The top five breeds of the 1880s were all working gundog breeds. While this is the only decade that the English Setter reigned as the number-one breed, it remained in the top ten for four decades, but hasn’t been in the top ten since the 1910s. Irish Setters, the number-two breed of the decade, fell to number seven in the 1890s and then did not make the top ten until 1970s when it ranked number six. Three of the breeds in the decade’s top ten would never make the list again: Irish Water Spaniels, Gordon Setters, and Mastiffs.
From the best authorities on the subject, it appears that the English Setter was a trained bird dog in England more than 400 years ago. Evidence points to the English Setters origins in crosses of Spanish Pointer, large Water Spaniel, and Springer Spaniel, which combined to produce a superb bird dog with a high degree of proficiency in finding and pointing game in open country.
The Irish Setter first became a popular breed in the 18th century. The solid-red Setter first appeared in Ireland in the 19th century and in 1812, the Earl of Enniskillen declared that he would have no other breed in his kennel. Solid red became synonymous with dogs of “high mark” and the breed was revered for its remarkable sporting abilities.
The Pointer was the first dog, so far as we know, used to stand game in the sense in which we use the term today, and was developed as a distinct breed much earlier than any of the setters. It seems likely that Pointers came into general use in Spain, Portugal, throughout Eastern Europe and in the British Isles at approximately the same time, although the development of the English Pointer took place in Great Britain.
The actual origin of the Beagle seems to be obscure because of the absence of reliable documentation on the earliest days of development. The turning point for American Beagles came in the 1860s, when dogs from a well-bred strain in England were imported to inject a beautiful breed type.
There are two varieties of Collie, the rough-coated being by far the more familiar. However, many fanciers have increased their breeding of the smooth-coated variety and many smooths of excellent type are now being exhibited. Although the exact origin of the Collie remains an enigma, both varieties existed long ago in the unwritten history of the herding dogs of Scotland and northern England.
8. Fox Terriers
The Fox Terrier is an old English breed. For almost 100 years it was registered and shown in the United States as one breed with two varieties, Smooth and Wire. Smooth Fox Terriers preceded the Wires in the show ring by 15 to 20 years. At first they were classified with sporting dogs, a tribute to their keen nose, remarkable eyesight, and stamina in driving foxes from their hole.
The Dachshund can be found in historical accounts dating back to the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, when illustrations reflected badgers being hunted with dogs with elongated bodies, short legs and hound-type ears. The dogs of medieval Europe were noted to have the tracking ability of hounds and the proportions and temperament of terriers, much needed to pursue their main quarry of badgers.
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