As an adjunct to the recent blog Gamekeepers: Wardens of the Estate’s Wildlife, a fascinating extra tidbit is that these men were directly responsible for the creation of many breeds of dogs. Breeding and care of the dogs used to aid in the hunt and to guard the estate were a major portion of the gamekeepers’ duties. The following list of dog breeds are those most commonly seen during the Regency.
Dogs Essential for Hunters
The word collie stems from the Anglo-Saxon word black in Anglo-Saxon, indicating the original herd dogs were darker than the modern sable and white Collie. Intelligent, friendly, and agile, the Collie was rare outside of Scotland until around 1800 when it began to be used to herd sheep and cattle in England.
A distinctively spotted dog, Dalmatians are alert, strong, muscular, and active, thus capable of great endurance combined with a fair amount of speed. A Dalmatian’s love for accompanying horses on the road is an inbred instinct developed over hundreds of years and they have always been associated with coaching. Their size, stamina, and guard dog abilities made them popular with the English aristocracy as a companion to horse-drawn carriages. The Dalmatian’s guard dog propensities allowed the owners to leave their coach without worrying about possessions and it was often said that a coach was better left in the care of the dogs than the coachman!
The earliest Dane-like dogs were bred from the Irish wolfhound and old English mastiff, and called “Boar Hounds” for the prey they hunted. They were physically strong, brave, powerful hunters, quick and deadly, and very aggressive. Much different from the typical Great Dane’s temperament today, the gentleness bred into them in more recent decades.
Naturalist historian Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon gave the breed the name it came to be known by. In the early 1700s, while traveling in Denmark, Comte Buffon saw the lighter variety of the Boar Hound, which shared many similarities with the Greyhound. Buffon remarked that the Danish climate had caused the Greyhound to become “le Grand Danois.” Thereafter, the dogs became known as the Great Danish Dog or Danish Mastiffs, and the name stuck despite Denmark having nothing whatsoever to do with the development of the breed. In fact, German nobles, who imported English Boar Hounds for centuries, deserve the greater credit for breeding the elegant hunters popular in England.
This medium-sized breed of swift hound was perfected in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. The English foxhound, whose origins go back to French hounds of the 14th century, was first used in packs to hunt foxes. This favorite sport of the aristocracy and gentry encouraged the careful breeding of the foxhound. The Dukes of Beaufort and Rutland, and Earls Fitzwilliam and Yarborough, established and scientifically bred the original foxhound packs. Foxhound pedigrees were being recorded by 1787, and they were a favorite subject of famed animal painter George Stubbs.
The Greyhound is one of the oldest dog breeds to survive to modern times, dating as far back as 2,000 BC in Egypt where greyhound-like dogs were carved and painted on the walls of a tomb. The greyhound has always been associated with royalty and nobility, and often times ownership was restricted to the ruling classes. Greyhounds have been used to hunt all kinds of game, and the sport of “coursing” — slipping two hounds in an open field to chase a flushed rabbit — has existed in England for over three centuries.
The English Mastiff descended from large mastiff-type dogs brought to Britain by the Phoenician traders as far back as the 6th century B.C. These dogs were crossed with local fighting dogs, and their offspring were used to hunt wolves and as combatants in various blood sports, including fighting the lion and the bear.
English gamekeepers of the early 19th century crossed mastiffs and bulldogs until attaining the perfect combination of a dog with tremendous physical strength, endurance, intelligence, and guarding instinct. The bullmastiff was bred expressly to catch poachers by knocking him down and holding fast, because they did not want the poacher mauled but rather to be hanged as a public example.
The breed originated in Newfoundland where a large working dog that swam well in even cold waters was needed to pull fishnets and heavy equipment. A gigantic dog weighing between 130-150 pounds, a Newfoundland has webbed feet and a long, thick, oily, waterproof double coat which protects him from the chill of icy waters. The dog was first brought to English public attention in 1790 in A General History of Quadrupeds, an artistic work by Sir Thomas Bewick.
The distinguishing characteristics of the English Pointer are its strong hunting instincts, and effortless, hard-driving movement. The Pointer’s history can be traced in writing and works of art back to the middle of the 17th century. The English Pointer resulted from crosses between Spanish pointers and most probably Foxhounds and Bloodhounds for scenting, Greyhounds for speed, and Bull Terriers for tenacity. Even before the advent of shooting with guns, the English Pointer was used to point game, which the hunters then netted or chased with coursing hounds. The English Pointer is widely regarded as one of the finest upland bird dogs in the world.
Curly Coated Retriever
Curlies originated in England and are considered to be one of the oldest retriever breeds. They were prized by both gamekeepers and poachers for their hunting skills, intelligence, strength, and perseverance in the field. Curlies were used to fetch game or fowl, and their friendly disposition also made them wonderful pets.
Terrier is a term used to designate dogs originally bred to start small game and vermin from their burrows or, in the case of several breeds in this group, to go to earth and kill their prey. Terrier comes from the Latin word terra meaning earth. The following are some terrier breeds: Airedale Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Border Terrier, Bull Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Fox Terrier Irish Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Scottish Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, Skye Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier.
Hunting spaniels flush game from the hiding places, and after the hunter shoots retrieve the fallen quarry. They cover less ground than the larger pointers and setters, allowing hunters to follow on foot, and they can get into bramble patches and thick brush to do their job. Three breeds of popular hunting spaniels were the Cocker, Springer, and Sussex.