There was a time not long ago that nearly every advertisement featuring a child with a dog seemed to include a Lab or a Golden Retriever, consistently among the most popular dog breeds in America. Today, there’s a bit more variety in the breeds being photographed with children for commercial advertising. Perhaps the public perception of child-friendly dogs has come to include Beagles, Bulldogs, Weimaraners and a few others that have solid reputations for enjoying the company of kids.
The Bulldog, to the best of our knowledge, had its origin in the British Isles. The name “bull” was applied because of the dog's use in the sport of bull baiting, which was extremely cruel. The original Bulldog had to be very ferocious and so savage and courageous as to be almost insensitive to pain.
In 1835, dog fighting as a sport became illegal in England. Therefore, the English Bulldog had outlived his usefulness and his days were numbered. However, there were dog lovers who felt deep disappointment at the passing of the breed, and they set themselves the task of preserving it. They proceeded to eliminate the undesirable fierce characteristics and to preserve and accentuate the finer qualities. Within a few generations, the English Bulldog became one of the finest physical specimens, minus its original viciousness. We may be justly proud of the Bulldog we know today, and we must express our gratitude to our British cousins, who realized the value of the English Bulldog sufficiently to preserve him for posterity.
The actual origin of the Beagle seems to be obscure with no reliable documentation on the earliest days of development. These dogs were snappy, tireless hunters, full of energy and quickness but lacking in type. The turning point for American Beagles came in the 1860s, when dogs from a well-bred strain in England were imported to inject beautiful breed type. There are accounts of packs of hounds in England before the times of the Romans, and these dogs are thought to be the basis of both sight and scent hounds.
In 1888, the National Beagle Club was formed and held its first trial. From that time on field trials carrying championship points sprang up rapidly all over the United States, and classes developed for hounds under 13 inches and 13-15 inches. By the 18th century, fox hunting became quite popular, and the Foxhound was developed by crossing a buck hound and a Beagle.
Beagles are still used today for hunting in packs on larger hare, but are equally prized for their companionship, courage and stamina. Two distinct types came through this mixture, one of which was named the Southern Hound and the other the North Country Beagle. Their compact size, short, easy-to-care-for coat and intelligence make the Beagle an excellent family dog.
Previous to 1870 in the United States, the little hunting hounds of the southern states, then called Beagles, were more of the type of straight-legged Bassets or Dachshunds with weaker heads than the Bassets.
There is much uncertainty about the origin of the Newfoundland. Some say that his ancestors are the white Great Pyrenees, dogs brought to the coast of Newfoundland by the Basque fishermen; others that he descended from a French hound (probably the Boarhound); but all agree that he originated in Newfoundland and that his ancestors were undoubtedly brought there by fishermen from the European continent. Many old prints of Newfoundlands show apparent evidence of a Husky ancestor, while other traits can be traced to other breeds. At any rate, a dog evolved which was particularly suited to the island of his origin. He was a large dog, with size and strength to perform the tasks required of him. He had a heavy coat to protect him from the long winters and the icy waters surrounding his native island. His feet were large, strong, and webbed so that he might travel easily over marshes and shores. Admired for his physical powers and attractive disposition, he was taken to England where he was extensively bred.
Today, most Newfoundlands of pedigree, even in Newfoundland, are descended from forebears born in England. The Newfoundland is admired and bred in many different countries besides his native land, including England, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the United States.
The breed standard was written for a working dog, essentially a dog as much at home in the water as on dry land. Canine literature gives us stories of brave Newfoundlands which have rescued men and women from watery graves; stories of shipwrecks made less terrible by dogs which carried life lines to stricken vessels; of children who have fallen into deep water and have been brought safely ashore by Newfoundlands; and of dogs whose work was less spectacular but equally valuable as they helped their fishermen owners with their heavy nets and performed other tasks necessary to their occupations.
Although he is a superior water dog, the Newfoundland has been used and is still used in Newfoundland and Labrador as a true working dog, dragging carts, or more often carrying burdens as a pack horse. In order to perform these duties the Newfoundland must be a large dog — large enough to bring ashore a drowning man. He must have powerful hindquarters and a lung capacity which enables him to swim for great distances. He must have the heavy coat which protects him from the icy waters. In short, he must be strong, muscular, and sound so that he may do the work for which he has become justly famous.
Above all things, the Newfoundland must have the intelligence, the loyalty, and the sweetness which are his best-known traits. He must be able and willing to help his master perform his necessary tasks at command, and also have the intelligence to act on his own responsibility when rescue work demands it.
In the early 1800s, game was plentiful in England and Scotland, and hunting was both a sport and a practical way of obtaining food. Retrievers came into prominence because of the desire for a medium-sized dog that would do well in wild-fowling, both upland game and waterfowl. Records kept from 1850 to 1890 at the Guisachan estate of Dudley Marjoribanks, first Lord Tweedmouth, near Inverness, Scotland, record the development of the original strain of Golden Retrievers.
Lord Tweedmouth bought “Nous” in 1865, the only yellow in a litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers. From a cousin living near Berwick, on the Tweed River, he acquired “Belle,” a Tweed Water Spaniel. This now-extinct breed was a hardy type used for retrieving and known for their intelligence, courage, and ability in water. In two litters, Nous and Belle produced four yellow puppies. Later breedings incorporated more Tweed Spaniel and Wavy-Coated Retriever, and a red setter. By the end of the 19th century, Yellow or Golden Retrievers were well established in England, and they were first shown in England in 1908 in classes for Flat-Coated Retrievers “of any other color.”
In 1913, they gained separate status, and the Golden Retriever Club (of Great Britain) was officially recognized. The breed established its presence in the 1930s and '40s, as hunting dogs and at field trials and shows, then also in obedience trials. While a few Goldens had appeared in North America as early as 1882, the AKC registered its first Golden Retriever in 1925. The early dogs in North America were mostly darker shades of gold, lighter shades also became popular over time.
All are acceptable under the breed standard. The breed's versatility, intelligence, and agreeable personality suit it for many purposes, and it has become one of the most successful, recognizable, and popular breeds in all areas of competition.
The Labrador Retriever, despite his name, did not come from Labrador, but from Newfoundland. The area was populated with small water dogs, who, when bred with Newfoundlands, produced a breed referred to as the St. John's Water Dog, a prototype for the Lab of today. Early in the 19th century, the Earl of Malmesbury reputedly saw one of the dogs of this type and had it imported; in 1830, the noted British sportsman Colonel Hawker referred to the Lab as “the best for any kind of shooting…generally black and no bigger than a Pointer, very fine in legs, with short, smooth hair…is extremely quick running, swimming, and fighting…and their sense of smell is hardly to be credited.”
Initially, the dogs were not known as Labradors until the Duke of Malmesbury admitted that he “always called [his] Labrador dogs.” However, the breed eventually died out in Newfoundland due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine law. Many Labs were interbred with other types of retrievers, but luckily, the breed prevailed and fanciers drew up a definitive standard. Accurate pedigrees of today's Labs go back as far as 1878. The Lab was recognized as a distinct breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903.
The first registration of Labradors by the AKC was in 1917, and from the 1920s through the '30s, there was a great influx of British dogs that formed the backbone of the breed in this country.
The actual origin of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier cannot be found in printed record. Recurring reference to a terrier soft in coat, wheaten in color, and of a size to fit the Wheaten of today lends credence to the belief that the history of the Soft Coated Wheaten began long before records were kept and when the challenge of “best dog” was most often settled in a “fists up” confrontation between the owners.
Sponsored by Dr. G.J. Pierse, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was campaigned to registration with the Irish Kennel Club, and on St. Patrick's Day, 1937, a most fitting day for Irish dogs, made its debut in the Irish Kennel Club Championship Show. For many years this breed was required to qualify in both major and minor field trials over rat, rabbit, and badger before attaining championship. Registration with The Kennel Club (England) came in 1943. Known for more than 200 years in Ireland, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is believed by some to be an important ancestor of the Kerry Blue. Legend tells us that when the Spanish Armada was sunk off the shores of Ireland, the blue dogs who swam ashore found terriers with a soft wheaten coat waiting to welcome them.
In 1962, on St. Patrick's Day, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America was founded when a small group of interested fanciers met in Brooklyn and agreed on a common goal, namely to preserve and protect the Wheaten in the United States and to promote the breed to public interest and American Kennel Club registration.
Of necessity, these early dogs were bred for their working qualities, with shade of coat or exact measurements of small consideration and no record. Also present at that meeting were three Wheatens destined to pioneer the breed in the show rings — Holmenocks Gramachree, Gads Hill, and Holmenocks Hallmark, better known as “Irish” (O'Connor), “Liam,” and “Maud” (Arnold).
As only the brave, strong, and proficient survived and reproduced, nature really set the standard for the original stock of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. Thus has evolved a very attractive, well-made dog of medium size, quick-witted, and responsive. Since then, each year has seen substantial gains in registrations, in Club memberships, and in public interest. And each year showing has increased in breed competition and in obedience exhibition. The demands of his function required steadiness and discrimination, which have been retained, while preserving the joy in living and the stamina associated with a terrier.
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book on May 1, 1973, and to classification in the Terrier Group at AKC shows October 3, 1973.
As history is reckoned, the Weimaraner is a young dog, dating back only to the early 19th century. The Bloodhound is believed to be among its ancestors, if not in direct line of descent, then certainly in a collateral way. By the time these became rarities in Germany, the breed was supported by a club originally started by a few fanciers.
The Weimaraner that we know today is the product of selective German breeding, and it came from the same general stock which has produced a number of Germany's hunting breeds, including the GSP. It was extremely hard to obtain a Weimaraner at this point, since one had to be a member of the club prior to purchase of the dog in a strict attempt to keep breeding and lines pure. In fact, in its early days, the Weimaraner was known simply as the Weimer Pointer, its name deriving from the court that sponsored the breed. However, when the American Howard Knight became a member and imported two specimens to the US, he helped found the club in this country and served as its first president in 1929.
Throughout its early career, the distinctively gray Weim was propagated by nobles in the court of Weimar who sought to meld into one breed all the qualities they had found worthwhile in their forays against the then-abundant game of Germany. Meanwhile, the Weim grew to become a bird-dog rather than a big-game dog due to shifting priorities and rarity of big game, leading to its use as a personal hunting dog. In short, they sought speed, good scenting ability, courage, and intelligence. Formerly, the Weimaraner was a big-game dog used on wolves, wildcats, deer, etc.
The AKC granted recognition to the breed in 1943, and curiously enough, the Weim has seen more actual competition of various kinds in America than it ever saw in Germany.
Although it has reached its greatest perfection in Germany during the past hundred years, the Boxer springs from a line of dogs known throughout Europe since the 16th century. Prior to that time, ancestors of the breed would hardly be recognized as Boxers could they be placed beside modern specimens. Still, evidence points to the Boxer as one of the many descendants of the old fighting dog of the high valleys of Tibet.
The Boxer is cousin to practically all recognized breeds of the Bulldog type, and these all go back to basic Molossus blood. Few other strains can claim such courage and stamina; and from this line emanates the attractive fawn color that has recurred throughout the centuries. Flemish tapestries of the 16th and 17th centuries show scenes of stag and boar hunting; the dogs are the same as the Spanish Alano, found in great numbers in Andalusia and Estramadura, and the Matin de Terceira or Perro do Presa, from the Azores. The Alano and the Matin have been regarded as the same breed-they are either ancestors of the Boxer or they trace back to a common ancestor.
In France, there is a breed known as the Dogue de Bordeaux that is very close both in appearance and size to the old Tibetan Mastiff, and it is from this massive dog that the Bouldogue de Mida was developed. The Bouldogue du Mida, found principally in the south of France, possesses many of the points of the Boxer.
While all the European breeds mentioned are related to the Boxer, this favorite of Germany has been developed along scientific lines that not only have succeeded in retaining all his old qualities, but have resulted in a much more attractive appearance. Besides Bulldog blood, the Boxer carries a certain heritage from a terrier strain. There is also some reason to believe that English Bulldogs were at one time imported into Germany. Indeed, Reinagle's noted Bulldog, done in 1803, is not unlike the Boxer, and pictures of some English specimens of 1850 are almost identical with the German dog.
The first AKC registration of a Boxer was in 1904, and the first championship was finished in 1915, but it was not until about 1940 that the American public began to take a real interest in the breed. This came about because of the consistent Group and Best in Show wins scored by some outstanding Boxers.