Friday, January 23, 2015

Bert Gripton's Dogs

This post recycled from November 2004.

Bert Gripton is one of the few legendary terriermen who was not known for breeding dogs, but for working them. He had a small pack of working terriers and whippets, and was terrierman to the Albrighton Foxhounds. His father was a gamekeeper on the Aqualate estate in Staffordshire near the Shropshire border.

Gripton was a die-hard digger who specialized in badger, but he also hunted otter (he took the last legal otter in the UK), and fox. Phil Drabble, author Of Pedigree Unknown, from which the above picture is lifted, said that Gripton "could, and did, catch Fox with greater certainty than the hounds."

I mention all this because I was moving some files to thumb drive and "the cloud" recently, and one of them was of the picture, above.

The dogs, seen above, were true working hunt terriers from a true working man, and look how incredibly different they look from the nonworking or one-and-done dogs we see today.

Bert Gripton appears to have kept a pack of very small dogs. This is not surprising -- the more people dig, the more they seem to value a small dog able to get up to the quarry and to manuever around and with it. Brian Nuttal notes of Gripton's terriers: "No one called them Jack Russells in those days, just white hunt terriers."

The dogs in the picture, above, defy all the picture box angulations you see featured on the pretender sites and in the show dog books.  Square bodied?  Capable of running with the horses and the hounds? Cat feet?

Pure nonsense.

The only requirement of a working terrier is that it can get underground and have the heart of a lion. And can it scent as well as a beagle?  Yes, that would be good too!  The rest is balderdash.

Phil Drabble explained Gripton's technique for removing a fox:

"Quite often it was the fox's grinning mask which came into view, in which case there is an effective trick that requires supreme confidence and dexterity approaching sleight of hand. Hold a bit of stick, as thick as your thumb, and about a foot long, and wave it rapidly across the fox's mask, within reach of his jaws. The reaction is reflex and certain. He bites the stick in a vice-like grip. That is the exact split second when it is safe to shoot out the other hand to grab him by the scruff of the neck. It takes more cool nerve that I possess, but it was one of Bert Gripton's star performances."

I bet it was, but if you want cool nerve, try removing a fox from a fox net by yourself! You start at the back, and with your THIRD hand you.... Well, good luck!


A Nelson said...

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DZ Dogs Mom

PBurns said...

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Peter Apps said...

That picture recalls to mind our local council pest control officer in southern England in the 1960s and 70s. He had a similar "pack" of very small mostly white dogs that were a terror to anything from rats to foxes. People referred to them as Jack Russels but the lord alone knows what their breeding was.

Aimable Cats said...

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Gareth Thomas said...

Bert gripton used to work for a shoe shop. Used to call to my parents house where the taf fechan hounds were kenelled back in the 70s.