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Terriers Breeds - The Bull Terrier
The Bull Terrier
The Bull-terrier is now a gentlemanly and respectably owned dog, wearing an immaculate white coat and a burnished silver collar; he has dealings with aristocracy, and is no longer contemned for keeping bad company. But a generation or two ago he was commonly the associate of rogues and vagabonds, skulking at the heels of such members of society as Mr. William Sikes, whom he accompanied at night on darksome business to keep watch outside while Bill was within, cracking the crib. In those days the dog's ears were closely cropped, not for the sake of embellishment, but as a measure of protection against the fangs of his opponent in the pit when money was laid upon the result of a well-fought fight to the death.
For fighting was the acknowledged vocation of his order, and he was bred and trained to the work. He knew something of rats, too, and many of his kind were famed in the land for their prowess in this direction. Jimmy Shaw's Jacko could finish off sixty rats in three minutes, and on one occasion made a record by killing a thousand in a trifle over an hour and a half.
The breed is sufficiently modern to leave no doubt as to its derivation. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century attention was being directed to the improvement of terriers generally, and new types were sought for. They were alert, agile little dogs, excellent for work in the country; but the extravagant Corinthians of the time--the young gamesters who patronised the prize-ring and the cock-pit--desired to have a dog who should do something more than kill rats, or unearth the fox, or bolt the otter: which accomplishments afforded no amusement to the Town.
They wanted a dog combining all the dash and gameness of the terrier with the heart and courage and fighting instinct of the Bulldog. Wherefore the terrier and the Bulldog were crossed. A large type of terrier was chosen, and this would be the smooth-coated Black and Tan, or the early English White Terrier; but probably both were used indifferently, and for a considerable period. The result gave the young bucks what they required: a dog that was at once a determined vermin killer and an intrepid fighter, upon whose skill in the pit wagers might with confidence be laid.
The animal, however, was neither a true terrier nor a true Bulldog, but an uncompromising mongrel; albeit he served his immediate purpose, and was highly valued for his pertinacity, if not for his appearance.
Gradually the Bulldog element, at first pronounced, was reduced to something like a fourth degree, and, with the terrier character predominating, the head was sharpened, the limbs were lengthened and straightened until little remained of the Bulldog strain but the dauntless heart and the fearless fighting spirit, together with the frequent reversion to brindle colouring, which was the last outward and visible characteristic to disappear.
Within the remembrance of men not yet old the Bull-terrier was as much marked with fawn, brindle, or even black, as are the Fox-terriers of our own period. But fifty years or so ago white was becoming frequent, and was much admired. A strain of pure white was bred by James Hinks, a well-known dog-dealer of Birmingham, and it is no doubt to Hinks that we are indebted for the elegant Bull-terrier of the type that we know to-day. These Birmingham dogs showed a refinement and grace and an absence of the crook-legs and coloured patches which betrayed that Hinks had been using an out-cross with the English White Terrier, thus getting away further still from the Bulldog.
The president of the Kennel Club, Mr. S. E. Shirley, M. P., had himself been a prominent owner and breeder of the Bull-terrier. His Nelson, bred by Joe Willock, was celebrated as an excellent example of the small-sized terrier, at a time, however, when there were not a great many competitors of the highest quality. His Dick, also, was a remarkably good dog. Earlier specimens which have left their names in the history of the breed were Hinks's Old Dutch, who was, perhaps, even a more perfect terrier than the same breeder's Madman and Puss.
Lancashire and Yorkshire have always been noted for good Bull-terriers, and the best of the breed have usually been produced in the neighbourhoods of Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Bolton, and Liverpool, while Birmingham also shared in the reputation. At one time Londoners gave careful attention to the breed, stimulated thereto by the encouragement of Mr. Shirley and the success of Alfred George.
Of recent years the Bull-terrier has not been a great favourite, and it has sadly deteriorated in type; but there are signs that the variety is again coming into repute, and within the past two years many admirable specimens--as nearly perfect, perhaps, as many that won honour in former generations--have been brought into prominence. Among dogs, for example, there are Mr. E. T. Pimm's Sweet Lavender, Dr. M. Amsler's MacGregor, Mr. Chris Houlker's His Highness, and Mr. J. Haynes' Bloomsbury Young King. Among bitches there are Mrs. Kipping's Delphinium Wild and Desdemona, Mr. Hornby's Lady Sweetheart, Mr. W. Mayor's Mill Girl, Mr. T. Gannaway's Charlwood Belle, Dr. J. W. Low's Bess of Hardwicke, and Mrs. E. G. Money's Eastbourne Tarqueenia. While these and such as these beautiful and typical terriers are being bred and exhibited there is no cause to fear a further decline in popularity for a variety so eminently engaging.
The general appearance of the Bull-terrier is that of a symmetrical animal, the embodiment of agility, grace, elegance, and determination. HEAD--The head should be long, flat, and wide between the ears, tapering to the nose, without cheek muscles. There should be a slight indentation down the face, without a stop between the eyes. The jaws should be long and very powerful, with a large black nose and open nostrils. Eyes small and very black, almond shape preferred. The lips should meet as tightly as possible, without a fold. The teeth should be regular in shape, and should meet exactly; any deviation, such as pigjaw, or being underhung, is a great fault. EARS--The ears, when cropped, should be done scientifically and according to fashion. Cropped dogs cannot win a prize at shows held under Kennel Club rules, if born after March 31st, 1895. When not cropped, it should be a semi-erect ear, but others do not disqualify. NECK--The neck should be long and slightly arched, nicely set into the shoulders tapering to the head without any loose skin, as found in the Bulldog. SHOULDERS--The shoulders should be strong, muscular, and slanting; the chest wide and deep, with ribs well rounded. BACK--The back short and muscular, but not out of proportion to the general contour of the animal. LEGS--The fore-legs should be perfectly straight, with well-developed muscles; not out at shoulder, but set on the racing lines, and very strong at the pastern joints. The hind-legs are long and, in proportion to the fore-legs, muscular, with good strong, straight hocks, well let down near the ground. FEET--The feet more resemble those of a cat than a hare. COLOUR--Should be white. COAT--Short, close, and stiff to the touch, with a fine gloss. TAIL--Short in proportion to the size of the dog, set on very low down, thick where it joins the body, and tapering to a fine point. It should be carried at an angle of about 45 degrees, without curl, and never over the back. HEIGHT AT SHOULDERS--From 12 to 18 inches. WEIGHT--From 15 lb. to 50 lb.