The Chief Breeds Of Dogs Continued
( Originally Published 1918 )
LET us continue our survey of the principal canine breeds. In size and strength the Dane approaches the mastiff, but is easily distinguished from it by its coat, which is generally white, with numerous round black spots. It is a magnificent dog, not very common, the guardian of fine houses, the friend of horses, and especially fond of running and barking before its master's carriage."
"Is that all it knows how to doh" Emile inquired. "Pretty nearly."
"Then I 'd rather have Labrie."
"I too. With its modest appearance and ill-kempt coat the shepherd dog has an intelligence and usefulness incomparably superior to the Dane's, lordly creature though the latter is with its royally bespangled coat like that of the tiger and panther. Never judge either people or dogs by their appearance.
`The harrier is endowed with a more tapering head, a longer muzzle, than any other breed. Its ears are half-drooping and point backward, its chest narrow, abdomen arched as if emaciated, legs long and slender, tail also long and slender, and its entire form distinguished by the same slenderness. It is the fastest of all dogs. It routs out the hare in hunting; hence its name."
"Hare and harrier are indeed rather similar in spelling," observed Jules.
Its color, less mixed than in the other breeds, is generally uniform, sometimes tawny, sometimes black, sometimes gray or even white. Some harriers have short hair, others long; in fact, there are some that are quite hairless like the Turkish dog. This dog is not very intelligent and shows no peculiar attachment to its master, but will fawn upon anybody. Its scent is imperfect, though its eyesight is excellent, and that is what guides it in the chase, while other dogs are guided by the scent.
The spaniel owes the name it bears to its Spanish origin. This beautiful dog is characterized by its slender, moderately long head; by its long, wavy hair, which is particularly abundant on the ears, which are drooping and silky, and on the tail, which forms a tuft or plume. No dog has a more amiable and gentle aspect. Intelligence and attachment to its master can be read in its eyes. Of all dogs it is the one your Uncle Paul would choose by preference as a friend. To this worth in respect to moral qualities add this other virtue, that the spaniel is an expert hunter. In this breed are found dogs with the split or double nose ; but this peculiarity does not seem to add to their keenness of scent.
`The barbet, otherwise water spaniel or sheep dog, is another of your Uncle Paul's favorites on account of its exceptional intelligence, its gentle disposition, and its unequaled faithfulness. Who among you does not know the barbet with its big round head, full of good will, its large drooping ears, short legs, squat body, long, fine and curly hair, almost like wool, which has given it the name of sheep dog? When half-shorn, as it is in the summer, it is still more comely. The hind quarters are naked and show the rosy skin; the fore part of the body is covered with a thick mane as white as cotton wool. A coquettish tuft finishes off the tail, elegant ruffles adorn the legs, the muzzle bears a mustache and small beard, which latter perhaps accounts for its name of barbet.
"Sheep—let us call it thus, as it is generally called —Sheep is a past master in accomplishments. He plays dead, offers the paw, jumps over an extended cane, stands up with a piece of sugar on his nose, and goes through his drill with a gun and with a paper cap set swaggeringly over one ear. But those are the least of his talents. Sheep is the clever one of the family. With careful education it is possible to cram this dog's excellent noddle with the most astonishing things. I have known some, my children, that could tell the time by their master's watch without a mistake."
"They could tell the time!" cried Jules incredulously. "You are jesting, Uncle."
"No, my friend, I am not jesting. The watch was shown to the dog, who looked at it attentively, seemed to make a calculation in his mind, then barked just as many times as the hand marked hours."
"That is capital, I declare!"
"But there is still better coming. I know of a barbet that plays dominos with its master, and the master does not always win, either. As such talents are exercised by bread-winning barbets for those who show them off, I am inclined to believe that the dog's intelligence is aided in the game by some signs from the master that pass unperceived by the spectators. No matter: there is enough to confound our poor reasoning powers in the calculating faculty of the animal as it counts its points, makes out those of its adversary, and as a result pushes the proper domino with the end of its nose.
"To his intellectual faculties Sheep adds, in a high degree, the faculties of the heart, which are still more to be desired. Sheep is the blind man's dog and guides him patiently, avoiding every obstacle, through the crowd by means of a string attached to the animal's collar. When the master stands on the street-corner, begging pity with his shrill clarinet, Sheep, seated in a suppliant posture, holds the wooden bowl in his teeth and offers it to the passers-by. If the master dies, the dear master who shared the crust of bread with him like a brother, Sheep follows the coffin, lonely, sad, pitiful to see. He crouches on the mound that covers his master, pines there for a few days, and finally falls asleep there in the sleep of death. By what name should such a devoted creature be called? The blind call him Fido (the faithful one), and this name is in itself the finest of elegies."
"The barbet is a noble dog," declared Jules.
In addition to all this it is a good hunting dog. As it willingly jumps into the water, is a skilful swimmer, and retrieves with indomitable zeal, it is much in demand for hunting water-fowl. When the master's shot has brought down a wild duck, Sheep goes and fetches it from the middle of the pond. Sometimes a bitter wind is blowing and the water is frozen. Sheep does not care for that: he swims bravely through the broken ice, brings back the game, shakes his wet coat, and waits, shivering with cold, for the report of another shot before starting off again."
"He will certainly have earned the duck's bones when the game comes on to the table," said Emile.
To jump into the icy water like that ! Poor fellow ! Brrr ! it makes the shivers run down one's back only to think of it."
"Because of his exploits in duck-hunting this dog is known also as the water spaniel. But now let us pass on to another breed.
"The hound is preeminently the dog of the chase. It has an extremely keen scent, which enables it to trace the route followed by the game simply from the odor of the emanations left by the passage of the animal. Guided by a faint odor that would be imperceptible to any other nose, it goes as straight to the hare as if it had had it constantly in sight. There is a wonderful sensitiveness in its nostrils which our sense of smell only distantly approaches. It is a sense superior in delicacy to sight, which distance and want of light place at a disadvantage, whereas distance and obscurity do not in the least impair the infallibility of the dog's nose. Let the hare, warmed by the chase, merely graze with its back, a tuft of bushes ; that is enough and more than enough to put the hound on the track. To witness the unerring assurance of the pursuit, one might magine that the hunted animal had traced in the air a trail visible to the dog."
"That sort of thing," Emile interrupted, "may be seen any day without going into the woods with the hunter. The master, unknown to the dog, hides his handkerchief in a place hard to find; then he says to the animal, 'Seek!' The dog sniffs the air a moment to get a clue, and then runs to the handkerchief and brings it back in high glee. If I had such a nose nobody would play hide-and-seek with me : I should find my playmates too easily."
"Most dogs, some more, some less, have an astonishingly keen scent; but the hound is the best endowed in this respect, especially in all that concerns the chase, and so it is the hunter's favorite. It has rather a large muzzle, strong head, vigorous and long body, tail uplifted, very short hair, generally white varied with large black or brown spots, and ears drooping and remarkably large."
"One could use them like a handkerchief to wipe the animal's nose and eyes," Emile interposed. "The beagle stands very low on its legs. Moreover, its legs, especially the fore legs, are contorted, crippled in appearance. One would say that the dog had undergone some violent strain from which it had not entirely recovered. Its head, its large and drooping ears, its short hair, are almost the same as the hound's. The beagle is also an ardent hunter, the willing companion of him who, gun on shoulder, tramps over the rocky hills beloved by rabbits. With its short and twisted legs it trots rather than runs; but its slowness is more deadly to its victim than speed, for it allows the game to play and loiter in seeming security before it. Without suspecting the approach of the insidious enemy Jack Rabbit gambols and curls his mustache, and already the beagle is face to face with him, transfixing him with sudden terror. The shot is fired : all is over with Jack, who leaps into the air and falls back inert on the wild thyme."
"Poor Jack, so treacherously surprised! Now the hound does at least announce itself and let the rabbit scamper away as quick as it can. It is a contest of speed between the two. But the dumpy beagle creeps through the bushes and pops out all of a sudden."
"The beagle has not its equal for routing out the fox from its hole. Its gait, which is almost a crawl, enables it to penetrate the farthest corners of the fox's abode. If it finds the malodorous animal there, it gives voice and holds the place with tooth and nail while allowing the hunters time to break into the fox-hole and capture the chicken-stealer.
"The wolf-dog is the teamster's favorite. A thousand times you have seen it, petulant and wrathful, running back and forth on the top of a loaded wagon and barking from the top of this fortress at the children teasing it below. It is superb in its anger, with its little leonine mane, its plumy tail tightly rolled in a corkscrew, and its pretty red collar with bells and fox-hair fringe. It has erect, pointed ears like the shepherd dog's, slender muzzle, hair short on the head and paws, long and silky on the rest of the body. No dog knows better how to curl its tail and hold it proudly."
"Is that all it knows how to do?" asked Louis.
"The wolf-dog is too intelligent not to have other merit than its pretty ways. Loubet (that is commonly its name) knows, if need be, how to turn the spit by means of a revolving drum in which it jumps continually, as does the squirrel in its rotary cage. If it has the companionship of a good shepherd dog, it easily learns the latter's calling and becomes a pretty good flock-tender."
"That is better than raging on the top of a wagon and barking at the passers-by," was Louis's comment.
"I do not know," resumed Uncle Paul, "a more repulsive, brutal physiognomy than that of the bulldog. Look at its head, massive and short, with thick muzzle and flat nose, sometimes split; its heavy upper lip hanging down on each side and dripping with saliva, while the front teeth are exposed to view; its small eyes, with their hard expression; its ears torn by bites or made uglier by cropping;—think of all these marks of a brutal nature and tell me for what sort of occupation the bulldog is properly fitted."
Its occupation," answered Jules, "is read in its gross physiognomy: the bulldog is made for fighting."
"Yes, my friend; for fighting and nothing else. Let no one ask it to watch over a flock, accompany the hunter, retrieve the fallen game, or even turn the spit; its dull intelligence does not go so far as that. Its one gift is the gift of the jaw that snaps and does not let go; its one passion, the frenzy of combat. When its teeth have once fastened themselves in an adversary's flesh, do not expect them to loosen their hold : a vice is not more tenacious in its grip. Calls, threats, blows, nothing avails to separate two bulldogs fighting each other; it is necessary to seize them and bite them hard on the end of the tail. The sharp pain of the bite can alone recall them from the fury of combat."
I wouldn't undertake the operation ; the animal might turn against the one trying to make it let go."
"For the master there is no danger, as the bull-dog is strongly attached to him. Boldness, strength, and indomitable tenacity in battle make this dog an efficient protector such as it is well to have at one's side in a rough encounter. To leave the enemy as little hold as possible, it is the custom to crop the dog's tail and ears; furthermore, the neck is protected with a collar studded with iron points.
"This pugnacious breed is especially in favor in England, and it is from the English word dog that we French take our word dogue, in the sense of bulldog."
Then dogue means dog?" asked Emile.
"Nothing else. From the same word comes the diminutive doguin (pug-dog), by which we designate that little growling, scatter-brained poltroon, glutton and good-for-nothing, better known to you under the name of carlin (pug). Like the bulldog, it has a round head, short and flat-nosed muzzle, and hanging lip; and up to a certain point it has also the bulldog character, which it shows by a noisy rage, not having the size or strength necessary for anything further."
"That's the funny little dog that barks at me in the doorway and immediately runs in if I pretend to go after it."
"The Turkish dog is another useless animal. Its size is that of the pug. It is remarkable for its almost naked skin, oily-looking, black, or dark flesh color, and spotted with brown in large splashes. It has little intelligence and no attachment to its master. Its singular nakedness, which in our climate makes it shiver with cold a good part of the year, is its only merit, if it be a merit. I should rather call it a very disagreeable infirmity. Those who take pleasure in raising these poor animals clothe them in winter with a cloth coat."
"A dog that needed a tailor to furnish it with a winter costume would never do for me," declared Emile. "I'd much rather have Medor, the spaniel, and Sheep, the barbet. They don't shiver when it snows, and they are good friends, too."