Monday, February 12, 2024

Happy Darwin and Lincoln Day!

Today is the 225th birthday of two remarkable men: Abraham Lincoln, and Charles Darwin.

What do they have in common?

▪️Exact same birthday.
▪️Both had beards.
▪️Both appear on money.
▪️They each changed the world.
▪️Both were terriermen in their fashion.

Darwin, of course, was a fox-hunter in his youth, and a dedicated ratter as well. His father said of him:

"You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and your family."

Later, Darwin would write of the evolution of dogs into types for specific purposes, and he used his own Pointer to note the genetic basis of coat color.

The Origin of Species, of course, was published in 1859, the same year as the first dog show in the U.K., and it was Darwin's work -- and that of his cousin, Sir Francis Galton -- that shaped so much of the theoretical underpinnings of the modern Kennel Club's closed registry system.

Darwin's life work did not end with The Origin of Species, however. For his entire adult life Darwin had a series of white foxing terriers, all by the name of Polly, and it was one of these dogs which was instrumental in the production of his last great work, on the activity of earthworms.

Over here in America, a young Abraham Lincoln is the first President to write a poem about a terrier.

Written in 1844 for his friend Andrew Johnston, The Bear Hunt is an allegory about those who claim benefits which they have not won for themselves.

A humorous poem, it is the small terrier -- not the hounds that did the work, or the men who pulled the trigger -- that at the end of the day claims the prize of the bear's skin.

“With grinning teeth, and up-turned hair--
Brim full of spunk and wrath,
He growls, and seizes on dead bear,
And shakes for life and death.

“And swells as if his skin would tear,
And growls and shakes again;
And swears, as plain as dog can swear,
That he has won the skin.”

Lincoln's only known dog was named Fido and was a lab-mix type yellow-coated dog that would accompany Lincoln around Springfield, Illinois.

When Lincoln was elected President of the United States in 1860, he decided to leave Fido in Springfield as the dog was around age five and was thought to be "too old" to travel.

Ironically, Fido outlived Lincoln, and was at the Springfield house, in 1865, when his master's body was brought back from Washington. D.C.

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