Thursday, October 18, 2007

Regency Dogs - Part III

Well, why not, since I am on a roll as they say.

I am going to continue with sporting dogs, and in particular with the pointer, because it is such an old breed. Obviously, given our distaste for hunting these days, this is not something anyone is going to describe in any great detail, but that doesn't mean you should not know about them. I am also experimenting with blogger. They have this Play thing that shows images as they are mounted. I am such a geek. I just have to see if my picture will come up, when I post it here.

Anyway, a little bit about the pointer. They developed in England at the same time as they developed in Europe, and their job is to stand perfectly still nose pointing at game in the grass, or on water, until the hunter has time to get off a shot, be it bow and arrow, or gun or until the greyhounds could be brought up for coursing. Obviously, they have to stand still or they will frighten away the creature too soon.

Around the eighteenth century wing shooting became popular, meaning pointing at a covey of birds until hunters are in place, they the birds are sent up to be shot, "on the wing". Pointers are used for this too. These days, they are better off shooting clay pigeons, me thinks. Fortunately, camera glare on this picture obscures the victims. lol


Hmm. I guess the pictures go up when you post the blog. I will let you know next time.

On with dogs. I could not pass up the opportunity to look at one of my favorite breeds. The collie. Sheepherders. I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that I had the privilege of watching a modern shepherd work with his dogs, when we were in Wales earlier this year. The shepherd whistled, the dogs worked and the sheep got organized into the proper pens. Fascinating. Next time I go back, I am going to interview that man, if I can.


Collies fall into the category of herding dogs. Though this kind of dog has existed in Britain for probably more than three centuries, they were not the dog of the landowner or aristocrat, and therefore not the prized possession of those who kept records. And not the subject of a lot of paintings either, according to an expert.


From The Working Border Collie, by Marjorie Quarton:
The first ‘sheepdogs’ were savage creatures whose function was to protect their masters’ flocks from wild animals and human marauders rather than to herd them. It would be interesting to know the story of the first exasperated shepherd who thought of training the hunting instinct of his dog so as to gather his sheep and goats and to fetch or drive them on command. Wild dogs round up helpless animals such as sheep in order to single out one and kill it for food. . . It must have occurred to some observant dog lover centuries ago that, if a single dog could be trained to head off a flock of sheep on his own and stop when told, the sheep could be penned unharmed in folds.

I had to include the following from Quarton, even though it made me feel sad.

The early writers about working dogs were working men. James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, wrote a touching story called ‘Duncan Campbell, or the Faithful Dog.’ The dog, Oscar, a collie, is treated with a casual cruelty by everyone except his master; the story shows how little working dogs were considered in those days. Hogg also wrote often of his own collies, Sirrah and Hector, in the early 1800s, showing a love and understanding all too rare at the time.

This picture was painted before 1805.


The last dog today is a Corgi, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II.
Rather than an herding dog, this dog was bred to chase cattle further afield on common land, so that they did not over graze close to home. Your typical ankle biter, right? And that was its job, to nip at the heels of the cattle and move them along.

Sadly, once the fences went up, the need was lost. But it is a very very old breed.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.