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By Capt. H.E.Hobbs
Derby Daily Telegraph
November 17 1931

It has frequently been said that the British people are the most "dog-conscious" people in the world - which is just another way of saying that as a race we are unsurpassed in the consideration we show to dogs.

We realise that the dog is a sentlent and sensitive animal, quickly responsive to signs of affection, and infinitely trustful, and we do not betray his trust: we believe in giving him a square deal

This "Dog consciousness" is really an inherited trait. The Englishman's interest in dogs was in the first place a corollary of his love of sport; his attempts at scientific canine breeding we dictated by his need of a sporting ally with particular attributes.

Gradually, however, he became interested in the dog for its own sake, and not merely as an adjunct of sport.

For the past two centuries Great Britain, has been regarded as the home of the world's best dogs - the canine breeding-ground par excellence. And that position she still retains, and is likely to retain in the future. The eighty breeds of dogs officially recognized by the Kennel Club are little more than a third of the distinct breeds in the world, but they are quite definitely the most popular breeds, and in respect of most of those the best bloodstock is in Britain.


That is rather a curious thing when we reflect that for at least half a century British breeders have been exporting great numbers of their best dogs to other countries, being unable to resist the lure of high prices.

A few years ago we had exported (mainly to the United Sates) so many high class Chow Chows that there wren only four champions in the breed left in this country. (A champion is a dog which has won three challenge certificates under three different judges at three different championship show.)

How is it that we can continue exporting so much of our best and yet retain our pre-eminence?

When I was in the United States last year one of the best known breeders there told me that he had just imported two valuable dogs from England, "But: I said, "you and other American breeders have for a quarter of a century and more been paying fancy prices for the best dogs that England can produce. Surely by this time you ought to be able to breed good dogs for yourselves."

"We do breed good dogs" he said, "but we find that with some of the breeds - and especially the small and long-haired ones - there is apt to be deterioration in time, a gradual drifting away from the true breed characteristics, unless we re-invigorate the strain with new blood - which really means old blood - of the highest quality. And we have to go to England for that."

"Something in the climate of England that agrees with dogs," I suggested jocularly. "And you said it," he rejoined. "Some breeds don't take too kindly to our extremes of climate - not that they aren't healthy enough, but successive generations tend to deviate in various little ways from the breed standard, and it was you English folk who made the standard. The long-haired kinds and the "toys" are the most troublesome to keep 100 per cent, true to type. Yes I guess your climate is better for dogs than it is for human beings."

The dog fancy in Britain - that is, the breeding of dogs and supplying the world's markets with them - is certainly one industry in which the balance of trade is emphatically in favour of our own country. For every one dog that is imported there are scores exported.


A rough collie was sold to an American for pounds sterling 1,250. The owner of a St Bernard refused 1,500 for it, but after using the dog at stud for a time allowed it to go to America for pounds sterling 1,300/ Another of the same breed fetched pounds sterling 1,000.

For a Sealyham one American paid pounds sterling 850 and another paid pounds steeling 400 for a West Highland white terrier. Many Scottish Terriers and Pugs have crossed the Atlantic at prices ranging from pounds sterling 200 to 300.

The biggest price ever paid for "toy" dog was that paid by the Matabele King Lobengula. He took a violent fancy to any Italian Greyhound which is a pocket edition of the ordinary greyhound. He was fascinated and delighted by its high stepping dancing action, which is characteristic of the breed in motion, and purchased it for 200 head of cattle.

Another curious transaction was the sale of a pointer by a one-time famous breeder, Colonel Thornton. The purchase price of this was champagne and rum to the value of pounds sterling 160, together with a hogshead of claret and a gun.

While the payers of fancy prices such as these mentioned are usually pretty sound judges of the future commercial worth of their purchases and generally manage to recoup themselves handsomely for their speculative outlay, they are subject to risks involved in the handling of al live stock, and sometimes the speculation proves disastrous as witness the case of a field spaniel sold some years ago by an English breeder for pounds sterling 290 and which died shortly afterwards without rewarding its purchaser with a single puppy.

Such prices, as these, are, of course the exception rather than the rule. They are the plums of the breeding industry. But dogs in great numbers are changing hands daily at prices up to pounds sterling20 and prices up to pounds sterling 100 are relatively common.

Thus it is of no small material value to the nation - in terms of employment and the circulation of money - that we should retain our pre-eminence as breeders of the world's best dogs.

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