Friday, June 03, 2016

A Five Shilling Lump Becomes Legend

The fat lump at the far right in the picture above was, by some accounts, the dog that started the Patterdale Terrier.

As the caption suggests, the dog was a "sport" with a hard smooth coat, and a large head, that popped up in a litter of early border terriers (before Kennel Club registration it should be noted).

From The Fell Terrier by Brian Plummer:

"Bradley (grandfather of John Winch) bought the Border type of terrier called Rip from Newcastle dog market for five shillings (25 p), a ferocious, utterly game terrier with no pedigree, incredible nose, and sense underground. This terrier was mated to numerous hunt terriers in the north repeatedly, including one of the Percy Hunt terriers, bred by George Sordt, who bred many of the best working Borders in the north. It is my opinion that this carrier is responsible for the massive head out to the modern strains of fell terrier."

In fact, the pool of colored dogs in the North of England was not much speciated at this point, and it still isn't if you are honest about it. Have you really looked at the wide variation that pass for Patterdale Terriers today? Not too much conformation. These are still working dogs, and that's a good thing!

But of course dog dealers are always dog dealers, and so everyone is working hard to sell a story, a brand, and a "stamp."

Apparently, it's not enough that people are happy with the dogs they have, or the experiences they have in the field. Every breed must have a storied past, and be associated with a mysterious, mythical, or storied origin. Every dog must be descended from "Rock", "Turk", "Nitro," or "Flint".

I always find that part of it a bit humorous, and I have detailed the origins of many less-known breeds on this blog, including the Kill Devil Terrier, the Bactrian Terrier, the Carter Pocket Terrier, the Scarlett Point Terrier, the North American Pocket Lurcher, the Genessee Valley Beaver Dog, the Tort Terrier, and the Short-horned Terrier, to name just a few.  

And so, it should come as no surprise that I find it refreshing to chase down the actual story of a breed's origin and it turns up that it was a bought for 25 pence  (5 shillings) at the Newcastle Dog Market.


Of course, not everyone wants to give a nod to low origins, and so dog dealers invent histories, or purposefully muddy the waters. Cyril Breay, for example, always whistled past the origins of his own line of dogs. To hear some tell the tale, they sprang full-blown from this brow of Zeus!

Without a thread of a story to pull on, there were endless debates about Patterdale origins. Was it some sort of a cross with a bull terrier?

I am happy to report that most of this nonsense stopped some years back, after I stumbled across an odd note at the back of Jocelyn Lucas' book on working terriers. There, at the very back, in an appendix table detailing the breeds of terriers used by over 120 hunts between 1925 and 1930, was a single note about a single hunt using a "Patterdale" terrier bred by a "J. Boroman.'

The name swirled through my head.  I smiled. Right. Thick sods. That's not J. Boroman, That's Joe Bowman.

A little more targeted drilling and there it was -- a picture of an early Patterdale used by Joe Bowman.

This was a lanky and hairy dog, perhaps dark brown. Some Patterdales still look like this, though most of what we see in the market today are coal black smooth-coated dogs that look very much like a smooth Jack Russell dipped in a vat of black ink.  All good. I like the look of the modern Patterdale very much.

But do I salute the nodding notion that Patterdales were "bred to kill underground" and Jack Russell were are "all bayers." That's a sentence that smells more of the lamp than the field.

Dig more.

There is more variation within the world of Patterdales, and within the world of Jack Russells, than there is between them. Terriers cannot be pigeon-holed quite as easily or reliably as some would have you believe.

I have yet to meet a terrier that has read a manual of theory or a breed standard. Every dog is different, and genes are only part of the equation. Too many people discount time in the field for both dogs and diggers. It is a mistake.

Let me close with this little bit of straightforward description of what, in 1921, was already being called an "old breed." From W.C. Skelton’s Reminiscences of Joe Bowman and the Ullswater Foxhounds, published by Atkinson and Pollitt:

“I have a great feeling about keeping to the old breed of what has sometimes been called the Patterdale terrier: brown or blue in colour with a hard wiry coat, a narrow front, a strong jaw, not snipey like the present show fox terrier, but at the same time not too bullet-like to show a suspicion of bulldog cross – a short strong back, and legs which will help him over rough ground and enable him to work his way underground."

And Joe Bowman?
He died in 1940, at the age of 88, and was buried in St Patrick church burial ground in Patterdale.  He was replaced by Joe Weir, who was the Ullswater huntsman for 47 years (1924-1971), and who used almost identical dogs.

UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me;
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

1 comment:

dp said...

Great story! Thanks!