The Bulldog

By | March 27, 2010

(The Illustrated Book of the Dog (1881) by Vero Shaw, B. A.)

Allusion having been made to the great antiquity of the Bulldog in the chapter on the Mastiff, it will be unnecessary for us to recapitulate in the present instance what we said before concerning the claims of rival breeds to be regarded as the most ancient variety of British dog. Few, however, can be found who refuse to award the Bulldog the honor of being considered our national dog, for no variety of the canine species is so universally identified, both at home and abroad, with Great Britain, as the subject of the present article. Bulldog pluck and endurance are qualifications eagerly cherished by Englishmen of all classes; and it would be manifestly unjust to deprive this dog of the title which has been so universally awarded him.

No breed of dog has provoked more discussion than the subject of this chapter, and in no canine controversy has party feeling run so high, and so many uncomplimentary epistles been exchanged. The result, however, of the angry battle of words has been so far a gain to the breed as to cause a perceptible increase in the number and quality of the exhibits at the principal shows, and, in the year 1875, it was the means of inducing several breeders to unite, and form the New Bulldog Club, which has drawn up the scale of points now received by the vast majority of breeders throughout the country, whether members of the Club or not. Now that there seems to be some sort of unanimity between the various schools, the variety bids fair to prosper; and though from its excitable temperament the Bulldog is not likely, in spite of its many high claims upon public favour, to be a general pet, it is gratifying to all lovers of this our national dog when they find it slowly, though surely, emerging from the hands of the residuum of the canine world, and taking its proper place in the kennels of a superior class of breeders and exhibitors. The gain to the dog will, we believe, be immense, for in the unhappy position into which it had fallen the Bulldog had but slender opportunities of proving to the world that its intelligence was at least equal to that of the average run of dog. Chained up for weeks and months in damp cellars or dark confined hutches in miserable alleys, what chance had the poor brute of developing even that ordinary degree of sagacity which is expected to be found in an animal endued with sight and instinct ? What possibility could there be that a creature so treated could beget offspring inheriting any of the better mental qualities which are naturally present in the Bulldog, and which are developed in many dogs now before the public, whose lot has been cast in happier places than the habitation of a low scoundrel whose blow preceded his command, and who only noticed his wretched companion when desirous of participating with him in some revolting piece of cruelty, in which the dog, through his indomitable courage, was destined to take a conspicuous part? How the Bulldog ever came to be so nearly monopolized by this class of individual is capable of explanation by the theory that when bull-baiting ceased to be a fashionable recreation in this country, yet before it was absolutely prohibited by law, the sport was carried on by the lower classes, and the dog naturally came into their possession, there to remain until the efforts that were periodically made to extricate it should at last succeed.

The antiquity of this breed is indisputable, mention being made of it by Edmond de Langley, in his work, the ” Mayster of Game,” the MS. of which we have consulted in the British Museum. It is there alluded to by him under the title of Alaunt, and is subdivided by him into three classes; but perhaps it may be as well to give the description as contained in the ” Mayster of Game: ” —

“Alaunt is a maner and natre of houndes, and the good Alauntz ben the which men clepyn Alauntz gentil. Other there byn that men clepyn Alauntz ventreres. Other byn Alauntz of the bocherie. Thei that ben gentile shuld be made and shape as a greyhounde, evyn of alle thinges, sauf of the heved, the whiche shuld be greet and short. After some further remarks, this same dog is said to gladly “renne and bite the hors.” “Also thei renne at oxen and at sheep, at swync, and to alle othere beestis, or to men, or to othere houndes, for men hav seyn Alauntz sle her maystir;” and, furthermore, they are described as being” more sturdy than eny other maner of houndes.”

The second class of this dog is thus noticed: — ” That other nature of Alauntz is clepid ventreres, almost thei bene shapon as a greyhounde of ful shap, thei hav grete hedes, and greet lippes, and greet eeris. And with such men hqlpeth hem at the baityng of a boole, and atte huntynge of a wilde boor. Thei holde fast of here nature . . . ”

The third division: — “The Alauntz of the bocherie is soch as ye may alle day see in good tounes that byn called greet bochers houndis. Thei byn good for the baytyng of the bulle and huntyng of the wilde boore, whedir it be wt greihoundis at the tryste wt rennyng houndis at abbay with inne the coverte.”

Whatever distinction there may have been between the above three varieties of Alaunt in the days of Edmund de Langley, and though the anonymous writer on the works of Arrian describes these as above, and only attributes to the first two varieties an admixture of pure Celtic blood, it appears to us that the Alaunt is without a doubt the parent strain from which the present Bulldog is descended; and although the Mastiff is alluded to by Edmund de Langley in his work, in addition to the three varieties of Alauntz, we can still discover no cause for altering our previously expressed opinion (see chapter on Mastiffs) that the Bulldog and Mastiff originally sprang from the same origin — viz., the Mastive or Bandogge, which is alluded to in Dr. Caius’ book, and has been before quoted in this work on the article on Mastiffs. Before leaving the subject of the “Mayster of Game” we desire to impress upon our readers three items contained in the extracts we have quoted: first, the dog was short-faced; secondly, he was used to bait the bull; and thirdly, when he attacked it or other animals he hung on. The first and third of these characteristics are present to a remarkable extent in the Bulldog of the present day.

In the work of Dr. Caius, written in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, mention is made of the Mastive or Bandogge, as being a dog “stubborne, eagre, burthenous of body (and therefore but of little swiftness), terrible and feareful to behold,” and which ” alone, and wythout anye help at al, he pulled down first an huge beare, then a parde, and last of al a lyon, each after other before the Frenche King in one day.” This description of Caius’s, relating as it does to the Mastive, which has already been alluded to in the ” Mayster of Game” as a peaceable dog, only tends to strengthen our previous conviction that the two breeds, Alaunt and Mastiff, had by some means or other become amalgamated, only to be again separated by the later breeders to suit the requirements of the times in the manner we have before suggested.

In the later works on the dog, mention of the Bulldog is frequently occurring, and all writers are unanimous in their praises of the dog’s courage and boldness in attack. The matter of size has provoked more discussion than any other feature in connection with this dog — one party holding out for a great, lumbering, long-faced dog, nearly as big as the bull itself, and destitute of any pretences to symmetry in its appearance; the other side advocate the claims of a large-skulled dog, of medium size — forty to fifty pounds — with the short head described by Edmund de Langley in the ” Mayster of Game.” As regards the respective merits of the two dogs there can, in an unprejudiced mind, be no hesitation in accepting the latter as the correct type. In the first place, supposing bull-baiting were again in vogue, what could be the use of using a large dog for the work when a small one can do it as well if not better? secondly, even assuming for the moment that a hundred years ago or more the Bulldog was the coarse-looking creature some of its admirers say it was, is this breed to be the only one in which no refinement is ever to appear? We do not hold with improving a breed off the face of the earth, and have no sympathy with those who attempt to do so; but if we could by any surgical operation bring ourselves to look upon some specimens we see at shows as representing the correct type, we should gladly avail ourselves of any opportunity for refining and improving the breed.

Again, in baiting the bull the dogs usually approached him crawling along the ground on their bellies, and the result would be that a large dog would stand a much greater chance of falling a victim to his antagonist’s horns. In this opinion we are supported by written authority as well as by all the gentlemen who have had personal experience of bull-baiting with whom we have conversed on the subject. Amongst these is Mr. Leare, of Sunbury-on-Thames, who, though born in the first year of the present century, still puts to shame many of his juniors when handling the rod or gun, and who, in his youth, was present at bull-battings innumerable. According to this gentleman, a bull was rarely slaughtered in Devonshire — for this is Mr. Leare’s native county — in former times without being first subjected to the ordeal of baiting by dogs in every respect resembling the Bulldog as hereafter described: — The weight was between forty pounds and fifty pounds, a larger one being suspected — no doubt correctly — of having a Mastiff cross; and a short retroussé nose was eagerly sought after as enabling the dog to breathe when hanging on to the nose of the bull.

During the last century it was the almost invariable custom to bait a bull before slaughtering him; and it was not solely on account of the “sport” entailed that this proceeding was »:i vogue, for there was a prevailing opinion that the flesh of a bull which had been baited was improved in-quality by the exertions which he had to put forth in defending himself from his canine assailant. Whether this theory was correct or not we decline to decide; but very much the same idea is in existence in the present day as regards hares, many people being of the opinion that the flesh of a coursed hare is far superior to that of one which has been shot.

Some difference of opinion has risen, too, as regards the length of face in this breed, a statement having appeared in print to the effect that the nose should not be too short, and rather implying that a medium length from the skull to the tip of the nose was desirable. Such heresy against the accepted opinions of all recognized authorities could only emanate from the pens of those either completely ignorant of the subject upon which they were writing, or else in possession of a strain which differed materially from the British Bulldog, under whatever designation they might appear.

Attempts have also been made to improve the breed of Bulldogs existent in the country by the addition of a so-called Spanish cross. What was the precise advantage to be derived from the introduction of the blood of a Spanish Bulldog we are at a loss to conjecture, as the animal selected for resuscitating our national dog was the notorious Toro, a red-brindled dog, with cropped ears, weighing some 90 lbs., and displaying many indications of a Mastiff cross. From what we have heard from various sources it appears that Toro, in spite of the assertion in the Kennel Club Stud Book to the effect that both his parents were pure-bred Spanish Bulldogs, is supposed by many of his admirers to be descended from some English Bulldogs which were exported from this country to Spain several years ago. Now, assuming for the sake of argument that both these theories can be correct, we still fail to discover from the appearance of Toro how he could possibly be of service in improving the Bulldog as it now exists in this country, the main object of successful exhibitors being to eliminate all traces of the Mastiff in their dogs, as such would tend to place great obstacles in their success under a competent judge. That Toro may possibly be a perfect specimen of the Spanish Bulldog we will not attempt to deny, for we consider the breed apocryphal, but we unhesitatingly assert that the introduction of his blood into our English kennels must inevitably be attended by the most pernicious consequences, and it is to be hoped that breeders will adhere to the blood that our ancestors possessed, without being led astray by the wiles of the charmers, charm they never so wisely.

In the year 1874 Mr. Theodore Bassett, the well-known Fox-terrier judge, astonished the Bulldog world by importing an “African ” Bulldog, and exhibiting him at our shows. This dog, Leon by name, had, like Toro, been deprived of his ears, and though superior to the latter in every Bulldog characteristic, was very soon after his first appearance relegated, by the good sense of his master, to the foreign dog class, where his fine proportions have been fully recognised, as his many successes testify.

Having thus warned our readers against attempting to improve the Bulldog by a foreign cross, it behoves us to likewise put them on their guard against the great, coarse, lumbering-looking dogs sometimes met with at shows. These animals, though possibly in themselves showing little trace of Mastiff blood to the uninitiated, cannot deceive a practical breeder, and the result of an alliance between one of them and a young inexperienced admirer’s brood bitch will almost invariably be years of disappointment on the show bench, coupled with vain endeavors at home to rid the strain of the noxious taint brought in by the injudicious selection of the founder of the stud.

The Bulldog has undoubtedly suffered considerably from his association with the lower classes of the community; and amongst other undesirable practices which have crept in in connection with the breed is the abominable mutilation resorted to by some breeders in order to shorten the length of the upper jaw, and turn the nose well up. In their endeavors to attain the above object the operators in the first instance sever the” middle and two side lip-strings which connect the upper lip of the dog with the gum; when this is satisfactorily accomplished, a sort of small wooden block, hollowed so as to fit the face, is applied to the outside of the upper jaw in front, and being smartly hit with a mallet, has the effect of compressing the bone and cartilage of the nose as desired. Naturally the operation has to be performed when the unfortunate puppies are of an early age, and the bones and muscles of their faces are soft and susceptible of compression. An instrument technically termed the ” Jacks” is then applied, and has the effect of causing the mutilated parts to remain in their new and abnormal position. No words can express our repugnance at the horrible cruelty thus inflicted upon the unhappy puppies by the wretches who wantonly inflict such torture upon them, and no judge should award either prizes or commendations to a Bulldog until he has perfectly satisfied himself that the dog has been spared the mutilation of “faking,” as the operation is designated by the initiated. Unfortunately the detection of offenders is sometimes a matter of difficulty, and those credited with originating the practice have passed to the silent land beyond the reach of human laws; but considerable aid might be lent to honest exhibitors in their endeavors to stamp out this abominable scandal, if show committees were to appoint a really qualified veterinary inspector who understood the anatomy of a dog, and whose decision was to be final. As a case in point: when the Bulldogs Bumble and Alexander were disqualified by the veterinary inspector at the Crystal Palace Show of 1876, the Committee of the Kennel Club actually permitted a further inspection to be made by another surgeon, who held no position in connection with the show, the result being that both dogs were by him pronounced “honest,” and had their prizes restored them. Whether Bumble and Alexander were mutilated or not need not be the subject of discussion here • but we maintain that direct encouragement was unwittingly given to dishonest breeders by the Committee not supporting their own veterinary surgeon in the opinion he pronounced.

Amongst the best known owners, breeders, and exhibitors of the correct type of Bulldog since the Birmingham Show of 1860 may be mentioned the names of Mr. J. Hinks, of Birmingham; the Lamphiers, father and son; Messrs. H. Brown, Stockdale; J. Percival, W. Macdonald, Jesse Oswell, H. Layton, P. Rust, Billy Shaw, J. Henshall, W. Page, R. Fulton, W. H. Tyscr, R. LI. Price, S. E. Shirley, M.P., G. A. Dawes of West Bromwich (in many, but not all instances), J. W. Berrie, T. H. Joyce, W. G. Mayhew, Egerton Cutler, Vero Shaw, G. Raper, W. St. John Smyth, H. F. Prockter, T. Meager, J. Turnham, C. E. Bartlett, E. T. Hughes, R. Nichols, W. W. Roger, Capt. Holdsworth, T. Verrinder, Sir William Verner, Bart., T. Alexander, R. Turton, the Duke of Hamilton (in some cases), and many others. All the above have either shown or bred first-class specimens of the breed, amongst which may be mentioned — King Dick, Dan, Michael (who was eaten during the siege of Paris), Romany, Punch, Beeswing, Bowler, Young Duke, Meg, Gipsy Queen, Maggie Lauder, Dido, Master Gully, Acrobat, Page’s Bill, King, Nell, Smasher, Prince, Alexander, Baby, Billy, Gambler, Noble, Nettle, Sancho Panza, Slenderman, Sir Anthony, Brutus, Rose, Donald, Alexander, and the famous Sheffield Crib.