pellerin
BARK UP THE WRONG TREE means to be totally off the mark, to waste energy following the wrong course of action, or to have one’s attention diverted off the subject at hand.
This phrase dates back to the 1800s dealing with racoon hunting. The hounds of the hunting pack are trained to mark the tree where the raccoon they are pursuing takes shelter. The dog would go to the base of the tree howling until the hunter arrived to shoot down the animal. Some raccoons were smart enough to evade the dog but the dog didn’t know it left the tree, thus barking up the wrong tree.
The expression first became popular in the early nineteenth century, appearing in the works of James Hall, Davy Crocket – himself a great raccoon hunter and Albert Pike.

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