Robert Leighton

The Greyhound is the oldest and most conservative of all dogs, and his type has altered singularly little during the seven thousand years in which he is known to have been cherished for his speed, and kept by men for running down the gazelle or coursing the hare. The earliest references to him are far back in the primitive ages, long before he was beautifully depicted by Assyrian artists, straining at the leash or racing after his prey across the desert sands. The Egyptians loved him and appreciated him centuries before the pyramids were built.

There is perhaps no breed of dog that in so short a time has been improved so much as the Airedale. He is now a very beautiful animal, whereas but a few years back, although maybe there were a few fairly nice specimens, by far the greater number were certainly the reverse of this.

The modern practice of dog-breeding in Great Britain has reached a condition which may be esteemed as an art. At no other time, and in no other country, have the various canine types been kept more rigidly distinct or brought to a higher level of perfection. Formerly dog-owners—apart from the keepers of packs of hounds—paid scant attention to the differentiation of breeds and the conservation of type, and they considered it no serious breach of duty to ignore the principles of scientific selection, and thus contribute to the multiplication of mongrels.

Of the many different kinds of dogs now established as British, not a few have had their origin in other lands, whence specimens have been imported into this country, in course of time to be so improved by selection that they have come to be commonly accepted as native breeds. Some are protected from the claim that they are indigenous by the fact that their origin is indicated in their names. No one would pretend that the St. Bernard or the Newfoundland, the Spaniel or the Dalmatian, are of native breed.

For elegance of style, cleanliness of habit, and graceful movement, few dogs can equal the Whippet, for which reason his popularity as a companion has increased very greatly within the past decade. No more affectionate creature is to be found, yet he possesses considerable determination and pluck, and on occasion will defend himself in his own way.

This gamest of all the terriers has been known as a distinct and thoroughly British breed for over a century, which is, I think, a fairly ancient lineage. There are various theories as to its original parentage, but the one which holds that he was the result of a cross between the Otterhound and the Dandie Dinmont suggests itself to me as the most probable one. His characteristics strongly resemble in many points both these breeds, and there can be but little doubt of his near relationship at some time or other to the Dandie.

The experienced dog-owner has long ago realised that cleanliness, wholesome food, judicious exercise and a dry, comfortable and well-ventilated kennel are the surest safeguards of health, and that attention to these necessaries saves him an infinitude of trouble and anxiety by protecting his dogs from disease.

The Bulldog is known to have been domiciled in this country for several centuries. Like the Mastiff, of which it is a smaller form, it is a descendant of the “Alaunt,” Mastive, or Bandog, described by Dr. Caius, who states that “the Mastyve or Bandogge is vaste, huge, stubborne, ougly and eager, of a hevy, and burthenous body, and therefore but of little swiftnesse, terrible and frightful to beholde, and more fearce and fell than any Arcadian curre.”

There is plenty of proof that Foxhounds were the very first of the canine races in Great Britain to come under the domination of scientific breeding. There had been hounds of more ancient origin, such as the Southern Hound and the Bloodhound; but something different was wanted towards the end of the seventeenth century to hunt the wild deer that had become somewhat scattered after Cromwell's civil war. The demand was consequently for a quicker hound than those hitherto known, and people devoted to the chase began to breed it.

The dare-devil Irish Terrier has most certainly made his home in our bosom. There is no breed of dog more genuinely loved by those who have sufficient experience and knowledge to make the comparison. Other dogs have a larger share of innate wisdom, others are most aesthetically beautiful, others more peaceable; but our rufous friend has a way of winning into his owner's heart and making there an abiding place which is all the more secure because it is gained by sincere and undemonstrative devotion. Perhaps one likes him equally for his faults as for his merits.

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