Most people know how I dislike (haha) animals, so it should come as no surprise that I was doing some research on the breeds of dogs that were common during the early 1800’s in England.
Contrary to how we see dogs, during the 1800’s dogs were used to do tasks for humans. Dogs were usually not pets, kept inside the house with no task. In a way, it is sad, as most dogs can be beneficial to their humans. I speak from experience, as my sweet boy, Darcy (or Mr Darcy), is my service dog. There are many tasks dogs can do to aid us, and give them purpose in their life. I know I get on my soapbox when I speak of this subject, but dogs (unlike cats) need a purpose. When they do not have purpose, they can become depressed. Personally, I prefer having a dog who is able to assist me, and he is happy in life.
But now, let’s discuss the dogs that would have been a part of life in Jane Austen’s day. It was interesting to see the different breeds and for what they were bred.
One of the first to pop up on my screen was the Airedale Terrier, which was also known as the Bingley Terrier. Seeing that, I had to learn more. It was as if the dog called to me.
Most of the breeds were types of terriers, hounds, and spaniels, mainly used for specific types of hunting. Some breeds were specifically used to for hunting otters (such as the obvious name of Otterhound, but the Bingley Terrier was also bred for such work), while some of the dogs who were great for retrieving waterfowl were the now extinct English Water Spaniel and the extinct Tweed Water Spaniel.
English Water Spaniel
Bloodhounds were able to distinguish between human and animal scents, which made them perfect for tracking people. Having worked with bloodhounds personally, I can tell you they are amazing when tracking.
There were other dogs that were bred to work the herds, such as border collies and shelties (Shetland Sheepdog). Yes, I have a lot of experience with Border Collies and Shelties, and how smart they are. Shelties are believed to be descendants of Scottish Collies and King Charles Spaniels. Border Collies are descendant from a landrace breed, which means that it was domesticated from a standardized animal breed, before it was formalized in the breed registry. They were most common in the Anglo-Scottish border region, bred for intelligence and obedience. The word collie is believed to be from the Celtic word for useful. In the herd dogs, there were also Lancashire Heelers, which were used to drive and herd cattle.
Sheltie Border Collie Sheltie
Border Terriers were bred to keep up with the horses during a fox hunt, yet small enough to be able to crawl into the burrows to scare the animals out. Other fox hunt dogs were Russell Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers
Border Terrier Jack Russell Terrier
There were several breeds of dogs who were good as gun dogs or bird dogs, for hunting. They include the English Setter, the English Cocker Spaniel, Clumber Spaniels, and English Pointers.
Clumber Spaniel English Pointer English Spaniel
In the early 1800’s, due to sanitation problems, places like London became a haven for rats, which led to the sport of rat-baiting. The Manchester Terrier was bred from a whippet and a cross bred terrier, and were perfectly designed for the task due to their size. They were also aggressive, and sort of had a reputation. They also became known as the “gentleman’s terrier” due to their ability of being able to gain access to its prey in smaller quarters, unlike hounds who chased the fox into dense vegetation and could not reach the fox.
Even Yorkshire Terriers were bred for a purpose, that of catching rats in the clothing mills. They are now thought of as show dogs or ornamental toy dogs, but they did work years ago.
The Whippet were descendants of greyhounds, and are considered a sighthound, relying on seeing what they were chasing rather than the use of scent. They are also extremely fast, and, like the greyhounds, were used for dog racing. Their size was not favorable for hunting, as they were too easily injured.
Now, it is illegal in modern day England to have a Pit Bull breed of dog, which includes the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Even the American Bulldog is lumped into the Pit Bull category. Though they have often been bred for fighting, they were also used as catch dogs, hunting and driving livestock such as cattle and hogs. I know for a fact that they can be good family dogs, as my daughter by choice has 2 of them. They loyal to their family, and when treated properly, can be extremely docile.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Pit Bull Breeds
Well, that is only a few of the many breeds of dogs. Don’t be surprised to see more canines appear in my future stories.
This has been a fun adventure to learn more of dogs. It is awesome to see dogs being trained to do more than just fetch a ball and be cute. And, for those of you who have not met him or seen his photo before, this is my Mr Darcy. He fits the name, and it is easy to see that he is Sheltie/Border Collie mix. I am very fortunate to have him at my side.