Monday, 25 March 2019

We are all designer dogs

For once, Gail brought home from the library a promising looking book last week.

'The Invention of the Modern Dog' is all about how the concept of distinct dog breeds was developed in the UK, from around 1850 to 1900.

Of course I was mostly interested in my own breed and so turned straight away to the index and looked up all the entries for Fox Terriers.

I am pleased to report that we were recognised as a distinct category of terrier in the very earliest of dog shows, along with Skye Terriers, Bedlington Terriers and Dandie Dinmonts (but not Scotties and Westies).

Reading further, we learned that the Irish Wolfhound was once virtually extinct and had to be 're-invented' by incorporating a mix of Deerhound, Mastiff, Borzoi and Great Dane. And that the St Bernard as we know it today bears scant resemblance to the original types bred by monks in Switzerland around 1700. In fact almost all the dog breeds now thought of as 'traditional' are a result, to a greater or lesser extent, of judicious cross-breeding. There is nothing new about a cockerpoo!

I was fascinated that Francis Galton (better known as the father of 'eugenics' and cousin of Charles Darwin) proposed a programme of breeding dogs for intellect rather than appearance, while suggesting that the reason no-one had so far pursued this idea was that "...intelligence makes them [dogs] of little value as slaves..." and that intelligent dogs "... are too critical of their master's conduct..."

Gail, who actually did read the whole book, says that it was "interesting in parts", but by the end she felt she'd learned rather more than she needed to know about the infighting between the human factions involved in developing breed standards and organising shows in the Victorian era.

Well if she'd only listened to her own very intelligent Fox Terrier and followed his focussed approach to selecting the best bits! 


  1. that is a super interesting book and we would love to read it too... maybe mr. galton wrote this lines before the weimaraners were invented?... I mean they say we are the dogs with the human brain... LOL

  2. I'm designer too, Bertie. I have Otterhound blood in me!

  3. Dear are for sure a Designer Dog...
    I've seen Skye Terriers, Bedlington Terriers and Dandie Dinmonts in the dog shows. The Bedlington is the one with a very looooooog nosy Right.
    In my humble, opinion you are the finest of WFT. I used to see a wolfhound on my walks. I often wondered about his DNAs!! Thanks for the details
    Hugs Cecilia

    1. Bedlingtons are the ones that could easily be confused with young lambs!

  4. Hari OM
    Well, I guess it was in the observation of animal 'husbandry' that Galton clicked to the fact the human being is also an animal and susceptible to 'husbandry' also... mind you, he was also the fellow who devised a stable system of finger-print analysis, plus a few other positives. No one is wholly bad. Bit like the book! I am glad you were in there at the early stages of standards Bertie lad!!! Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

    1. Gail says: Galton also produced a 'beauty' map of Great Britain, on which Aberdeen was rated the city with the ugliest inhabitants!

  5. Momma says dogs used to just be distinguished for what they did. It didn't matter how they looked, if it hunted boar it was a boarhound. If it hunted deer, it was a deerhound. Very practical!

  6. Why is my Mum LAFFING at the thought of sumpeep breeding an INTELLIGENT cavalier King Charles Spaniel?????Obviously she does not realise just how intelligent I am 'cos I must have trained here so carefully she hasn't even realised it!?!?!
    Loves and licky kisses
    Princess Leah xxx

  7. OH MY DOG! Should we read this book? It looks pawtastic, doggy god-dog son Bertie. Xo Xo Xo

  8. We are with you Bertie...and think we would have just read the interesting parts(aka the ones about us)!
    Rosy, Jakey & Arty

  9. Not intelligent. That shows an abysmal lack of canine interaction!

  10. Mom says it sounds like an interesting read, but maybe something she would take a little at a time. Thanks for telling us about it.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  11. This looks like an interesting book. We, of course, are both unique breeds of undetermined pedigree.

  12. Oh, what did they say abouts the Airedale??? That we are smart and beautifuls and troublemakers??
    Wells, I agree Bertie, scan and peruse, take in the best parts. those abouts us! BOL
    Ruby ♥

  13. Did you know that the pug is one of the oldest breeds??
    Hazel & Mabel