Thursday, May 17, 2018

Non-Extinct Terriers & Other Mysteries

Many of the terrier breeds that people now lament the "extinction" of never actually existed except in the minds of Victorian picture book makers.

In "The Welsh Terrier Leads the Way," Bardi McLennan recounts the relatively recent origins of the Welsh Terrier.

"In 1800 there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, and 50 years later there were only 50."

That is of ALL dogs, not just terriers. As late as 1850, a lot of breeds were still not very distinct and several "breeds" were known by different names. For example, in 1851, the Yorkshire Terrier was also known as "the broken-haired scotch terrier." Only in 1870 was a Yorkshire Terrier firmly designated as a breed and breed name. Before then litter mates were often shown in different breed categories -- a situation that occurred with the first prize-winning Jack Russell, which had previously won shows as a "white Lakeland."

The Welsh Terrier and Old English Black and Tan terriers were the same dog -- a type of rough-stock Lakeland dog used in Wales and in the North. These dogs had a fair amount of variation in terms of size and shape, but generally had more color than the "white foxing terriers" preferred in the South.

These rough-coated terriers existed without too much conformity in name or shape (as they still do in the working terrier community in the U.K.), but conformity and a brand name were essential characteristics of Kennel Club registration, and an intrepid history (however fanciful) certainly did not hurt sales.

With the rise of dog shows in the 1860s, the race was on to give every odd-looking dog a name and "improve" them, and terriers were at the top of the list.

One group of Kennel Club breeders decided to embrace a rather ponderous name and an incredible assertion for the brown and black dogs.  They were, they asserted, "the root stock" of all terriers in the British Isles, and they were to be called the "Old English Broken-Haired Black and Tan."

The assertion that these dogs were the root stock of all terriers in the UK is rather laughable -- no one know what the "root stock" was, and in any case there probably was no single "tap root," but instead a fine net of "rootlets" that spread far and wide and included a lot of dogs that were not terriers at all -- dachshunds, whippets, beagles, and lap dogs, for example.

In any case, the Welsh were somewhat outraged to have the English bring down a few of "their" dogs and claim they were an "Old English" anything. These were Welsh dogs, and the Welshmen moved quickly to establish that fact. The Welsh got organized quickly, and in 1884 they held the first dog show with classes just for Welsh Terriers in Pwllheli, North Wales with 90 dogs in attendance -- a rather impressive opening shot in this little "terrier war."

For their part, proponents of the "Old English Black and Tan" moniker could not seem to coalesce into a real club; in fact they could not even agree on a name for their supposedly "Old English" breed. Some called it the Old English Broken-Haired Black and Tan Terrier, some the Old English Wire Haired Black and Tan, some the Broken-Haired Black and Tan, and some just "Black and Tan" -- a color-descriptive name that had been used about as often as "white dog" or "yellow hound".

Whatever they might have called the dogs, this new Kennel Club "breed" was in fact a put-up job comprised of a mix of terrier types and they had difficulty breeding true.

In 1885 a survey of the winning dogs in the ring found that all of them were, in fact, first generation dogs, i.e. not Black and Tans out of Black and Tan sires and dams, but Black and Tans produced out of crosses with other breeds. For example, the winner of the first show in 1884 was a dog named Crib that was a cross between a blue-black rough terrier and a famous smooth fox terrier owned by L.P.C. Ashley called Corinthian.

In 1885, the Kennel Club took a Solomonic approach to the name and breed standard for the dog, featuring both dogs at their 1885 show. On April 5, 1887, however, because the English could not get organized, they were dropped from Kennel Club listings, and the new "Welsh Terrier" breed was born, perhaps propelled forward in popularity a bit by the rise of David Lloyd George, the son of a Welsh cobbler, who himself has risen from humble origins to stand should-to-shoulder with the gentry.

The "Black and Tan" terrier is not the only breed that either never existed (or still exists today, depending on how you look at it).

At the same time that one faction was pushing for the introduction of the "Old English Black and Tan Terrier" another faction was pushing for the introduction of the "English White" terrier which, it should be said, has nothing to do with the old English White molosser dog used as a butcher's dog 150 years earlier.

In fact this new dog was really a toy breed created by crossing a small smooth-coated white foxing terrier with some sort of lap dog, which left the resulting progeny with a propensity towards deafness and a bulging "apple head" like that of many modern Chihuahuas.

Both the "Black and Tan" terrier and the "English White" terrier live on in the fevered minds of the breed-obsessed thanks to a book by Vero Shaw entitled "The Illustrated Book of the Dog."

Printed in 1881, right in the middle of the "terrier wars," this book contains about 100 chromo-lithograph plates and engravings of dog breeds that were being put forth as distinct entities at that time. Shaw rather optimistically included the "Black and Tan" as well as the "English White," betting that the political machinations of English Kennel Club dog breeders would prevail.

He was wrong, which is how two "ancient" breeds of terriers, that in fact never exited, managed to appear on the scene for less than 20 years and then disappear altogether.


EmilyS said...

that "white English terrier" also appears as a component in every history of the "American (pit) bull terrier". I always wondered about it.

PBurns said...

It does indeed appear in the pit bull histories, adding a bit more to the confusion as these things are copied one to another without any effort to research things or check veracity.

In fact there a white molosser dog looking very much like a white boxer or white pill bull that was sometimes referred to as a "white english terrier" and then there was the small white toy dog with the same name and which weighed less than 10 pounds. The dogs had no relation to each other, despite the same name.

One breed was largely gone (at least under that name) even before the end of the bull-baiting period (1835), while the other was created around the time of the Kennel Club (1860-1875). The identical name for very different dogs with very different histories has led to a LOT of confusion.

It's important to remember, that "white" and "English" are simply descriptive adjectives and in fact do not tell us very much -- about like "spotted American dog" which could mean damn near anything.

In this particular case, even the word "terrier" does not tell you very much, as a pit bull is not a terrier by any definition (it is too large to go ground and it does not even look like a terrier). The pit bull is a molosser breed, pure and simple. Adding the name "terrier" to its name does not change the reality, any more than calling me "Sue" would make me a woman. For the record, the pit bull is not the only "terrier" that has been misnamed. The airedale is almost pure otterhound underneath it all, and is a terrier in appearance only do to tremendous amounts of clipping and breeding to make it look more and more like a welsh terrier. Go look at an old Airedale picture (it is not a very old breed) and you will see it is just an odd looking otterhound that has been tidied up. A hound is not a terrier, not does the Airedale fit within the terrier form or function mold.


EmilyS said...

Patrick, thanks for your additional info. I just flat out disagree with you that the APBT has little/no terrier (though pit bull adovcate Diane Jessup agrees with you). The immediate antecedent, the English dog now called the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was used to dig and kill badgers (which is why they are admitted into the new large dog earthdog type event called Strongdog... not that AKC categorizations mean anything, otherwise the dachshund would be in the terrier group, not the hound group, eh? lol).

There is just tons of documentary evidence for ratbaiting in addition to bullbaiting. As well as non-Shaw writing by men who did the cross breeding for what they often called a "bull and terrier". Certainly John Colby and the other breeders who developed the dog in the US believed it was a terrier, since it was THEY who formally named it. Though it is also true that the dogs were also commonly referred to as "bulldogs" or "pit bulldogs".. and the dogs certainly were further away from what was happening to the kennel club "bulldog" than from any smoothcoated terrier in existence!

Having read the histories and seen many types of APBTs, it's my opinion that there are 2 strains: the bulldogish and the terrierish. Most of what people see now, particularly the AKC AmStaff, leans towards the bulldogish side. But if you ever get to see one of the smaller, "gamier" types of APBT/AST or SBTs, you would see the terrier that I see, with terrier like behavior.

You wouldn't call this dog a terrier?

PBurns said...

I can't see the picture as it requires a board sign up, and I am not doing that. Suffice it to say that I know a terrier when I see one, and an APBT, PB, AST, ST is not a terrier in any way shape or form. And, for the record, neither is a "Russian Terrier" or a "Kerry Blue" terrier or an Airedale. None of these dogs go to ground or were designed for any purpose related to terrier work. Ditto for the Schnauzer, I might add.

As to the "old" dogs. . . .

The dogs in the rat pits are not unknown animals, are they? Plenty of drawings of these dogs (some illustrations can be see on this blog!) and some taxidermy too if you look carefully (the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire has at least two in their collection).

The rat pit dogs are well known and were classed by weight -- 7 pounds being quiet average, and rarely a dog over 14 pounds. The sport was a betting game, and dogs were handicapped by weight class. Big dogs have no advantage in catching and killing rats, and since the rat pits were handicapped by weight, large dogs were almost never used -- it's a small dog game.

As to badger work, it is still being done not only in the UK, but also in other European countries (to say nothing of the U.S.) and I have a LOT of pictures as current as this morning's coffee. The dogs that are used to dig badger today are the same ones that have always been used: small black, white, red, and cross-bred terriers with an average weight of 12-15 pounds or so -- the same type of dog working fox.

As to the notion that a badger is "drawn" from the earth, it is nonsense. It is shot, same as was with a groundhog or fox, or else it is tailed out alive (same as a a groundhog). Anyone drawing a badger at the end of a dig is doing it because he (or she) wants the fight, not because it is required.

As to the old badger digging dogs, they are not some unknown animal. Arthur Heinemann used Jack Russells for his badger-digging club, Jocelyn Lucas used Sealyham's, Bert Gripton used cross-bred Russells, etc. Today's diggers are using the same small working terriers -- dogs of any color or breed, so long as they are small and smart and scrappy enough.

A large dog and a very hard dog are a disadvantage in true badger work as the dogs cannot maneuver, cannot get there, and are liable to get themselves wrecked in short order. That is is as true today as it was in 1750, 1850 and 1950. But again, seeing is believing. Here's a nice Victorian taxidermy job (cough cough) of a russell and his badger >>

Where the confusion arises is in the world of the FAKE badger BAITING trials that were cobbled up by the Irish and which have been given a lot of romance by dog-fighting pretenders. These badger baiting trials have NOTHING to do with badger hunting and were a complete farce. They were outlawed about 30 years after first being created in the 1930s (i.e. more than 30 years ago now).

As to the AKC "strong dog" nonsense, a fellow with Glen of Imaal terriers here in the U.S. worked to get the Kennel Club "strong dog" trials set up. Jo Ann Frier-Murza, who helped create the AKC earthdog trials, told him it was all nonsense based on a fantasy history and she sent him to me to see if I would say the same thing. I did, bit no matter; he was having none of it and off he and the Kerry Blue folks went to create their strong dog trial. A few years later this same guy wrote me telling me he had since done more research on the subject and had come to realize I was right and that these things were a fraud and had nothing to do with work. By then, of course, it was too late and the "too large terrier" crowd was off and running with their rich AKC fantasy Badger Baiting mockery-of-a-mockery. I recount some of this history here >>

As for John Colby and the rest of the Colby's, their dogs have been show dogs since almost the very beginning. Look into it, and you will see that, in fact, this is has been their selling point for more than 100 years.

That said, and for the record, Colby did not create the breed nor did he name it. The breed already existed and was imported as it now exists from Ireland and the U.K. One of the original importers was Christopher "Kit" Burns who ran the last rat and dog pit in the Five Points section of New York City.

As to the "terrier" part of the name, it is simply a dog-dealer's monicker to suggest the dog is game. It does not mean the dog goes to ground or ever did, not does it mean that the dog is related to terriers in any way (it is not). As Diane Jessup notes, the dog is simply a variable type of molosser breed, and calling it something different does not change that fact. It is not a working terrier and is not related to them in the slightest (or at least no more than a greyhound is)


Tiger said...

"In 1800 there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, and 50 years later there were only 50."

I suppose if one were to use body shape as the ultimate definition of breed, which makes sense.

Take molossers and sighthounds: all breeds are variations on the basic theme of molosser or sighthound. A Saluki then becomes the same animal as the Greyhound or Borzoi. Just with slight differences that mean to fanciers "different breed".

Of course, you run across Tibetan Terriers and Tibetan Spaniels.

While the spaniel might have gotten the name because "spaniel" was some catch-all phrase to mean "small fluffy dog women go gaga over, especially if they're rich, of nobility or better yet both" [or the breed books present "spaniel" to mean such], one has to wonder how in the world the Tibetan Terrier was ever called a "terrier" in the first place.

Even moreso than the bull-and-terrier dogs Tibetan Terriers look nothing like a terrier and would've been better served by using a cute and fluffy-sounding name like "bichon".

But I guess "Tibetan Bichon" doesn't roll off the tongue nicely enough?

Shaba Bahati said...

So if apbt is not a terrir what is a bull n terrier the a Boston terrier or???? I have American bulldogs so what really are they

PBurns said...

The history of both breeds is on this blog. See search box. The post to start with is "what the hell is this an American Staffordshire Terrier"

Dan said...

A couple of corrections here: badger work is illegal in the UK, and has been for many years to try to stamp out badger-baiting. There is no legal (and very little illegal) badger work being done with terriers in the UK right now.

There is badger culling going on; to summarise a lot of politics there are a few extremely vocal animal rights protesters making a lot of noise about badger culling being done to get rid of zoonotic tuberculosis, which badgers in Europe carry. The culling is being legally done by shooting, and illegally by various sorts of poisoning.

Airedale terriers are, as you rightly point out, Otterhound crosses. By the nineteenth century, the Aire valley was grossly polluted by various sorts of industrial toxins, from tannery wastes to coal ash, to sewage and so on; otters would by then be extinct in that valley. As a result, otterhounds would be redundant and out-crossing one to a terrier to see what came out (even an accidental cross) would be about all the use an otterhound might have.

PBurns said...

Badger hunting has been illegal in the UK for a few decades, as you note, but badger digging is actually done quite a lot no matter the law. Is it something you will know about if you do have not worked terriers for many years? No. But trust me, it's done but no, not in numbers to prevent badger numbers from being as high as fox.

Badger hunting, of coure, is very different from badger baiting -- a point likely to be missed in the TV spectacle I am told will be on the tellie Sunday in Wales.