On the Origin of Species was published on this day in 1859. Priced at 15 shillings, all available first edition copies were immediately sold. Today, Darwin’s treatise is considered the most influential academic book in history.
The first dog show was held the same year that On the Origin of Species was published. As I noted some years back:
In 1859, the first formal dog show was held at Newcastle upon Tyne, sponsored by two shotgun makers, and featuring only Pointers and Setters. John Henry Walsh, the editor of The Field magazine, was one of the judges. He later went on to found the Kennel Club.
With the start of dog shows, the creation of breeds exploded.
In 1800, there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, but by 1865 that number had grown to more than 50, and it exploded to triple digits soon after the Kennel Club was founded in 1873.
In the Kennel Club, broad types of dogs were no longer allowed. Setters, pointers, hounds, terriers, and collies had to be sorted, segmented, catalogued, and segregated.
Dog shows became social scenes, with middle class climbers purchasing "purebred" puppies to insinuate themselves up the social register. As one Victorian periodical noted, "nobody now who is anybody can afford to be followed about by a mongrel dog."
The rapid differentiation between show dogs and working dogs became more pronounced as time went on. Increasing numbers of people bought dogs, bred dogs, wrote standards, or changed them. Points were given for the set of a dog’s tail, colorful markings on coats, the color of the eye, and even a dog’s "expression."
By the turn of the 20th Century Kennel Club terriers were no longer expected to go to ground or even chase a rat. Most Kennel Club retrievers fetched nothing bigger than a ball, while owning a Kennel Club pointer or setter was more likely a fashion statement than the mark of a sportsman.
The world of dogs was changing, and not for the better!
Around 1900, the Kennel Club began to close breed registries, and inbreeding to the point of defect began in earnest.
By 1950, most Kennel Club breeds no longer worked, and rapidly rising rates of inherited defect were being observed.