W. H. (William Henry) Hudson.

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hands to him, would wait his coming, and at the
end, with one flying leap, he would land himself
in her arms, almost capsizing her with the force
of the impact, and from that refuge look back
reproachfully at us.

The cunning little ways of the small red dog
were learned later when I came to know him in
the city of Buenos Ay res. Loitering at the water-
side one day, I became aware of an animal of this
kind following me, and no sooner did he catch my
eye than he came up, wagging, wriggling, and
grinning, smiling, so to speak, all over his body ;
and I, thinking he had lost home and friends and
touched by his appeal, allowed him to follow me
through the streets to the house of relations where
I was staying. I told them I intended keeping
the outcast awhile to see what could be done with
him. My friends did not welcome him warmly,
and they even made some disparaging remarks
about little red dogs in general ; but they gave
him his dinner a big plateful of meat which he
devoured greedily, and then, very much at home,
he stretched himself out on the hearth-rug and
went fast asleep. When he woke an hour later he
jumped up and ran to the hall, and, finding the
street-door closed, made a great row, howling and
scratching at the panels. I hurried out and opened
the door, and out and off he went, without so



much as a thank-you. He had found a fool and
had succeeded in getting something out of him, and
his business with me was ended. There was no
hesitation ; he was going straight home, and knew
his way quite well.

Years afterwards it was a surprise to me to
find that the little red dog was an inhabitant of
London. There was no muzzling order then, in
the 'seventies, and quite a common sight was the
independent dog, usually a cur, roaming the streets
in search of stray scraps of food. He shared the
sparrows' broken bread ; he turned over the
rubbish heaps left by the road - sweepers ; he
sniffed about areas, on the look-out for an open
dust - bin ; and he hung persistently about the
butcher's shop, where a jealous eye was kept on
his movements. These dogs doubtless had owners,
who paid the yearly tax ; but it is probable that
in most cases they found for themselves. Probably,
too, the adventurous life of the streets, where
carrion was not too plentiful, had the effect of
sharpening their wits. Here, at all events, I was
witness of an action on the part of a small red dog
which fairly astonished me ; that confidence trick
the little Argentine beast had practised on me was
nothing to it.

In Regent Street, of all places, one bright
winter morning, I caught sight of a dog lying on
the pavement close to the wall, hungrily gnawing
at a big beef bone which he had stolen or picked
out of a neighbouring dust-hole. He was a miserable-


looking object, a sort of lurcher, of a dirty red
colour, with ribs showing like the bars of a grid-
iron through his mangy side. Even in those
pre-muzzling days, when we still had the pariah,
it was a little strange to see him gnawing his bone
at that spot, just by Peter Robinson's, where the
broad pavement was full of shopping ladies ; and
I stood still to watch him. Presently a small red
dog came trotting along the pavement from the
direction of the Circus, and catching sight of the
mangy lurcher with the bone he was instantly
struck motionless, and crouching low as if to
make a dash at the other, his tail stiff, his hair
bristling, he continued gazing for some moments ;
and then, just when I thought the rush and struggle
was about to take place, up jumped this little red
cur and rushed back towards the Circus, uttering
a succession of excited shrieky barks. The con-
tagion was irresistible. Off went the lurcher,
furiously barking too, and quickly overtaking the
small dog dashed on and away to the middle of
the Circus to see what all the noise was about.
It was something tremendously important to dogs
in general, no doubt. But the little red dog, the
little liar, had no sooner been overtaken and passed
by the other, than back he ran, and picking up the
bone, made off with it in the opposite direction.
Very soon the lurcher returned and appeared
astonished and puzzled at the disappearance of his
bone. There I left him, still looking for it and
sniffing at the open shop doors. He perhaps thought


in his simplicity that some kind lady had picked it
up and left it with one of the shopmen to be claimed
by its rightful owner.

I had heard of such actions on the part of dogs
before, but always with a smile ; for we know the
people who tell this kind of story the dog-
worshippers, or canophilists as they are sometimes
called, a people weak in their intellectuals, and as
a rule unveracious, although probably not con-
sciously so. But now I had myself witnessed this
thing, which, when read, will perhaps cause others
to smile in their turn.

But what is one to say of such an action ? Just
now we are all of us, philosophers included, in a
muddle over the questions of mind and intellect
in the lower animals, and just how much of each
element goes to the composition of any one act ;
but probably most persons would say at once that
the action of the little red dog in Regent Street
was purely intelligent. I am not sure. The swift-
ness, smoothness, and certainty with which the
whole thing was carried out gave it the appearance
of a series of automatic movements rather than a
reasoned act which had never been rehearsed.

Recently during my country rambles I have
been on the look-out for the small red dog, and
have met with several interesting examples in the
southern counties. One, in Hampshire, moved me
to laughter like that small animal at Charterhouse

This was at Sway, a village near Lymington. A


boy, mounted on a creaking old bike, was driving
some cows to the common, and had the greatest
difficulty in keeping on while following behind the
lazy beasts on a rough track among the furze
bushes ; and behind the boy at a distance of ten
yards trotted the little red dog, tongue out, looking
as happy and proud as possible. As I passed him
he looked back at me as if to make sure that I had
seen him and noted that he formed part of that
important procession. On another day I went to
the village and renewed my acquaintance with the
little fellow and heard his history. Everybody
praised him for his affectionate disposition and his
value as a watch-dog by night, and I was told that
his mother, now dead, had been greatly prized,
and was the smallest red dog ever seen in that part
of Hampshire.

Some day one of the thousand writers on " man's
friend " will conceive the happy idea of a chapter
or two on the dog the universal cur and he will
then perhaps find it necessary to go abroad to
study this well-marked dwarf variety, for with us
he has fallen on evil days. There is no doubt that
the muzzling order profoundly affected the char-
acter of our dog population, since it went far
towards the destruction of the cur and of mongrels
the races already imperilled by the extraordinary
predominance of the fox-terrier. The change was
most marked in the metropolis, and after Mr.
Long's campaign I came to the conclusion that
here at all events the little red dog had been


extirpated. He, with other varieties of the cur,
was the dog of the poor, and when the muzzle
deprived him of the power to fend for himself, he
became a burden to his master. But I was mis-
taken ; he is still with us, even here in London,
though now very rare.



THE subject of this paper, for which I am unable
to find a properly descriptive title, will be certain
changes noticeable during recent years in the dogs
of the metropolis, and, in a less degree, of the
country generally. At the same time there has
been an improvement in the character of the dog
population, due mainly to the weeding out of the
baser breeds, but this matter does not concern
us here ; the change with which I propose to deal
is in the temper and, as to one particular, the
habits of the animal. This was the result of the
famous (it used to be called the infamous) muzzling
order of 1897, which restrained dogs throughout
the country from following their ancient custom of
quarrelling with and biting one another for the
unprecedented period of two and a half years.
Nine hundred days and over may not seem too
long a period of restraint in the case of a being
whose natural term runs to threescore years and
ten, but in poor Tatters' or Towzer's brief existence
of a dozen summers it is the equivalent of more
than twenty years in the life of the human animal.



As a naturalist I was interested in the muzzling
order, and after noting its effects my interest in the
subject has continued ever since. It should also,
I imagine, be a matter of interest and importance
to all who have a special regard for the dog or who
are " devoted to dogs," who regard them as the
" friends of man," even holding with the canophilists
of the old Youatt period of the last century that
the dog was specially created to fill the place of
man's servant and companion. Strange to say, I
have not yet met with any person of the dog-loving
kind who has himself noticed any change in the
temper or habits of the dog during the last fourteen
or fifteen years or has any knowledge of it. One
can only suppose and this applies not only to
those who cherish a peculiar affection for the dog,
but to the numerous body of London naturalists
as well that the change was unmarked on account
of the very long period during which the order was
in force, when dogs were deprived of the power
to bite, so that when the release came the former
condition of things in the animal world was no
longer distinctly remembered. It was doubtless
assumed that, the muzzle once removed, all things
were exactly as they had been before : if a few
remembered and noticed the change, they failed
to record it at all events I have seen nothing
about it in print. Circumstances made it impossible
for me not to notice the immediate effect of the
order, and at the end of the time to forget the state
of things as they existed before its imposition.


I was probably more confined to London during
the years 1897-9 than most persons who are keenly
interested in animal life, and being so confined, I
was compelled to gratify my taste or passion by
paying a great deal of attention to the only animals
that there are to observe in our streets, the dog
being the most important. I also took notes of
what I observed my way of remembering not to
forget ; and, refreshing my mind by returning to
them, I am able to recover a distinct picture of the
state of things in the pre-muzzling times. It is
a very different state from that of to-day. One
thing that was a cause of surprise to me in those
days was the large number of dogs, mostly mongrels
and curs, to be seen roaming masterless about the
streets. These I classed as pariahs, although they
all, no doubt, had their homes in mean streets and
courts, just as the ownerless pariah dogs in Eastern
towns have their homes their yard or pavement
or spot of waste ground where they live and bask
in the sun when not roaming in quest of food and
adventures. Many of these London pariahs were
wretched - looking objects, full of sores and old
scars, some like skeletons and others with half
their hair oft from mange and other skin diseases.
They were to be seen all over London, always
hunting for food, hanging about areas, like the
bone- and bottle-buyers, looking for an open dust-
bin where something might be found to comfort
their stomachs. They also haunted butchers' shops,
where the butcher kept a jealous eye on their


movements and sent them away with a kick and
a curse whenever he got the chance. Most, if not
all, of these poor dogs had owners who gave them
shelter but no food or very little, and probably in
most cases succeeded in evading the licence duty.

There is no doubt that in the past the dog
population of London was always largely composed
of animals of this kind " curs of low degree," and
a great variety of mongrels, mostly living on their
wits. An account of the dogs of London of two or
three or four centuries ago would have an extra-
ordinary interest for us now, but, unfortunately,
no person took the pains to write it. Caius, our
oldest writer on dogs, says of " curres of the
mungrel and rascall sort " the very animals we
want to know about : "Of such dogs as keep not
their kind, of such as are mingled out of sundry
sortes not imitating the conditions of some one
certaine Spece, because they resemble no notable
shape, nor exercise any worthy property of the true,
perfect, and gentle kind, it is not necesarye that
I write any more of them, but to banish them as
unprofitable implements out of the boundes of my
Booke." It is regrettable that he did " banish ' :
them, as he appears to have been something of an
observer on his own account. Had he given us a
few pages on the life and habits of the " rascall
sort " of animal, his Booke of Englishe Dogges,
which after so many centuries is still occasionally
reprinted, would have been as valuable to us now
as Turner's on British birds (1544) and Willughby's


half a century later on the same subject, and as
Gould's brilliant essay on the habits of British ants
which, by the way, has never been reprinted
and as Gilbert White's classic, which came later in
the eighteenth century.

That the bond uniting man and dog in all
instances when the poor brute was obliged to fend
for himself in the inhospitable streets of London
was an exceedingly frail one was plainly seen when
the muzzling order of 1897 was made. An extra-
ordinary number of apparently ownerless dogs,
unmuzzled and collarless, were found roaming
about the streets and taken by hundreds every
week to the lethal chamber. In thirty months the
dog population of the metropolis had decreased by
about one hundred thousand. The mongrels and
dogs of the " rascall sort " had all but vanished,
and this was how the improvement in the character
of the dog population mentioned before came about
immediately. But a far more important change
had been going on at the same time the change
in the temper of our dogs ; and it may here be
well to remark that this change in disposition was
not the result of the weeding-out process I have
described. The better breeds are not more amiable
than the curs of low degree. The man who has
made a friend and companion of the cur will tell
you that he is as nice - tempered, affectionate,
faithful, and intelligent as the nobler kinds, the
dogs of " notable shape."

Let us now go back to the muzzling time of


1897-9, and I will give here the substance of the
notes I made at the time. They have among my
notes on many subjects a peculiar interest to me as
a naturalist because in the comments I made at
the time I ventured to make a prediction which
has not been fulfilled. I was astonished and
delighted to find that (on this one occasion) I had
proved a false prophet.

The dog-muzzling question (I wrote) does not
interest me personally, since I keep no dog, nor
love to see so intelligent and serviceable a beast
degraded to the position of a mere pet or plaything
a creature that has lost or been robbed of its
true place in the scheme of things. Looking at the
matter from the outside, simply as a student of
the ways of animals, I am surprised at the outcry
made against Mr. Long's order, especially here in
London, where there is so great a multitude of
quite useless animals. No doubt a large majority
of the dogs of the metropolis are household pets,
pure and simple, living indoors in the same rooms
as their owners, in spite of their inconvenient
instincts. On this subject I have had my say in
an article on " The Great Dog Superstition," for
which I have been well abused ; the only instinct
of the dog with which I am concerned at present
is that of pugnacity. This is like his love of certain
smells disgusting to us, part and parcel of his
being, so that for a dog to be perfectly gentle and
without the temper that barks and bites must be


taken as evidence of its decadence not of the
individual but of the race or breed or variety.
Whether this fact is known or only dimly surmised
by dog-lovers, more especially by those who set
the fashion in dogs, we see that in recent years
there has been a distinct reaction against the more
degenerate kinds 1 those in whose natures the
jackal and wild- dog writing has quite or all but
faded out the numerous small toy terriers ; the
Italian greyhound, shivering like an aspen leaf;
the drawing-room pug, ugliest of man's (the
breeder's) many inventions ; the pathetic Blenheim
and King Charles spaniels, the Maltese, the
Pomeranian, and all the others that have, so to
speak, rubbed themselves out by acquiring a white
liver to please their owners' fantastic tastes. A
more vigorous beast is now in favour, and one of
the most popular is undoubtedly the fox-terrier.
This is assuredly the doggiest dog we possess, the
most aggressive, born to trouble as the sparks fly
upward. From my own point of view it is only
right that fox-terriers and all other good fighters
should have liberty to go out daily into the streets
in their thousands in search of shindies, to strive
with and worry one another to their hearts' content ;

1 Alas ! since these notes were made, fourteen years ago, there has been
a recrudescence of the purely woman's drawing-room pet dog. The
wretched griffon, looking like a mean cheap copy of the little Yorkshire
one of the few small pet animals which has not wholly lost its soul
appears to have vanished. But the country has now been flooded with
the Pekinese, and one is made to loathe it from the constant sight of it
in every drawing-room and railway carriage and motor-car and omnibus,
clasped in a woman's arms.


then to skulk home, smelling abominably of carrion
and carnage, and, hiding under their master's sofa,
or other dark place, to spend the time licking their
wounds until they are well again and ready to go
out in search of fresh adventures. For God hath
made them so.

But this is by no means the view of the gentle
ladies and mild-tempered gentlemen who own them,
nor, I dare say, of any canophilist, whether the
owner of a dog or not. What these people want
is that their canine friends shall have the same
liberty enjoyed by themselves to make use of our
streets and parks without risk of injury or insult ;
that they shall be free to notice or not the saluta-
tions and advances of others of their kind ; to
graciously accept or contemptuously refuse, with
nose in air, according to the mood they may happen
to be in or to the state of their digestive organs, an
invitation to a game of romps. This liberty and
safety they do now undoubtedly enjoy, thanks to
the much-abused muzzling order.

. It is true that to the canine mind this may not
be an ideal liberty : " For on a knight that hath
neither hardihood nor valour in himself, may not
another knight that hath more force in him reason-
ably prove his mettle ; for many a time have I
heard say that one is better than other." These
words, spoken by the Best Knight in the World,
exactly fit the case of the fox-terrier, or any other
vigorous variety whose one desire when he goes
out into the world is reasonably to prove his


mettle. 'Tis an ancient and noble principle of
action, conceivably advantageous in certain circum-
stances ; but in the conditions in which we human
beings find ourselves placed it is not tolerated, and
the valour and hardihood of our Percivals may no
longer shine in the dark forests of this modern

Is it, then, so monstrous a thing, so great a
tyranny, that the same restraint which has this
long time been put upon the best and brightest
of our own kind should now, for the public good,
be imposed on our four-footed companions and
servants ! True, we think solely of ourselves when
we impose the restraint, but incidentally (and
entirely apart from the question of rabies) we are
at the same time giving the greatest protection to
the dogs themselves. Furthermore and here we
come to the point which mainly concerns us the
reflex effect of the muzzle on the dogs themselves
may now be seen to be purely beneficial. Confining
ourselves to London, the change in the animals'
disposition, or at all events behaviour, has been
very remarkable. It has forcibly reminded me of
the change of temper I have witnessed in a rude,
semi - barbarous community when some one in
authority has issued an order that at all festivals
and other public gatherings every man shall yield
up his weapons knives, pistols, iron -handled
whips, etc. to some person appointed to receive
them, or be turned back from the gates. The
result of such a general disarmament has been an


all-round improvement in temper, a disposition of
the people to mix freely instead of separating into
well-defined groups, each with some famous fight-
ing-man, wearing a knife as long as a sword, for
its centre ; also instead of wild and whirling words
dust raised, and blood shed, great moderation in
language, good humour, and reasonableness in

In the same way we may see that our dogs
grow less and less quarrelsome as they become
more conscious of their powerlessness to inflict
injury. Their confidence, and with it their friend-
liness towards one another, increases; the most
masterful or truculent cease from bullying, the
timid outgrow their timidity, and in their new-
found glad courage dare to challenge the fiercest
among them to a circular race and rough-and-
tumble on the grass.

Now all this, from the point of view of those
who make toys of sentient and intelligent beings,
is or should be considered pure gain. Moreover,
this undoubted improvement could not have come
about if the muzzle had been the painful instrument
that some dog-owners believe or say. It seems to me
that those who cry out against torturing our dogs,
as they put it, do not love their pets wisely and
are bad observers. Undoubtedly every restraint
is in some degree disagreeable, but it is only when
an animal has been deprived of the power to
exercise his first faculties and obey his most impor-
tunate impulses that the restraint can properly


be described as painful. Take the case of a chained
dog ; he is miserable, as any one may see since
there are many dogs in that condition, because
eternally conscious of the restraint ; and the per-
petual craving for liberty, like that of the healthy
energetic man immured in a cell, rises to positive
torture. Again, we know that smell is the most
important sense of the dog, that it is as much to
him as vision to the bird ; consequently, to deprive
him of the use of this all-important faculty by, let
us say, plugging up his nostrils, or by destroying
the olfactory nerve in some devilish way known
to the vivisectors, would be to make him perfectly
miserable, just as the destruction of its sense of
sight would make a bird miserable. By comparison
the restraint of the muzzle is very slight indeed :
smell, hearing, vision are unaffected, and there is
no interference with free locomotion ; indeed so
slight is the restraint that after a while the animal
is for the most part unconscious of it except when
the impulse to bite or to swallow a luscious bit of
carrion is excited.

We frequently see or hear of dogs that joyfully
run off to fetch their muzzles when they are called
to go out for a walk, or even before they are called
if they but see any preparations being made for a
walk : no person will contend that these are made
unhappy by the muzzle, or that they deliberately
weigh two evils in their mind and make choice of
the lesser. The most that may be said is that these
muzzle - fetchers are exceptions, though they may



be somewhat numerous. For how otherwise can
the fact be explained that some dogs, however
ready and anxious to go for a walk they may be,
will, on catching sight of the muzzle, turn away
with tail between their legs and the expression of
a dog that has been kicked or unjustly rebuked ?

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Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) HudsonThe book of a naturalist → online text (page 15 of 22)