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On those rare occasions when mention of ‘Cub Scouts’, or ‘Wolf Cubs’ as they used to be known, comes up in conversation, I can guarantee that someone will always say “Dyb! Dyb! Dyb! Dob! Dob! Dob” although they don’t know what it means or that this strange chant has not been used in Cub ceremonies since 1966!

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It first appeared in 1916 when Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouts, set up a scheme for boys who were too young to join this new venture. Using the name of “Wolf Cubs”, 8 - to 10 year-old boys would take part in activities set against the background of Rudyard Kipling’s popular 1898 “The Jungle Book”. The Cubs would act out scenes from the stories, and the adult leaders would adopt the names of characters from the book. For example, the leader in charge would be titled “Akela”, after the leader of the wolf pack assisted perhaps by “Baloo”, “Bagheera” and “Chil”.

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In the first chapter of “The Wolf Cub’s Handbook”, published on December 2, 1916. Baden-Powell describes the following scene in “Jungle Book” in which the Wolves greet their leader Akela…

The wolves all sat round the council rock in a circle, and when Akela, the old wolf, the head of the pack, took his place on the rock, they all threw up their heads and howled their greeting to him. When your Old Wolf, Akela - that is your Cubmaster or other Scouter - comes to your meeting you salute him by squatting round in a circle as young wolves do, and giving him the Wolf Cub Grand Howl.

– Robert Baden-Powell, The Wolf Cub’s Handbook

The original instructions for the Grand Howl also appeared in The Wolf Cub’s Handbook…

AKELA: “Pack - Pack - Pack!”

This calls the Cubs into a Parade Circle. The Cubs reply as they run to their places in the circle.

CUBS “Pack!”

As Akela enters the circle, the Cubs squat down on their heels with their “fore paws” on the ground between their feet and their knees out on either side.

CUBS: “Ah-kay-la! We-e-e-e-ll do-o-o-o o-o-o-u-u-r BEST!”

On the word “BEST”, the Cubs jump to their feet with two fingers of each hand at the sides of their heads, to resemble a wolf’s ears.

SIXER (or Senior Cub): “Dyb - Dyb - Dyb - Dyb” (The word “Dyb” means “Do Your Best”)

On the fourth “Dyb”, the Cubs lower their left hands and the fingers of their right hands extend to form the Wolf Cub salute.

CUBS: “We-e-e-e-ll dob-dob-dob-dob”, (Meaning “We’ll do our best”.)

So there you have it. “Dyb” etc is an acronym of “Do Your Best” and “Dob” means, or rather meant “We’ll Do Our Best”.

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In 1966 the Scout Association, reviewing its own procedures and protocols, recommended that less emphasis be placed on the “Jungle Book” for Wolf Cubs, who were to be renamed Cub Scouts. Although the Grand Howl was to be retained, it was revised, replacing the “Dybs” and “Dobs” with plain language to make the significance clearer to parents and public… and no doubt to the Cubs themselves. The recommendations were accepted and were implemented in October 1966. The new and revised Grand Howl now runs as:-

Pack in circle. Cub Scout Leader in centre with arms outstretched. The Cub Scout drops his arms and the Pack squats.

PACK “Akela! We’ll do our best”.
SIXER “Cubs! Do your best”.
CUBS “We will do our best”.

The Cubs finish the Grand Howl ceremony by giving the three-fingered Scout salute which had replaced the original two-finger Cub salute.

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Although things have moved on since those “Dyb Dyb Dyb, Dob Dob Dob” days modern Cubs still promise to do their best, to show respect to whatever religion they might follow and their duty to the Queen. Akela hasn’t been totally dismissed either and you will still hear his name mentioned in the Grand Howl. “Ah-kay-la! We-e-e-e-ll do-o-o-o o-o-o-u-u-r BEST!”

The 2nd Goring and Streatley Cub Pack who still follow Baden Powell’s original procedures for Cubs demonstrate the 1916 style Grand Howl.

The modern Grand Howl demonstrated by the 33rd Oxford (Kidlington) Jacala Pack.

– from Martyn Day