Friday, August 18, 2017

Howard Galton's Bloodhounds

I have written before about the intellectual history behind the the Kennel Club's theories, tracing them from Robert Bakewell to Erasmus Darwin to Charles Darwin and finally to Francis Galton (Charles Darwin's nephew) who was the father of eugenics.

Along the way, and without interruption, the talk was of dogs as well as other breeds of animals, including humans.

One of the more interesting notes is a letter from W.D. Fox to Charles Darwin about the effects of inbreeding in blood hounds owned by Howard Galton, who was Sir Francis Galton's uncle.

W.D. Fox quotes Howard Galton as saying:

"I have found from breeding in & in that there is considerable difficulty in keeping up the breed. Many of the females have never exhibited any sexual appetite & those which do so at all, very rarely.

The Knot in the tail appeared by accident in one of the finest Dog puppies I had, so fine that I kept it, notwithstanding this imperfection, and all his descendants had it until at last I got a cross with one of Lord Aylesfords' Bloodhounds, since which time it has disappeared.

The knot was always in the same part of the tail. Another consequence of breeding in and in is that the animals become prematurely old."

There is nothing new here, of course.

The deleterious effects of inbreeding have been known for as long as man has been alive, which is why there is a ban on it in all religions (one of the very few commonalities across the religious spectrum).

What is only notable here is the provenance of the observation: Darwin's inquiry into the effects of inbreeding in Howard Galton's blood hound pack dates back to 1838, more than 20 years before the first formal dog show in the U.K., and 35 years before the start of the Kennel Club.

1 comment:

dp said...

That's whrn bloodhounds still had a job!