CHAPTER XXII. THE POINTER

It has never been made quite clear in history why the Spaniards had a dog that was very remarkable for pointing all kinds of game. They have always been a pleasure-loving people, certainly, but more inclined to bull-fighting than field-craft, and yet as early as 1600 they must have had a better dog for game-finding than could have been found in any other part of the world. Singularly enough, too, the most esteemed breeds in many countries can be traced from the same source, such as the Russian Pointer, the German Pointer, the French double-nosed Griffon, and, far more important still, the English Pointer. A view has been taken that the Spanish double-nosed Pointer was introduced into England about two hundred years ago, when fire-arms were beginning to be popular for fowling purposes. Setters and Spaniels had been used to find and drive birds into nets, but as the Spanish Pointer became known it was apparently considered that he alone had the capacity to find game for the gun. This must have been towards the end of the seventeenth century, and for the next fifty years at least something very slow was wanted to meet the necessities of the old-fashioned flintlock gun, which occupied many minutes in loading and getting into position. Improvements came by degrees, until they set in very rapidly, but probably by 1750, when hunting had progressed a good deal, and pace was increased in all pastimes, the old-fashioned Pointer was voted a nuisance through his extreme caution and tortoise-like movements.

There is evidence, through portraits, that Pointers had been altogether changed by the year 1800, but it is possible that the breed then had been continued by selection rather than by crossing for a couple of decades, as it is quite certain that by 1815 sportsmen were still dissatisfied with the want of pace in the Pointer, and many sportsmen are known to have crossed their Pointers with Foxhounds at about that time. By 1835 the old Spanish Pointer had been left behind, and the English dog was a perfect model for pace, stamina, resolution, and nerve. The breed was exactly adapted to the requirements of that day, which was not quite as fast as the present. Men shot with good Joe Mantons, did their own loading, and walked to their dogs, working them right and left by hand and whistle. The dogs beat their ground methodically, their heads at the right level for body scent, and when they came on game, down they were; the dog that had got it pointing, and the other barking or awaiting developments. There was nothing more beautiful than the work of a well-bred and well-broken brace of Pointers, or more perfect than the way a man got his shots from them. There was nothing slow about them, but on the contrary they went a great pace, seemed to shoot into the very currents of air for scent, and yet there was no impatience about them such as might have been expected from the Foxhound cross. The truth of it was that the capacity to concentrate the whole attention on the object found was so intense as to have lessened every other propensity. The rush of the Foxhound had been absorbed by the additional force of the Pointer character. There has been nothing at all like it in canine culture, and it came out so wonderfully after men had been shooting in the above manner for about forty years.

It was nearing the end of this period that field trials began to occupy the attention of breeders and sportsmen, and although Setters had been getting into equal repute for the beauty of their work, there was something more brilliant about the Pointers at first. Brockton's Bounce was a magnificent dog, a winner on the show bench, and of the first Field Trial in England. Newton's Ranger was another of the early performers, and he was very staunch and brilliant, but it was in the next five years that the most extraordinary Pointer merit was seen, as quite incomparable was Sir Richard Garth's Drake, who was just five generations from the Spanish Pointer. Drake was rather a tall, gaunt dog, but with immense depth of girth, long shoulders, long haunches, and a benevolent, quiet countenance. There was nothing very attractive about him when walking about at Stafford prior to his trial, but the moment he was down he seemed to paralyse his opponent, as he went half as fast again. It was calculated that he went fifty miles an hour, and at this tremendous pace he would stop as if petrified, and the momentum would cover him with earth and dust. He did not seem capable of making a mistake, and his birds were always at about the same distance from him, to show thereby his extraordinary nose and confidence. Nothing in his day could beat him in a field. He got some good stock, but they were not generally show form, the bitches by him being mostly light and small, and his sons a bit high on the leg. None of them had his pace, but some were capital performers, such as Sir Thomas Lennard's Mallard, Mr. George Pilkington's Tory, Mr. Lloyd Price's Luck of Edenhall, winner of the Field Trial Derby, 1878; Lord Downe's Mars and Bounce, and Mr. Barclay Field's Riot. When Sir Richard Garth went to India and sold his kennel of Pointers at Tattersall's, Mr. Lloyd Price gave 150 guineas for Drake.

The mid-century owners and breeders had probably all the advantages of what a past generation had done, as there were certainly many wonderful Pointers in the 'fifties, 'sixties, and 'seventies, as old men living to-day will freely allow. They were produced very regularly, too, in a marvellous type of perfection.