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Zoological Sketches

Discussion in 'Staffordshire Bull Terriers' started by F.W.K., Nov 15, 2017.

  1. F.W.K.

    F.W.K. Retired Historican

    Zoological Sketches

    Like bears, dogs are by nature far less savage than felides, and yet it is from the canine species that artificial selection has evolved the ultra-type of reckless ferocity. The boldness of the Bulldog is different from that of any wild beast: courage is not the word to describe his disposition: he is not merely satisfied with defending himself or his master, he is not stubbornly valiant merely, but blindly aggressive, combative for the sheer love of combat, without the least regard to the merits of the cause or the advantages of the result.
    The mere sight of a stranger - biped or quadruped - is enough to throw him into a fit of that fury which hashish is said to produce in the human animal; he is in a chronic state of furor litis, ready to run amok at the first opportunity. Under a real provocation this truculence rises to a perfect frenzy: in an effort to break his tether, an angry Bull Terrier will tear the hide of his neck into shreds or snap his teeth on an iron chain, and, if he can break loose danger will count for nothing against the rage of glutting his revenge.. The prospect of certain death may be said to have no terrors for a thoroughbred fighting dog. Spanish wolf dogs will successively rush upon a bear whose paw has smashed every corner at the first blow. A Danish mastiff will go headlong upon a man with a levelled shotgun. Nay, Baron Gaisner, a well known Vienna sportsman, had a wager that his rat-terrier would tackle a big bloodhound; and at the word of command the little dog won the bet by losing his life.

    Some farm dogs do not even wait for commands to fly at every stranger passing their premises. Three years ago a large panther escaped from a menagerie-man who had pitched his tents near Lansing, Michigan. Towards evening the deserter appeared at the door of a wayside smithy some three miles south of Lansing. The smith flung a piece of coal at his head, and the panther trotted off, and was passing the fence of an orchard, when a vicious-looking cur leaped upon the enclosure and without a moments hesitation fell upon the refugee, who was peacefully jogging along toward Ann Arbor. “Three seconds later” says the Detroit Press “any liberal man would have given five dollars, to know what the dog thought of himself”

    Old fighters, however, generally know what they have to expect, taking and giving wounds with equal recklessness. There are animals of such thick-headed stolidity that their fortitude needs not much stoicism; but next to a monkey a dog is nearly the most sensitive of all vertabrate creatures, and his power of endurance under certain circumstances can only be explained by the anaesthetic influence of excitement. Maimed, blinded and even disembowelled, a boar-hound will stick to his foe with the tenacity of a snapping turtle and an English Bulldog will fight while he can stir, resolved to yield only in yielding his life.

    Dog fights are represented on the bas-reliefs of Persepolis and formed probably the earliest pastime of the patoral Aryans. Hund (hound) was a favourite cognomen of the ancient Germans, who prized valour as the supreme virtue; the four-footed prize fighter par excellence became the companion of the biped warrior, and only the Semitic nations the aversion to the uncleanliness of mans truest friend outweighed this partiality. The Saracens shared that prejudice; on the treeless plains of their native contry, where every herder is a horseman and hunters can see their game from afar, dogs are, less indispensable. The Spaniards valued a staunch dog above a fleet horse, and were the first to breed those big blood-hounds that proved their terrible efficacy in the conquest of the New World. The race of the Caribs that inhabited the east coast of Central America and the larger islands of the West Indian archipelago was almost exterminated by these domestic beasts of prey. Davila Pedrarias invaded Panama with three hundred troopers and forty mastiffs that had been trained to fight in ranks and used to charge in the van of the squadron; and Navarete quotes as the lowest estimate that, in Cuba alone, the blood-hounds of Victor Holgar killed four thousand natives in a single year.

    Balboa’s famous “Adjutant”, Leonicico was a gigantic butcher dog that could kill an indian as a terrier would despatch a rat. This monster wore a coat of mail, and, in the opinion of his master, was worth any ten cuirassiers in the Spanish army, for in the three campaigns against the Honduras hill tribes he had rid the “king’s dominions” of more than two hundred rebels. During the last year of his eventful career he drew the pay of a colour sergeant and used to be carried on horseback to economise his valuable strength. The indians hated him like a werewolf and their cazique had offered a large prize for his head, but that cursed cuirass always saved his life, till a well aimed arrow hit him in the eye, and if he went to where he belonged, his brother Cerberus could apply for a furlough.

    The “Aragon hounds” of Northern Mexico are supposed to be the descendants of this breed. Their wildlife in the Sierra has added something wolfish and outlandish to the savageness of their appearance, but they lack the stubborn courage of their ancestors, and I have seen one of them beaten by a common tramp-dog. Among the Mexican sportsmen the excitement of a dog-fight is enhanced by a subjective interest. They all bet. Bets, moreover have to be paid on the spot, and the backers of a losing brute often avenge themselves after the manner of true savages, though they would probably call it the old Roman fashion. In a Puebla museum I was once looking at a panorama of the famous circus scene, where the spectators, pollice verso, are clamoring for the death of a fallen gladiator; but a Mexican caballero, after listening to the comments of my companion, suggested that these clamors might be justified by the diappointment of heavy betters;- for the prostrate hero looked really twice as large as his victor.

    Two months after, I realised the meaning of the caballero’s remark. The burghers of Medellin had got up a gran funcion between a young bear and a butcher-dog. The bear being more than half-grown, was largely the favourite, but, after an obstreporous scuffle of ten or twelve minutes, skill prevailed over brute strength and the backers of the vanquished plantigrade avenged their loss by giving him a terrible beating.

    Dogs do not eat their conquered foes, as bears, and even boars are apt to do; but it’s a curious fact that they fight best after a long fast. It whets their mettle, as sportsmen express it. Frederick the Great found one consolation in the vandalism of the Russian invaders; it exasperated his men; and a bona fide fast seems to produce a similar effect. In the Rhamadan season strict Moslems eat only very other day, and Burckhardt advises strangers to approach them only on those other days: starving, instead of improving their temper puts them into an aggressive mood. The famished anchorites of the Nitrian desert were dreaded like so many wild beasts; “maceration” as they call it, may have answered its purpose in subduing some other propensities, but it certainly excited their combativeness; and I have often wondered if it would not be a good plan for a commanding officer on the eve of battle to order a general fast-day, with a promise of double rations after the Te Deum. The well fed Medes were beaten by the starved Persians, six Roman generals by Spartacus with his hungry outlaws, the Visigoths by the Saracens, the Austrians by the Sans-Culottes. The heroes of the Crimea were perhaps too outrageously starved, but the feat at Balaklava would hardly have been achieved by a full brigade; and I cannot help thinking that even the efficiency of our Dixie mamelukes had something to do with the deficiencies of their commissariat.

    In North America too, “dog-fights in a ring” are still very popular, and more frequent than Mr Bergh may imagine. But the most passionate devotees of the sport are the burghers of the Dutch seaport towns. “A sad comment” etc.; but as Mr Bruce’s boy remarked, “People want to have some fun” North Holland is getting rather barren of outdoor sports; in a land of truck-farms fox hunts are out of the question, wild ducks are getting scarce, and every game preserve is watched like a young ladies seminary And, besides, though the hollanders have ceased to be a conservative nation, many of their by-laws still date from a time when prize-fights were patronised by princes and priests, and the Amsterdam jonkers need not go very far out of town to indulge in things which in England could be explained only by the sheriffs “connivance with both eyes” “Sog, wo zal hij stryten?” (“Where is he going to fight I wonder?”) is a frequent remark on meeting a fair specimen of the gryffhond, a sort of mastiff, nobody doubting that the hond is kept for fighting purposes.

    A rendezvous in Muidenhaven means generally an invitation to a dog fight. Northeast of the main harbor extends a long line of private wharves, flanked with promenades and villas and here and there with public restaurants. A special variety of these restaurants is the gardenhuys, a tavern licensed to dispense refreshments, but without a sign-board, and therefore safe against the intrusion of unintroduced strangers - a sort of clubhouse with a factotum president. The proprietor of a gardenhuys generally keeps a ten-pin alley, often a cock-pit, sometimes a pigeon shooting gallery, but nearly always a dog-ring. He keeps fighting dogs of all kinds, gryffhonds, terriers and pinchers, but permits his guests to make his ring the arena of their private honds. Some of these fighting-dogs have achieved a national reputation.

    The competition for the pups of a favourite gryffhond rivals the wrangle over the bulbs of the famous tulips of old, and the professional fanciers keep regular blue-books of dog pedigrees. A fighting dog does not lose caste by being overpowered in one or two rounds: only death, a permanently disabling woundand the refusal to “come to the scratch” constitute an absolute defeat. Even a defeated hond, though his rank is lost, may recover a quasi prestige by killing his adversary in the next fight; but there are dog-dynasties that have preserved a clean record for five or six generations; and in Amsterdam my brother once procured me an introduction to the most invariably triumphant warrior of his age, - Klaas, the Koning, a mastiff of doubtful descent, but of a most indubitable superiority over all his living rivals.

    His owner, a choleric old skipper, had inherited him from a relative who took no interest in pedigrees, but the Konings victories had founded a new peerage, and his descendants began to eclipse the ci-devant aristocrasy of the neighbouring towns. The “King” deserved his rank. He had never lost a fight. His owner had pitted him against boars, bulls, and several of the outlandish brutes which the Dutch colonies inflict on the mother country, but he had never failed either to kill or to rout his foe. His triumphs became such forgone conclusions that the bets were chiefly against time, - wagers on his ability to crush his foe in more or less than so many minutes.In 1875, Klaas had been king for three years, and his courtiers became so numerous that his master got tired of their visitsand sent him every Sunday to an inn on the Prinzengraacht, where he received callers from nine to eleven AM. No pasha of nine tails could have displayed more concious dignity.

    At home Klaas had the reputation of being the laziest dog in North Holland, but in the hotel he declined to sit down. He seemed to know that guests had come for his sake, and kept walking up and down with a leonine strut, now and then vouchsafing to accept the homage of a new visitor or to acknowledge the greetings of an old acquaintance. Strange dogs he received with a stiff grandezza. He refused to permit any familiarities, but sometimes scrutinized the big ones with a sort of professional interest. They took care to give him a wide berth. Klaas weighed two hundred pounds, but there was not an ounce of superfluous tissue under his hide, unless a number of welt-like scars could be considered expletive. Toy-terriers, though, will rush in where not only angels, but bulldogges feared to tread and there were cases on record of several puny yelpers having done their utmost to provoke the King’s wrath. On such occasions his majesty would pretend to be asleep; but if his assailant insisted on waking him, he would look up, not at the cur, but at the cur’s master: “Couldn’t you save me the necessity of demeaning myself?”

    Down town he had sometimes been attacked by a junta of street dogs, but it wasn’t quite easy to scare him. When he crouched for a spring there was something in his look that rarely failed to make the front rank unpopular, and the allies generally retreated in time to save their vertebrae. “I wouldn’t mind pitting him against any two dogs in Holland” his master told me “but there is one thing I’m afraid of: he has a weak spot, a bad scar under his left jaw and by the way that he fights I can see that he knows it. Against one dog he hold his own in spite of that, but two - if one of them managed to collar him from the left, I do not know what might happen. There is a dog in Groningen, they say can beat him” he added in a confidential whisper, “a butcher dog from Helderdam, but, unless he is the devil himself, I guess that Klaas knows a trick or two that will stop their bragging”.

    He never waited for an attack, and, being a consummate master of his art, never permitted his adversary to take an unfair advantage. Generosity and fear were equally foreign to his nature. A stumbling foe was promptly overthrown, a prostrate one was torn into pieces. He knew no mercy. He was a perfect beast of prey and nothing else
    He was fought about once a month. He did not always come off unscathed, but though he got his desperate sundry rips, he somehow contrived to preserve his anatomical integrity.

    End
     
    TriniBoy and Soze the killer like this.
  2. Soze the killer

    Soze the killer Top Dog

    Great bit of history F.W.K.......opens your eyes to the different types and different varieties of fighting dogs in and all over Europe in the 19 century.there is a good chance that every type from Europe emigrated to the state's to make the a.p.b.t.Evan though most were British.That article shows pit sports were very popular all over Europe and NOT just in The British Isles.......Thanks.you are a true historian..........
     
    F.W.K. likes this.
  3. Lrs

    Lrs Big Dog

    Seen some mastiffs that the turks like to keep impressive big beast but more of a multi purpose dog than a specialist. I think most mastiffs fall into this role.
     
  4. Soze the killer

    Soze the killer Top Dog

    Kengels?sheep protectors,wolf killers.a diffrent type of mastiff.probably descendents from ancient molasses dogs.not they same type as what's in bull breeds.as the type what's in bull breeds descends from Assirien dog's who predate the molessi people by over a thousand years.but that's ancient history.more modern history (like the story above)if you look deep enough,shows there was many types of pit dogs all over Europe.now we can see that the small bull types were probably the most popular.most of these small one's seemed to came from Britain and Ireland.these were obviously superior.theses were obviously the back bone of the a.p.b.t..but what about the ones from other parts of Europe??(like the ones in that story).I think they would of went for the ride to the States as well.do you?look at some pictures of French,Spanish,Italian,ecx,ecx.of baiting/fighting dogs of that time,and they look just like a massive a.p.b.t.they look awesome.they really do.it's also interesting to note. In that story what it says about the pinchers.they were very similar to the British native terriers.so it seems the whole of Europe had these rat killing type terriers to.quite simply to deal with the brown rat what had invaded the whole of Europe the century before.perhaps that's why they crossed bull dogs and terrires.the terrier of that time were obviously awesome at dealing with the brown rat in the streets or whatever.and it wouldn't of took long before the rat pits were created.once the sport started,and huge numbers of rats were used.(you need to really imagine a small pit with hundreds of rats in it.it would be kaos on a dog.)the terriers of the day could not compete.so the crossed them with bulldogs.people would have noticed that the cross bred dogs would still fight with dogs as well..it's from there on were it's all a mystery with "bull and terriers".and i guess we'll never no really what they are.any one else any theory 's on what the a.p.b.t.is before I bore you all to death?lol.......
     
  5. Soze the killer

    Soze the killer Top Dog

    That big dog in that story could of been some thing like that.
     

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