Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Rude and Nasty Pleasure or The development of the Bulldog

A compilation of excerpts derived from
Researches into the History of the British Dog, G. R. Jesse (1866)
Of Our English Dogs and Their Qualities, W. Harrison (1907)
Dogs Their History and Development, E. G. Ash (1927)
edited by Casey Couturier

An examination of plates, books, and documents shows that the bulldog, as it is to-day, is indeed the astonishing achievement of the breeder's art, started during a time when such characteristics of the breed were desired to add to efficiency in the sports in which it was then actively engaged. But the earlier breeders had only moved a comparatively short way in the direction, and it is the work of more recent breeders to bring to perfection the points required. The history of the breed is therefore a comparatively recent one, though considerable matter has accumulated to suggest breed antiquity. Mr. Lee states in his book of 1894, that though ancient writers have been quoted by various authors ad nauseam, and though interesting their testimony often is, it does not necessarily refer to bulldogs, and that the best evidence is in the pictures of the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, which show clearly from what types the present-day species has been evolved, and I might add, how recently this has taken place.

It is certainly a great achievement that the modern bulldog, without the application of force to cause deformities, has the very developments which in earlier times were rare, and when present, more often than not, were the result of maltreatment.

When bull-baiting and dog-fighting ended, the dog was bred for "fancy," and characteristics desired at earlier times for fighting and baiting purposes were exaggerated, so that the unfortunate dog became unhappily abnormal. In this transition stage huge, broad, ungainly heads were obtained, legs widely bowed were developed, and frequently the dog was a cripple. Then gradually the desired points were rounded off and the transition stage had passed. How these changes of type were obtained is difficult to say. Even now, when the abnormalities are no longer so exaggerated, the modern variety would have no chance to succeed as a bull-baiting dog, but for that purpose he is no longer required.

The earliest mention of a bulldog occurs in a letter written in 1632 from St. Sebastian by Prestwick Eaton to one George Willingham, of St. Swithin's Lane, London, now in the Record Office. "Pray," it reads, "procuer mee two good Bulldoggs, and let them be sent by ye first shipp" ; but it is very questionable as to what the writer meant by the word "Bulldogs," whether merely a smaller mastiff or bandog. The bulldog then was certainly not the bulldog of to-day, for even a hundred years later, sporting prints and such illustrations as shown by Bewick in I790, and by subsequent artists in the works of Taplin, Bell, and Colonel H. Smith prove this so. Earlier illustrations, these occurring in illuminated manuscripts, woodcuts, early etchings, and engravings as well as descriptions, suggest that the bulldog as we know him did not exist. Dr. Caius, Gesner, Abraham Fleming, Aldrovandus, had not heard of such a dog, authorities only too anxious to discover strange forms of life. Certainly in Dr. Caius' letter to Gesner we find a mention of dogs used by butchers, known naturally enough as butchers' dogs, probably the first step in the naming of the breed. We see that this is more than likely the explanation, for, according to Dickson in his work on the breeding of livestock of 1823, he shows a picture of a dog, naming it "Bulldog or Beast dog," the word "beast" of course being a rural expression for cattle.

The butcher, requiring a dog to bring up his cattle, naturally valued the dog the more if able to face a bull when such necessity arose. Quite possibly, therefore, the word bulldog was used instead of butchers' dog, to describe such a mastiff or mastiff-type animal more fleet on foot than the heavier variety. The popularity of bullbaiting acted as an incentive to butchers able to practice in the precincts of the slaughter-house, "trying" their dogs and developing their art. A good bull-facing dog was of some monetary value and could be disposed of to some of the wealthier frequenters of this sport. The phrase "a dog for bull-baiting" would be shortened into "a bull-baiting dog" and "a bull dog." Thus the term "bulldog" would pass into the language. But the bulldog then was nothing like the bulldog of to-day.
Whitaker, in I77I, describes the bulldog, but does not allude to the type of head for which the breed is to-day noted, nor to the bow legs and bow body. Illustrations of I775 show the bulldog to be long-legged and with the face of a mastiff, and in Linnaeus's work (I792) the bulldog is named mollosus.

Even if all this was not enough, examinations of the butchers' dog or bulldog depicted by Bewick and on prints of later times show that the variety was without doubt a small mastiff. with a comparatively long head. We might suggest, as an explanation, that the word "mastiff" was dropped when describing these smaller mastiffs, as the mastiff proper was found too slow for butchers' work and at a disadvantage when facing a bull. The introduction of greyhound crosses, the later held in high esteem for speed, would be popular, so that butchers' dogs or bulldogs, faster than the mastiff and yet retaining that breed's ferocity, were evolved. Here was a step to reduce size and weight and increase speed, and the greyhound can be seen in specimens of that time.

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the heyday of the sport of bullbaiting and dog-fighting in England, and the development of the breed on special lines was to be expected. Bull-baiting, though varying considerably from time to time, could be divided into what is known as the "let-go" and "turn-loose" matches, both needing dogs of considerable ferocity and perseverance, but also dogs quick in their movements. But the bulldog, though mainly engaged in bull-baiting, was also in great favor as a dog-fighter.

In dog-fighting speed of movement was of little importance, for a dog able to keep its body lose to the ground had the advantage. Whilst bull-baiting, therefore, caused certain developments, the dog-pit was responsible for others. At bull-baiting the dogs entered into a "turn-loose" match were liberated two or sometimes three at the same time, whilst in the "let-go" match the dogs were let go alternately, each dog having its second, who ran towards the bull with it, to goad it on. We might add that in these "let-go" matches, to show the sporting spirit of fair play, the bull had its second, who by shouting "Halloo" gave it notice of the loosing of the dog. Some bulls, we read, would dig a hole to put their noses in, and in some contests a hole was prepared for their use.

But though here and there, and very frequently perhaps, bull-baiting was an organized sport, many a meeting took place without any consideration of rules and was engaged in by dogs of all kinds, irrespective of breeding, size, or shape. So any dog might be a bulldog, though it appears that by common consent the mastiff type was considered to be justified with the title.

Bull-baiting was, more often than not, a bull securely tethered to a stake or a ring fastened into the roadway, stirred up into a paroxysm of madness by a crowd of men, armed with instruments of torture, and a numerous assembly of dogs of all kinds. Taplin gives us a vivid description of such a scene, the bringing-up of the purchased bull with the herd of cows, his separating from them, and his leading through the streets on a chain, and a rope attached to a stout leather collar round his neck, his horns quite possibly muffled with tow, tallow, and pitch. The bull was led through a crowd of ribald onlookers, [For many days before, every heart beats high with the coming joy . . . every window is filled with children to enjoy the scene, not a street or avenue but is crowded."-Taplin.] and doubtlessly great care was taken not to excite him by ill-usage whilst he had good opportunity to use his great strength. As soon as he was tethered to the stake the attack started; hissing, shouting, and waving hats, and the blows from sticks from all sides, and the twisting of the tail or the pointed sticks driven into the body, woke the bull up. Surrounded by enemies, in a frenzied condition of blood-lust, the sport for which he was intended commenced. The noise grew worse as the unfortunate bull, roaring with pain and fear, and the madness to end it all, had the dogs attacking his head and seizing on to his nostrils.

Once held, the bull was more than ever at the mercy of his enemies and could be subject to inconceivable cruelty. A time came when agony and misery brought no amusing nervous response, and we read how on one occasion a bull beaten by the torment had boiling water poured into his ears to liven him up to a more sporting spirit.

By a will dated May I5, 1661, one George Staverton gave the whole rent of his dwelling-house, situated at Staines, in Middlesex (after two years), to buy a bull annually for ever; which bull he gave to the poor of the town of Wokingham, in Berkshire, to be there baited, then killed and divided. (In revenge because he was once chased by a dull.-E. FARMAN) He instructed that the offal, hide, and gift-money (collected from the spectators) were to be laid out in shoes and stockings to be distributed among the children of the poor, the chief Alderman and one Staverton (if one of the name should be living in the town or neighbourhood) to see the work truly and justly performed, that "one of the poor's piece did not exceed another in bigness."

The bulldog was able to afford other forms of amusement as well as facing bulls or other dogs in combat. In the reign of Queen Anne, an advertisement tells us that on a Monday as well as a great match to be fought between two dogs of Hampstead at the "Reading Bull" for one guinea "to be spent," and the "fairest Bull of fireworks," bear-baiting, and other forms of bull-baiting, a bulldog was also to be drawn up with fireworks. Pepys went to a bull-baiting at Southwark on August 4, 1666, when a dog was tossed into the boxes-"a very rude and nasty pleasure," he writes.

At a bull-baiting at Bury St. Edmunds in 1801, the bull-baiters hacked off all four hoofs, during the early stages of the affair, leaving the unfortunate bull to face his tormentors on bleeding stumps.

Whether such a variety as the bulldog would have existed at all if the sport of dog-fighting and bull-baiting had not been popular is difficult to say. But it seems more than likely that no such breed would have been evolved.

It was during the bull-baiting times that dogs were required about 16 inches high weighing up to 45 lb., and attempts were made to breed such dogs, able to hold on to a bull, without being compelled to leave go to obtain its breath. It seems to me quite possible that pug-dog crosses, or even pug-dogs, were used to cross with the smaller mastiffs, crossed-greyhound to obtain the desired shortened head. Certainly Edwards's description of a bulldog and his illustration of 1800 somewhat substantiates such a suggestion, and indeed he even mentions that this may be a solution of the development of the bulldog type.

Under the title of Canis pugnax he describes the variety to have a round head, underhanging jaw, and smooth coat, and states that he believes that " probably by accident or design " a mixture of the pug-dog and mastiff took place, and suggests as the pug has been bred small and their original size must have been much larger, that such a cross was feasible.

Bulldogs, he tells us, stood 18 inches high, and weighed about 36 lb.

The round full head and short muzzle, small ears, which he describes, are similar characteristics to those of to-day, but in some ways the characteristics are decidedly out when compared to modern types. We read that in some the ears are turned down; in others they were perfectly erect and such were called Tulip-eared. (Typical of French Bulldogs, but a serious fault in the bulldog proper.)

The chest, Edwards tells us, was to be wide, the body round, the limbs muscular and strong, the tail thin and tapering, and in some curling over the back, in others hanging down, Those with tails with a downward carriage, "rarely erected, except when excited," were termed tiger-tailed, and appeared to be rare. He tells us also that the skins were to be loose, "thick particularly about the neck, the hair short, the hind feet turned inwards, hocks rather approaching each other," "which seems to obstruct their speed in running, but is admirably adapted to progressive motion when combating in their bellies," and that "the most characteristic point the under jaw, almost uniformly projecting beyond the upper."

In I799 there was a classic fight between a monkey and a bulldog, but the bulldog depicted is a small and lighter mastiff and not the pug-like bulldog shown by Edwards. The fight, indeed, was to be the slaughter of the monkey, but it turned out otherwise. An engraving of the scene is given in the "Sporting Magazine" of I779, with the following description:
A curious battle took place at Worcester, between these two animals, on a wager of three guineas to one, that the dog killed the monkey in six minutes ; the owner of the dog agreed to permit the monkey to use a stick about a foot long. Hundreds of spectators assembled to witness the fight, and bets ran eight, nine, and ten to one in favour of the dog, which could hardly be held in. The owner of the monkey taking from his side pocket a thick round ruler, about a foot long, threw it into the paw of the monkey, saying, "Now, Jack, look sharp, mind that dog." "Then here goes for your monkey "cried the butcher, letting the dog loose, which flew with tiger-like fierceness. The monkey, with astonishing agility, sprang at least a yard high, and falling upon the dog, laid fast hold of the back of the neck with his teeth, seizing one ear with his left paw, so as to prevent his turning to bite. In this unexpected situation, Jack fell to work with his ruler upon the head of the dog, which he beat so forcibly and rapidly that the creature cried out most eloquently. In short, the skull was soon fractured, and the dog was carried off in nearly a lifeless state. The monkey was of middle size. A famous monkey to fight dogs successfully was kept at Westminster. This monkey, when attacked, bled the dog to death.

In 1801 a bulldog, also of mastiff type, was tried against a man, and, though handicapped by being partly muzzled, yet did considerable damage to his opponent. The "Sporting Times" gives an engraving of the scene:
"An engagement took place between a Gentleman and a Bulldog; (for a wager) some time ago. On the sett too, the Bulldog so far mastered his adversary as to bring him to the ground; and, notwithstanding the animal's mouth was nearly closed by the muzzle, he fastened on the body of the Gentleman; and if not instantly taken off, would have torn out his bowels."

One of the first serious attempts to put an end to bull-baiting was a Bill introduced into Parliament in 1802. We read that " The pluck of the English nation would certainly decrease, if the Bill became Law." [Mr. Windham, in opposition to the Bill.] So strong Was the resistance, and so plausible the arguments, the Bill being labelled as a conspiracy of Jacobins and Methodists to make life dull and to bring to an end constitutional Government, that it was defeated by I3 votes. A second attempt was made in 1829, but it met with similar treatment, being defeated by 45 votes. But much spade-work had been done, and there was hardly a reference to the bulldog made in speeches or in writing that did not refer to its moral turpitude, and the awful part it played [Further accounts of bull-baiting appear in "Dogs in English History.] in the sickening scenes of cruelty. [There was considerable feeling on this question. At the end of the eighteenth century and early in the nineteenth century writers describe the bulldog as "the criminal of the canine world as a monster of ferocity".]

Bull-baiting, thanks greatly to the outspoken criticism of a clergyman of the Church of England, [The Rev. Dr. Barry in I802.] became less popular, and in 1853 was prohibited by law. But the it sport " had done its work; the bulldog had been developed to be a dog of remarkable tenacity and endurance. At a bull-baiting in the North of England a man for a small wager cut off the feet of his dog, one by one, whilst it was holding on to a bull ; and it is recorded that a butcher on another occasion, in order to sell his bulldog puppies, cut the bitch, then very old, and almost toothless, after she had pinned the bull, into several pieces with a bill-hook. The puppies were immediately sold for 5 guineas apiece. [Sheridan, in his speech in favour of a Bill to abolish bull-baiting (1802).] On both occasions the dog held on whilst being mutilated, in the latter until dead.

As well as tenacity and endurance, the bulldog "fashion" required a dog on stout legs, nimble and quick, though overmuch size was then not desired, and to be able to " play low," as it was termed, was considered an advantage. This "play low" gave the dog the power to keep close down to the ground, below horn-level, if it was possible. It led to a development towards shorter legs and bow-shaped body. These latter characteristics were more than ever important in dog-fighting, and so when bull-baiting ceased, the minds of bulldog breeders were centered on the development of the bow legs and short front legs. Cropping was necessary and the ears of the bulldog were cut off close to the head, thus preventing an adversary from obtaining a grip there.

The forebodings of writers who feared the extinction of the bulldog breed if bullbaiting ceased [The last recorded bull-baiting took place at West Derby in 1833.] proved incorrect. Dog-fighting was allowed and was immensely popular.

Of the many rendezvous the Westminster Pit was a noted one, and here sportsmen of all grades of the Society of the Metropolis and sightseers from other parts of the world congregated. We read in contemporary accounts of the dogs held by their backers, howling with rage, or " in a silence still more ominous," eyeing each other, with their " tongues licking their jaws." We can imagine the gasping, growling, and barking of those held waiting their turn. Some would make for the head, others the throat, others for the legs. In a silence only broken by the sharp, short, tense breathing, they fought it out. When a dog released its hold, a round ended, the seconds then sponged and wiped the fighters. A fight might last a few minutes, some lasted for three or more hours.

Two noted dogs, "Young Storm" and "Old Storm," each weighing nearly 70 lb., had won every contest in which they had been entered. "Old Storm" on two occasions had brought the fight to an end by killing his adversary, and "Young Storm" at two years old had fought four combats of over an hour each.
There was a dog "Belcher," the winner of I04 battles, the property of noted prize-fighters of that day. At one time Humphreys had him, and later Johnson and Ward. Ward sold the dog to Mellish for 20 guineas, and it was from him that Lord Camelford obtained him, at a cost of a favourite gun and a brace of pistols. No pedigrees were kept, and "Old Storm" and "Young Storm" and "Belcher" may or may not be the ancestor of some of the dogs of to-day.

A play-bill of 1819 advertises a match between two dogs the property of a sporting nobleman, weighing 43 lb. each, to take place at the Westminster Pit for 100 guineas, the contest being between "that famous white bitch of Paddington whose wonderful performances are so well known to require no further comment," and a brindle dog of Cambridge, "a remarkable and well-known favourite, as his form bears extensive proof."

On January 18, at the same Pit, "‘Boney’ a well celebrated dog" and "a novice" "Gas," lately introduced to the Fancy by Charley, to whom the dog belongs,"were to meet, the stakes to be L40. On this occasion the pit is fully described. It was illuminated with great splendour, "an ellegant chandelier and a profusion of waxlights, "and it proved a great attraction, as nearly 300 persons were present. At 8 p.m. the battle started. Though " Gas " had taken the lead from the very first, the celebrated dog "Boney" was favourite at 3 to 1 until the last ten minutes, and at the end of one hour and fifty minutes "Boney" was carried out insensible, the novice lately introduced to the Fancy by Charley had won. We read particulars of "the bleeding" and the recovery.

So popular were these dog-fights that to fail to know the name of a bulldog was to prove oneself out of touch with the world's affairs. Jesse [Researches into the History of the British Dog (1866)] tells us that a relative, while riding through Wednesbury, stopped at the toll-gates, on hearing the church bells ringing, and asked the reason. "‘Old Sal's’ brought to bed!" came the answer. Being none the wiser, he inquired who this "Old Sal" might be. "‘Old Sal!’ ‘Old Sal!’" he repeated as if addressing a deaf person-"don't you know who ‘Old Sal’ is?"

Then the toll-keeper explained that "Old Sal," a somewhat ancient but celebrated bull bitch, had just borne her first litter of puppies, and the bells were sending glad news around the countryside.

But dog-fighting came to an end, the law stepped in. It continued for some years, taking longer to die than bull-baiting! The latter attracted attention, but a dog-fight could be carried out successfully with few being any the wiser. Often at night the company would collect in a backyard, or clear away the forms and tables in the bar-parlor.

In 1871 an article in a Birmingham paper describes a dog-fight at Walsall: Dog-fights, according to this authority, were constantly taking place. Visitors were subject to careful scrutiny and a detective had little chance of obtaining admittance.

The "old-world" bulldog fancier, to whom bulldog-fighting was a means of sustenance, gradually died out. Such a man was Ben White, who had a "trial ground" in Harper's Field, and later in Old Conduit Field, Bayswater, where clients could try the dogs either on some unfortunate badger or in combat with each other. After the death of Ben White, Bill George took over, altered the name to "Canine Castle," and there, with a change of name, changed the tone of the place. Dog dealing was his business: times had changed, the dog show era was starting.

Bill George [Bill George died on the 4th of June I884 at the age of seventy-nine.] became noted as a reliable authority on all and every breed. His business methods were above criticism and his name became a hall-mark, especially in the bulldog world.

It is to do with bulldogs that Punch, in 1864, shows us a picture of a pleasant visit to this Canine Castle, and Mr. Punch is evidently taking up as little space as it is possible for mortal man to cover. The bulldogs in barrels; their chains are long; the safety-zone limited! [see page 9 of ABR #14) But these bulldogs are not the broad, powerful, cloddy, short-legged creatures of to-day, though they show a marked step in that direction.

more fun reads at Bulldog Spirit

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