Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Irish Try to Find a Use for Their Overlarge Dogs

Shortly after the turn of the 20th Century, some show-ring pretenders in Ireland tried to suggest that Ireland's overlarge turnspit, fighting, and cart-guarding dogs were once used for genuine field work.

But that's not quite true, is it? Those Irish Kennel Club dogs were always far too large to actually go to ground, and so "artificial" work had to be cocked up for them.

And the work, to put a point on it, was a joke.

But don't take my word for it: You can see for yourself by watching this 1923 video clip. Here is the famous (or infamous) Teastas Beg and Teastas Mor in action!

At the "minor trial," we see a couple of rabbits released, and a bunch of confused dogs sniffing around on the ground. Some terrier trial!

At the "major trial," we see the true "work" of these over-large Irish dogs: Badger baiting with a live badger in a smooth wooden den liner or barrel.

This is pretty far from genuine terrier work, isn't it?  

And what does genuine terrier work of that era look like?

The good news here is that we do not have to guess, as here too we have a film clip, also from 1923, this time of properly-sized working terriers going to ground.

The dogs go in, the badger is dug to (by men in white shirts wearing ties!), and in the end it is bagged to be moved to a new location where it can do no harm.

Are the dogs wrecked? No.

Is the badger maimed? No.

Is their confusion and chaos at the dig? No, despite the ridiculous number of people standing about.

This is real terrier work, and you will notice there is no "strong dog," "pull dog" or "hard dog" nonsense in evidence.

These men are not show-ring pretenders, get-rich-quick dog dealers, or wanna be tough guys displaced from the world of fighting dogs. These are real terriermen, and this is what real terrier work looked like in 1923 -- and what it still looks like today, albeit with a much smaller entourage and clothes that are not quite so fancy.

And what kind of terriers are they using in Ireland to dig on fox and badger?  The same kind of non-Kennel Club dogs as are being used in the rest of the world; Patterdales, Jack Russells, a few Fell-type black and tans, and various kinds of small working dogs of mixed stock.

1 comment:

P3D said...

The dogs in the clip where an excuse for the Irish Kennel Club to try and maintain that these terriers were certified workers. It did not last very long as everyone knew it was a joke.
Wheaten/Kerry blues and Glen of Imaals were all from the same root stock. All three breeds still carry the other colours today in some litters. The Glen was a Wheaten affected by the dwarf gene. Early litters had both dwarf and tall dogs present, another Kennel Club excuse for a new breed. Today in Ireland the Wheaten is the only dog that has any link to a working history. These strains are totally different to the show dogs but there intended work is now negligible. As you point out, Russells, Fell, Smooth black dogs (Patterdales) and a Sealyham” type” strain are the bulk of the working terriers used in the field today. All strains unregistered with any Kennel Club.