Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guest Blogger Judith Laik: Dogs as Companions in the 19th Century, Part 1

This week we're welcoming author Judith Laik to blog on Nineteenteen! Judith writes fiction and non-fiction, and is equally beguiled by the Regency period and dogs. Her research on dogs spans several decades and was originally sparked by her mother’s purchase of a Collie when she was ten. Learning that the breed originated in Scotland led her to a lifelong love of the British Isles. She currently lives on a mini-farm in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, daughter, three horses, two cats, approximately a dozen Collies, and one Scottish Deerhound that doubles as a sofa cover.

Dogs have been the close companions and helpmeets of humans for many thousands of years, so it’s not surprising that people in 19th century England enjoyed the company of their canines.

In the countryside, dogs that helped with hunting, herding, and guarding held sway. But in the city the upper classes usually owned smaller “toy” dogs. You could see young ladies walking their Poodles and Pugs in the squares around their town houses, or taking them along when they promenaded in Hyde Park in their carriages. That's Lady Maria Conyngham in the picture above, painted c. 1824-25 with her spaniel by Sir Thomas Lawrence

The toy breeds have been bred for hundreds of years solely to be pets and companions for the upper classes. Some breeds have been championed by royalty. In the seventeenth century, the Stuart kings made the small toy spaniels, variously called English Toy Spaniels, King Charles Spaniels, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, popular. Pugs became popular when another seventeenth century monarch, William III of Orange, came to England to rule with his wife Mary.

Not as well known now, but popular then, were Italian Greyhounds, which looked very like their larger cousins, the Greyhounds, but in miniature. One might also find examples of the Bichon breeds (Maltese, Bolognese, Havanese, and Bichon Frisé), and Pomeranians, which were larger than the current tiny dogs of that breed. That's a Maltese at left, painted by an unknown British artist some time in the 19th century. Note the poodle-clipped forelegs!

Although the Terriers were usually hardworking farmers’ dogs rather than pampered pets, a number of them, with their appealing faces and happy, feisty personalities, found their way into the homes of the upper classes also.

What makes the bond between owner and dog isn’t determined by logic, and in the 19th century many different dogs were the beloved pets of famous people. Lord Byron owned – and had a memorial built to the memory of – a Newfoundland named Boatswain.

Another famous writer of the early nineteenth century, Sir Walter Scott, owned several Scottish Deerhounds, one of the largest breeds, and was particularly fond of one named Maida (who was a male despite the feminine-sounding name). Scott described the Deerhound as “the most perfect creature of Heaven.”

Queen Victoria, about whom I’ll write more in another article, owned and loved many breeds of dogs and has to be considered the ultimate 19th century dog lover.

Thanks, Judith! On Friday, we'll hear more about the dogs of the 19th century.


QNPoohBear said...

Thanks for a post of my favorite topic. My favorite Regency novels are ones with animal companions.

Phoebe's Sisters said...

I love dogs and my favourites are Collies too! We've recently purchased a Collie puppy again :-))

Beebs said...

I love dogs, my beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier sadly died last year but will always hold a place in my heart.

Judith said...

QNPoohBear, thanks for commenting! I apologize for not commenting right away. When these articles were scheduled, I didn't expect to be away from home this week, but it turned out I was.

I enjoy novels with animals as characters also. They add so much to a book!

Judith said...

Farida, congtatulations on getting a Collie! We love our dogs -- they're a wonderful breed. And thanks for reading my article!

Judith said...

Beebs, my condolences on losing your beloved Staffie. It's always so hard to lose a pet. They become such an important part of our lives and their lives are far too short!

Thanks for reading my article.