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Subject: ‘Dogs’

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Amundsen reached the South Pole on 14 December, 1911

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Exploration, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 26 February 2014

This edited article about Roald Amundsen first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 571 published on 23 December 1972.

Roald Amundsen,  picture, image, illustration
Roald Amundsen's journey to the South Pole with dogs by Luis Arcas Brauner

Roald Amundsen, the great Norwegian explorer, spent Christmas Day 1911 in the icy wasteland of the Antarctic. On December 14th at 3 o’clock in the afternoon he had become the first conqueror of the South Pole. Amundsen and his men unfolded the Norwegian flag. Five cold weatherbeaten hands gripped the flagpole as Amundsen proclaimed, “And so I plant you, our beloved flag, on the South Pole, and name the plateau on which it lies, King Haakon VII’s Plateau.”

There was no champagne, and they were cold, exhausted and worried about the long perilous journey home. That evening in their tent they celebrated by eating a small piece of seal meat in addition to their meagre rations.

The early 1900s are among the most dramatic and eventful in the history of Polar exploration. In 1905 Amundsen discovered the elusive North West Passage. It took him three years of hazardous adventures to find this maritime route through the Arctic regions from the Atlantic to the Pacific which navigators had been seeking for hundreds of years. Now the struggle to reach the North and South Poles was reaching a climax.

On 9th August 1910 Amundsen set sail from Norway in the Fram, apparently on his way to the North Pole. When he arrived at Madeira he released the sensational news that he was going to the Antarctic and would try to reach the South Pole. He now became a serious rival to Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the great British explorer, whose expedition was at that moment in an Australian harbour putting the final touches to preparations before setting out for the Antarctic. It now became a race between these two men to reach the South Pole.

Both explorers had had considerable experience in the Antarctic, but the British expedition seemed to have a great many advantages. Scott was returning to familiar ground in the McMurdo Sound, and full details of the route from here to within two degrees of the Pole were available. Amunsden based his expedition entirely on sleigh dogs. He believed it was essential to take a large quantity of provisions, and he planned to go by another route across vast tracts of unknown territory. Eminent polar explorers, among them Scott, considered it was impossible, because of the extreme cold, to reach the South Pole with a large team of dogs still alive. He intended travelling light and using skis for the final stages of his journey.

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The German dachshund became unpopular during the First World War

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles, World War 1 on Monday, 11 June 2012

This edited article about the dachshund originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 723 published on 22 November 1975.

Victory Bonds poster, picture, image, illustration

A Canadian Officer drags off a German Officer and his pet dachshund in a poster for Victory Bonds produced during the First World War

A very popular breed both in Europe and America is the Dachshund, which means “badger dog” in German.

Six types are recognised in Britain; full-size and miniature smooth-haired, long-haired and wire-haired.

Most often seen is the smooth-haired variety. Developed in Germany, the Dachshund or Teckel as it is often called, is thought to have sprung from the Basset Hound.

There is also some question as to whether the Dachshund is essentially a terrier or a hound. His shape fits him for the part of an underground (or earth) worker – a terrier. But his fondness for tracking and good pack instinct put him firmly into the hound family. Perhaps he is a unique mixture of both.

First mentioned by name by a seventeenth century writer, the Dachshund did not arrive in Britain until the 1840s. Several were sent here by Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar as a present for fellow-countryman, Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband). Kept in the spacious kennels of Windsor Castle, these dogs were used in pheasant shoots, working the covets in Windsor Forest.

This “new” breed aroused considerable interest, and, during the following ten years, more Dachshunds were imported from Germany. Between 1876 and 1877 no less than 200 dogs of this breed crossed the Channel to reach their new owners in this country.

The First World War in which Germany was the enemy, had a devastating effect upon the breed’s popularity in Britain. Incredible as it may seem, it was considered “terribly unpatriotic” to own “one of those fat, German sausage dogs” at that time, and Dachshunds all but disappeared in Britain.

Pet toy spaniels witnessed two famous Royal executions

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles, Royalty on Monday, 11 June 2012

This edited article about the toy spaniel originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 723 published on 22 November, 1975.

King Charles spaniel, picture, image, illustration

Four cavaliers on the way to London find the dog that became the first King Charles Spaniel, by Gerritt Vandersyde

The only breed of dog named after a king is the King Charles Spaniel. Charles II had such an enormous amount of affection for these “toy” spaniels that his name was given to them.

Charles’ brother, who later became James II, also admired this breed, but when William and Mary gained the throne on the fall of the Stuarts, the spaniels were ousted in favour of Pugs.

“Toy” spaniels existed in Britain long before Stuart times and are thought to have originated on the Continent. It has been suggested that Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, may have brought some to this country on her marriage.

The unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded in 1587 and, after the execution, a “toy” spaniel was found whimpering beneath her skirts.

In 1649, another royal execution took place, this time it was Charles I. He was accompanied by “Rogue”, his little spaniel, on the fearful walk to the block in Whitehall. Afterwards a Roundhead took the dog and put it on public exhibition for money.

Today there are two distinct types of these spaniels – the King Charles and the Cavalier King Charles. One very obvious difference is in the shape of their faces. Bulldog or Pug blood was thought to have been introduced into the breed late in the Victorian era. This produced the set-back, flattened nose of the present-day King Charles Spaniel.

Many people were sorry to see this change from the type which was depicted in so many paintings by Titian. Van Dyck and Watteau in earlier centuries. It took an American art-collector to put matters right. Due to his persistence, in 1926 a careful breeding programme was started which resulted in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel we know today, back again in the image of his earliest ancestors and without that unattractive, squashed nose.

The Cavalier, not surprisingly, is the more popular dog of the two. Slightly larger, he stands about 12 inches (304 mm) high, is often tan-and-pearly-white, with a long, slightly wavy, silky coat. His tail is carried low.

Faithful labradors make excellent guide-dogs for the blind

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles, Medicine on Monday, 11 June 2012

This edited article about the labrador originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 723 published on 22 November 1975.

Guide-dog, picture, image, illustration

The female labrador is an excellent guide-dog

A “Jack-of-all-trades” in the canine world is the Labrador Retriever. Not only does he excel in his original job – retrieving – but he is a great guide dog for the blind. And he is the most successful dog used in peace and wartime for locating hidden explosives, firearms and dangerous drugs.

Labradors were not originally found in Labrador, as you might imagine, but further south in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. There, they were trained by fishermen to go into the sea around the rocky inlets and retrieve fish which had escaped from the nets.

They were known as the “smaller St. John’s dogs from Newfoundland” and were described in 1814 as “extremely quick in running and swimming, and their sense of smell is scarcely to be credited”.

Seamen brought them across the Atlantic to Britain when they landed at Poole harbour in Dorset with their cargoes of salted fish.

The Earl of Malmesbury started keeping and breeding these dogs in about 1835, calling them “Newfoundlands” He gave the name “Labrador” to one of a somewhat smaller type in 1878 and this name has been in use ever since.

As a gun dog, the Labrador is acknowledged to be unsurpassed. The retriever’s job is to seek out shot prey and bring it back safely to the hand of its master, its “soft” mouth barley touching the game.

From gun dog to guide dog for the blind was an easy, short step for the versatile Labradors. They have all the attributes needed for this important work – perhaps the greatest assistance any dog can give to man. Well endowed with initiative, extremely intelligent, steady and willing, they respond rapidly to training which, in this case, lasts for four months. Female dogs are always used, as they are less easily distracted than males.

The Beagle gave its name to one of history’s most famous ships

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles on Friday, 8 June 2012

This edited article about the Beagle originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 722 published on 15 November 1975.

John Peel, picture, image, illustration

John Peel hunting with a pack of Beagles by Pat Nicolle

One of today’s favourite hounds is the Beagle, which belongs to the same group of breeds as the basset hound, the whippet and the Rhodesian ridgeback.

Some say that Beagles were in Britain in the days of Queen Boadicea. Whether this claim is true or false, it is an accepted fact that the Beagle is one of the oldest of all the British hounds which hunt by scent.

In its traditional role as a hunter of the hare, the Beagle (a small-scale foxhound) is a pack animal. At the height of the hunt, each member of the team gives voice on a different note, producing an almost choir-like sound. This has led to these dogs being referred to as singing beagles.

Hare hunting was a popular sport in Britain before the Roman invaders arrived, the huntsmen following on foot rather than on horseback. Later, after the Norman Conquest, stag hunting became more fashionable and larger dogs were needed for this work.

Beagles were mentioned for the first time by name in the reign of Henry VII, and Queen Elizabeth I is known to have possessed several packs of these small hounds. She prized these dogs and particularly admired the pocket variety, bred small enough to fit into a pocket. The breed is also mentioned by Shakespeare.

George IV, as Prince Regent, kept a pack of small beagles at Brighton Pavilion and hunted with them across the Sussex Downs. Later still, Queen Victoria’s collection of many different breeds included large numbers of beagles.

The beagle’s prominence in the hunting field has suffered setbacks through the centuries because the popularity of stag and fox hunting has often superseded that of hare hunting. However, the breed is still used in some parts of this country in its original hunting role.

Leaving its working ability aside, there is no doubt that this small dog owes an enormous amount of its present popularity to its suitability as a pet and companion.

With its large, flappy ears, alert yet gentle expression, gaily carried long tail and jaunty walk, the Beagle is easy to spot. The coat is short, often white, tan and black. The dog stands between 13 inches (330 mm) and 16 inches (406 mm) high (at the shoulder).

Queen Victoria started the rage for keeping pet Pekingese dogs

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles, Royalty on Friday, 8 June 2012

This edited article about the Pekingese originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 722 published on 15 November 1975.

Victoria and Looty, picture, image, illustration

Queen Victoria called her Pekingese Looty by John Millar Watt

The Pekingese, weighing a mere ten pounds (4.5 kilos) or less, is a member of the “Toy” group of dog breeds.

According to an ancient Chinese legend, the Pekingese is the offspring of a marriage between a lion and a marmoset! This fable is pure fancy of course, but the true story of this breed is only slightly less bizarre.

The lion dogs of China, as they were called, were holy dogs and the exclusive property of the Chinese emperors. Mentioned in the time of Confucius (551-479 B.C.), these royal dogs were highly revered and never left the precincts of the imperial palaces.

Pampered and cosseted, they lived on quail breasts and woodcock livers and were bred to strict regulations. These are the oldest in the world. Amongst other things, these rules state that “the lion dog’s nose should be like that of the Hindu monkey god, his ears set like the sails of a warjunk and his body like that of a lion lying in wait for its prey.”

Miniature versions of the lion dog were particularly prized and carried within one of their owner’s sleeves.

Towards the end of the Manchu dynasty in 1860, British and French troops stormed the forbidden city of Peking, burning and plundering the imperial summer palace. One miniature lion dog was swept up by General Dunne during the fracas and was later brought back to this country as a gift for Queen Victoria.

Other Pekingese dogs from the looting found their way back to England and created a considerable amount of interest.

Later, in ones and twos, more of these “sacred” Pekingese dogs were gradually smuggled out of China and brought to Britain, but at least one of the men responsible for the smuggling is known to have been put to death for his part in the plot.

The breed was introduced to the general public in Britain at around the turn of the century and soon found favour. After the Manchu dynasty was overthrown in 1911, the Pekingese became virtually extinct in its country of origin, having been destroyed in large numbers by members of the revolutionary movement.

Look out for a small dog, about 9 inches (228 mm) high, with a long, fluffy coat, often fawn in colour, flat face with wide-set protruding eyes and a tail carried close over the back. Its peculiar rolling gait is distinctive.

A shaggy dog story is really an Irish Wolfhound story

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles on Friday, 8 June 2012

This edited article about the Irish Wolfhound originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 722 published on 15 November 1975.

Irish wolfhound, picture, image, illustration

Irish Wolfhound

The shaggy giant of the greyhound family and the tallest dog in the world is the Irish Wolfhound. It is the national dog of Eire and can trace its ancestry back over two thousand years.

Early Celtic literature contains many references to the “great hound of Ireland” or “Irish greyhound”, as it was sometimes called.

Renowned for its strength and hunting skill, this hound’s fame spread across Europe, and in 391 A.D. several of them were exported to imperial Rome to be used in the arenas there.

Their power and speed in the chase were remarkable. Hunting by sight rather than by scent, they were used to stalk prey which included a large variety of game then plentiful in their native country. In particular, the timber wolf and the large Irish elk were hunted, the elk being a formidable adversary, standing over six feet (1.8 m) high.

Over the centuries, these wild animals gradually became extinct in Ireland and, when this happened (in about 1750), the breed itself began to dwindle and practically to disappear.

It is likely that Irish Wolfhounds would have vanished altogether but for one man. He was Capt. G. A. Graham, an Englishman from Gloucestershire, who, in 1862, started a campaign to bring back the breed. It took him 20 years to complete this difficult task but, by careful breeding and with the addition of Scottish Deerhound blood, the Irish Wolfhound of olden times was recreated.

Because of its immense size, not many people can afford to keep an Irish Wolfhound today, but those who do, pay tribute to this gentle giant. It is quiet, dignified and a very loyal companion.

About 32 inches (812 mm) tall at the shoulder with a hard, rough coat, often grey or brindle in colour, this big dog thrives in the country and much prefers to be outdoors. Its long, hairy tail curves slightly, and, considering its great height, it walks with a light and graceful stride.

Britain’s most famous royal pet – the corgi

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Farming, Historical articles on Thursday, 7 June 2012

This edited article about the corgi originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 721 published on 8 November 1975.

Tractor on the farm, picture, image, illustration

The corgi is a favourite pet

Extremely popular in Britain, Australia and New Zealand is the Welsh Corgi. There are two types – the Cardigan with its long, bushy tail and the Pembroke which has hardly any tail at all.

The name Corgi originally meant “cur dog” or working dog. The word “cur” has come to mean something quite different today, and to apply it to the Corgi in its modern, uncomplimentary sense would be completely wrong: these dogs were highly regarded for their working ability, particularly herding cattle. In South Wales today, “corgi” is an affectionate term for rascal.

They were also called “heelers” because of their characteristic habit of nipping the heels of the cattle when controlling the herds.

The Cardigan is the older breed of the two, probably descended from the cattle-dogs of the Celts. It is believed that the Corgi also carries the same blood as the small dogs introduced into Wales during the great Viking raids.

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The boxer is a fighting dog that boxes

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles on Thursday, 7 June 2012

This edited article about the Boxer originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 721 published on 8 November 1975.

Dogs of  the movies, picture, image, illustration

The Boxer can be seen at the bottom, far right

The big, boisterous Boxer is a breed which is especially popular in Britain, France and Germany.

The name Boxer is thought to have been used to describe these dogs’ unusual type of play. They strike out with their fore-paws in the same way as old-fashioned human fighters used to do before the introduction of boxing-gloves. Boxers do, in fact, appear to be “boxing”.

These were formidable fighting dogs and can trace their ancestry back to the ancient “holding” dogs, known for their great courage. During the Battle of Vercellae in 101 B.C., dogs similar to Boxers defended the Germanic Cimbrians against the conquering Romans, tenaciously holding off the enemy from the camp in which the women and children were gathered.

Through the centuries they have been used to hunt animals such as the buffalo and the bear. For this job they needed powerful jaws, strong muscles and, above all, a set-back nose to allow them to breathe without relaxing their tight grip on their quarry until the huntsman joined them for the kill.

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The Chihuahua is probably the world’s favourite toy dog

Posted in Animals, Dogs, Historical articles on Thursday, 7 June 2012

This edited article about the chihuahua originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 721 published on 8 November 1975.

chihuahua, picture, image, illustration

A Mexican boy with a Chihuahua by Clive Uptton

The smallest dog in the world is the Chihuahua, belonging to the toy group of breeds which also contains the Pug, the Miniature Pinscher and the Pomeranian.

This tiny member of the canine race, sometimes weighing as little as two pounds (907 grams), is obviously not a working dog, but Chihuahuas are not as delicate as they may appear at first glance. They often have strong personalities and do not lack courage. The Chihuahua (pronounce it Shee-wa-wa) is America’s favourite toy dog.

The breed takes its name from the state of Chihuahua, which is the largest state in Mexico, bordering on the U.S.A.

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