Early dog shows

Early dog shows

The first dog show was a social affair held by English aristocrats to raise money for charity . In the very earliest days of dog showing , it was seen that the general public were keen to enter their animals but had only the haziest ideas of what constituted different breeds . It is very probable that, in most cases , breeds as we know them hardly existed with any continuity of type and it took some time for the blueprints for different breeds to be brought into the public domain . The following report from the Kennel Gazette, July 1887 under the heading ‘The Summer Show at The Ranelagh Club’ describes the problems .

The recollections of the earliest London shows may be contrasted with a good deal of interest with the great doings of last month . It will be recollected that nearly every division of the early shows comprised a mixed medley of breeds - to suggest that many people had no cognisance at all of what might be called tribe or kind. It was by no means uncommon for exhibitors to come in frantic haste to the secretary' office to acquaint him that their dogs had been entered in altogether wrong classes ; but when entry papers had been looked to it was generally made pretty clear that the owner had possessed some hazy ideas about , perhaps , retrievers and Newfoundlands , but that he was not quite sure about either .

It was still much more frequently seen that the most wretched apologies of a breed were entered in the several classes provided that might have puzzled the judges, or anyone else , to decide upon the sorts to which they did belong , and at the same time there were some famous specimens of many of the principal breeds that were picked out to serve as landmarks of the future . Too much veneration cannot be felt for these old heroes of the past , and for the good men who selected them , as these were the earliest lessons in teaching the public all the necessary distinctions of type and characteristics .

The Mastiff Rajah (see pic) , the Gordon Kent , the pointer Brockton' Bounce , the bull terrier Nelson , or the fox terrier Jock , cum multis aliis , stood out more by themselves at the time , but their positions were of greater importance than those of more modern show winners , as they were looked to as the types of the future for people to breed up to . If mistakes had been made in those days dog shows and dog breeding might have collapsed . But in the main the judgment bestowed upon dogs has been correct, and if types and the nicety of points have altered in some breeds more than others , the correct lines and true characters of class have been wonderfully preserved . This has been done in most cases with the most visible signs of improvement , as how different the collie is now to what his ancestor was of twenty years ago . He is a much handsomer and a better animal altogether, and yet the first show champions can be traced to him . 


There are few breeds that have not improved ; old sorts that were known to exist but in great scarcity and in remote quarters have been brought to light in a marvellous manner , such as, the Irish Terrier, and the interesting report in our present number on this particular breed might fill people with wonder as to all that has been done. How different a report reads nowadays also to what it did twenty years ago ; and yet there were good men in those days , of whom the pioneers were Stonehenge & Idstone ; but the materials they had to handle were so different .

At the same time , a great deal that was written about dogs in the days we refer to was of the greatest value , but the notions would appear crude by the side of all that is known to-day . The public , who take a keen interest in dogs , have been educated up to a very high pitch in canine lore, and perhaps to express opinions about points and character of dogs forms nearly the best or most racy portions of sporting literature . The old pioneers had a great deal to do with this, but the progress has been as marked here as in other canine matters , and it will be acknowledged , we think , by many who will read the report we publish to-day from the pens of the judges , that the style in which many express themselves on dogs and their merits can scarcely be improved upon .

Ch Martorell’ Empress (above at  right) owned by Miss Aglionby , won 1st prize in the Challenge Class at Crystal Palace 1874 under Rev. Thomas Pearce while ch Green’ Monarch got the Cup for best Mastiff of all classes . Ch Martorell’ Empress , born 1867 , was sired by Lyme Hall Sultan out of Duchess [Nichols’ Quaker x Countess by Bill George’ Tiger out of Ansdell Leo’ daughter Juno]. Note the remarkable resemblance regarding Lyme Hall Wamba [see Kingdon page)] , born around 1865 , described by Harry De Spencer Kingdon as ~ ‘ perhaps the finest Mastiff dog of this breed in the kingdom is at Lyme Hall , a magnificent fellow called Wamba , comprising Mastiff qualities in their essential purity , an example not to be matched ‘.

Some of the reports are essays on the various breeds telling us all that is wanted or could be dispensed with , and one might easily feel after much of such reading that it would be the pleasantest pastime in the world to breed St Bernards  or the most attractive of amusements to get wire-haired terriers to their present standard of excellence .