Dogs of Yesteryear

Someone donated a very fine book called “The American Book of the Dog” to our veterinary school. I was the immediate recipient and eagerly unwrapped the anticipated package when it arrived. Edited by G. O. Shields and Published in 1891 by Rand, McNally & Company out of Chicago and New York, this book is a 19th century equivalent of today’s “The Complete Dog Book” put out by the AKC. It is a large brown, leather-bound tome with over 700 gilt-edged pages and many fine full page or text illustrations. It tells of the origin, development, special characteristics, utility breeding, training, points of judging, diseases, and kennel management of “all breeds of dogs” as appreciated almost 120 years ago, the year Thomas Edison patented the motion picture camera and while Queen Victoria of England was on the British throne.

On turning the pages, I found that many of yesteryear’s dog breeds were not like today’s in appearance or temperament. The English White Terrier and Black and Tan Terrier, both now extinct, are described in the book in living detail. The Bull Terrier of the time had no “stop” and looks quite like the English White Terrier in the illustrations (no surprise there). There is also news of one of the Bull Terrier breed’s creators - Mr. James Hinks – then relatively recent demise (1878) and his son Frederick’s continuation of his work with the breed. The Cocker Spaniel of 1891 looks stouter and deeper chested than today’s American or English Cockers, and at that time the Springer Spaniel had not officially been recognized as a separate breed.

Of course, a lot of breeds we now know and love are not even in the book because not been created at the time. That takes makes you think! To glance through this wonderful book is a pleasure and a privilege that takes the reader back in time and gives a proper perspective of dog breeds and breeding. Next time the Antiques Road show comes my way, I may bring this book down for appraisal, though it will never leave Tufts. Certainly The American Book of the Dog should be preserved and appreciated as a piece of dog breed history. I can assure you that’s exactly the way it will be treated here.

Footnote: I would like to remind those of you in the Southwest that I will be giving a 2-day, CEU-approved seminar in Pasadena later this month. For those interested in attending, see the website ThePetDoc.Com under “Events.”