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
eep 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.
In 1806 Lord Camelford possessed one for which he had paid the very
high price of eighty-four guineas, and which he presented to Belcher,
the pugilist. This dog was figured in The Sporting Magazine of the
time. He was a short-legged, thick-set, fawn-coloured specimen, with
closely amputated ears, a broad blunt muzzle, and a considerable
lay-back; and this was the kind of dog which continued for many years
to be known as the Bull-and-terrier. He was essentially a man's dog,
and was vastly in favour among the undergraduates of Oxford and
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.
With the advent of the Hinks strain in 1862 the short-faced dog fell
into disrepute, and pure white became the accepted colour. There was
a wide latitude in the matter of weight. If all other points were
good, a dog might weigh anything between 10 and 38 lbs., but classes
were usually divided for those above and those below 16 lb. The type
became fixed, and it was ruled that the perfect Bull-terrier must
have a long head, wide between the ears, level jaws, a small black
eye, a large black nose, a long neck, straight fore-legs, a small
hare foot, a narrow chest, deep brisket, powerful loin, long body,
a tail set and carried low, a fine coat, and small ears well hung
and dropping forward.
Idstone, who wrote this description in 1872, earnestly insisted that
the ears of all dogs should be left uncut and as Nature made them;
but for twenty years thereafter the ears of the Bull-terrier continued
to be cropped to a thin, erect point. The practice of cropping, it
is true, was even then illegal and punishable by law, but, although
there were occasional convictions under the Cruelty to Animals Act,
the dog owners who admired the alertness and perkiness of the cut
ear ignored the risk they ran, and it was not until the Kennel Club
took resolute action against the practice that cropping was entirely
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 club description is as follows:--
* * * * *
GENERAL APPEARANCE--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.