Dogs through History

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This section tells you about the little dogs with ancient origins who found favour with royal and noble households. Whilst there are no specific stories only generalised information, those of you owning one of these breeds may be interested to learn some of their history!

The BICHON FRISE was re-introduced to Europe from the Canary Islands in the 14th century and by the 16th century they became fashionable at the French and other royal courts just like other toy breeds. They were much sought after by the nobility and wealthy families.

The BRUSSELS GRIFFON was obviously a favourite of the Belgian royal family. The late Queen Astrid loved these little dogs which almost became extinct after the First World War but because of royal support eventually regained its popularity. Their earliest ancestors were first described in medieval french writings.

The PEKINGESE originated from Imperial China. They can be traced back to the Han Dynasty 206 BC - 220 AD. It was as late as 1860 that this little dog became known outside China itself. Only Emperors, relatives and courtiers at the Imperial Court were allowed to own them. Lion dogs as they were known where kept in great numbers at court but only the finest were allowed in the Emperor's apartments. As they were considered sacred anyone who stole one of these animals was sentenced to death. On the death of their masters they were sacrificed so that they could go on protecting them in the afterlife!

The PUG was extremely popular in Victorian times and all sections of society owned them as did European royalty. Henry 11 of France, Marie Antoinette, The Empress Josephine and William Hogarth all owned pugs. Originally from the Orient they were brought to the West by merchants trading with China.
The breed was introduced into Great Britain by William 111 and Queen Mary when they ruled this country in 1689. George 111's wife kept pugs of german origin. Queen Victoria an avid dog lover had a particular favourite Bully, a fawn dog, a present from Prince Albert himself.
More recently they found favour with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and were their constant companions for many years.

The MALTESE existed in ancient Egypt and Phoenician traders may have brought these dogs to Malta and the surrounding Mediterranean countries. These delightful little animals were owned by kings, queens and nobility. Queen Elizabeth 1 is said to have owned one and was considered to be the dog of choice for a woman of that time, who would carry them in their arms, bosoms and their beds!

CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL. These toy spaniels were well established in European courts before being brought to England in the 16th century. They reached the height of their popularity in the reign of Charles 11 and are always associated with him. However, Elizabeth 1 and Mary Queen of Scots also kept them, mostly being used for 'comforters' due to their gentle natures.
Shortly before her execution in the Great Hall at Fotheringay Catle in 1587 one little dog slipped under Mary's skirts and was not discovered by the executioner until after her death! Charles 1 loved these little dogs and he was rarely seen without them. His passed on his great affection for the breed to his children Charles 11, Henrietta and James 11. It was Charles 11 who gave his name to the dogs, cavaliers.
As well as companions they were used for their sporting ability. The first Duke of Marlborough developed some of the larger sporting spaniels and from this originated the strain know today as Blenheim.

The PAPILLON is one of the oldest toy breed in continental Europe. Being a favourite of the French court it is not surprising to learn that they were owned by Marie Antoinette, Henry 11 and Madame de Pompadour. They were also it seems favourites of the Old Masters, as many Rubens and Rembrandt's show them in their portraits. The breed is thought to have originated in Italy from the Dwarf Spaniel.

The WELSH CORGI is known the world over for the patronage of the British Royal family. Much has been written about them and stories abound of their antics and how they even have our own Queen Elizabeth 11 and the Queen Mother eating of their hands, so to speak! These plucky little dogs were originally bred for herding cattle, their stature being no disadvantage in this pursuit. Although an ancient breed both the Cardigan and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi have a somewhat cloudy lineage with the Cardigan being considered the oldest of the two.

The BEAGLE is probably one of the oldest breed of native hound used for the chase in the British Isles. Elizabeth 1 kept pocket Beagles, no more than 10 inches at the shoulder, Charles 11 hunted a pack on Newmarket Heath whilst George 1V kept a pack of dwarf Beagles for hunting on Brighton Downs. Prince Albert kept Beagles for rabbitting in Windsor Great Park.

The DACHSHUND appeared in Britain in the 1840's. Prince Edward of Sax-Weimar sent a number of the smooth haired variety to the Prince Consort and they took part in pheasant shoots in Windsor Forest. The Dachshund's distant past remains a mystery although similar dogs were depicted in ancient Egyptian temples and tombs and in carvings from Mexico.

SHIH-TSU. Little is known about their ancestry, but as it is sacred in China it would appear to be of very ancient origin. Thought to be a product of cross-breeding between the Tibetan temple dog, the Lahasa Apso and the early Pekingese. The Dalai Lama of Tibet offered them in tribute to Chinese Emperors . Isolated within the walls of the Forbidden City in Peking these little dogs would have certainly been in decline if they had not been bred with Pekingese. Despite the reluctance of the Chinese they were finally introduced into Britain in 1930.

The LHASA APSO is believed to be one of the world's most ancient breeds possibly dating as far back as 800BC. Developed from the Tibetan Terrier and the Tibetan Spaniel they were bred exclusively in Tibet usually at monasteries.
Rarely were they permitted to leave their homeland and the few given as gifts were always male so that reproduction of the species remained in Tibetan control. Said to symbolize the lion, they provided protection for Buddha and guarded monastic treasures, participating in religious ceremonies enthroned on silk cushions. Apart from Lamas, only high ranking dignitaries could own a Lhasa.



RMS Titanic was the largest liner in the world. She arrived in Southampton from her builders, Harland and Wolff, Belfast, on the morning of April 4th, 1912. There she prepared for her maiden voyage and was due to sail on the 10th of that month. The Titanic was the flagship of the White Star Line, founded by Thomas Ismay in 1869. The shipping line had been quick to establish a reputation for, speed, comfort, safety and size.

Titanic was known as the 'ship of dreams'. The luxury and workmanship that had gone into this great ship was far superior to anything tried before. The crowning feature of the Titanic's interiors was the Grand Staircase that had a great wrought iron and glass dome overhead. Victorian society flocked to be part of the epic maiden voyage, but fate was to play a cruel hand a few days after the ship left Southampton's waters.

The story is well known. Indeed the world has become fascinated with the tragedy. Speeding through the night in an attempt to reach New York in record time, Titanic hit an iceberg that resulted in a horrific loss of life and destruction of the ship that was supposed to be unsinkable.

The human tragedy and bravery of that night are well documented. Perhaps not so well documented are the stories of the dogs that were on board Titanic when she sank. Some of the accounts are confused but the following information appears in a variety of respected accounts of that fateful night.

It was not unusual for small dogs, 'lap dogs' to accompany their owners on a sea cruise. Indeed a dog show had been planned on board Titanic for the owners, for Monday April 15th. The dogs ranged from a Chow owned by Harry Anderson, to a champion French bulldog owned by Robert Daniels and valued at seven hundred and fifty pounds. The Astor's the Titanic's most prominent passengers had their Airdale named Kitty with them.

The kennel facilities on Titanic was excellent, however Frou-Frou, a tiny pet belonging to Helen Bishop, stayed and slept in her owner's cabin. Each day a member of Titanic's crew would take the huge variety of dogs for a walk. The parade was quite a spectacle.

Of all the dogs on the Titanic, it is suggested that only two survived. One a Pomeranian owned by Miss Margaret Hays of New York who tucked the dog inside her coat and got into lifeboat number seven. The other was a Pekinese named Sun Yat Sen and owned by Henry Sleeper, he boarded lifeboat number three with his master. Because both lifeboats were nearly empty as they were released from Titanic, no one objected to the dogs being there.
It is documented that a passenger went below and released all the dogs from the kennels before Titanic disappeared below the waves. Some accounts speak of a Newfoundland that saved a woman's life by dragging her to a lifeboat before expiring itself. There are tales of Rigel, a Newfoundland belonging to the Titanic's first officer swimming in the freezing sea in a desperate attempt to find his master. Rigel's story goes on to say that he prevented the Carpathia from missing a lifeboat with survivors too weak to identify their location, by barking till someone heard him and the people were saved. This story suggests that three dogs were saved as Rigel apparently was taken on board the Carpathia and given medical attention and food. It should be remembered that the water temperature at that time was such that any human's or dog's survival was a miracle.

The 'ship of dreams' was found in 1985 by an underwater expedition. Titanic's story still fascinates millions of people around the world. The human loss of life was colossal and those people should never be forgotten. Perhaps sometimes the loss of those other well loved little creatures should also be given a moments thought because they are part of Titanic's story too.

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