Prehistoric man appears to have partnered with canines over 20,000 years ago for hunting. How exactly this occurred, we will perhaps never know. However, what we do know is that cave paintings, murals, and other pieces of archeological evidence suggest that this partnership began at around the same time that human beings were organizing themselves. Early hunter-gatherer groups used dogs in the hunt for fowl and small game. Dogs that were probably nothing more than domesticated wolves were adept at spotting and flushing out game. Often, this meant that the animal would then be chased and harassed to the point of exhaustion andcollapse, whereupon the humans would close in and finish the job with spears, stone knives, and arrows.
The Egyptians utilized large Molossian-type dogs to hunt a variety of animals, including large game, and were probably the first group of people to begin seriously breeding dogs for their specialties. The Mastiff dog was developed and refined, as were the sight-hounds that have now become so prolific. Over desert expanses, the Egyptians highly valued these dogs for their skill in sighting and coursing game.
Greeks and Romans, who had a great deal of free time because of their lifestyles, devoted much of their time and attention to breeding dogs for use in hunting. The style of hunting thusly changed with human lifestyle, as dogs were trained to hunt sport and nuisance animals, such as wolves, bears, and even lions and other large cats. In fact, hunting became something of an elitist function, and in this and other societies was reserved purely for the aristocracy. Many nobles had a dying request that the image of their best hunting hound be engraved on their tomb, or even buried with or next to them.
The use of dogs in hunting became quite widespread throughout the middles ages. Dogs became highly specialized, and the following groups developed strong bloodlines:
Sight Hounds: Dogs that spotted their prey across great distances, and quickly closed in for the kill. They have superb vision.
Retrievers: These hunting dogs were specially designed to retrieve birds from the water after they had been shot down. They have webbed toes for powerful swimming, and water repellant coats.
Pointers: Pointers were developed to do just what their name implies: locate and point at game. They possess exceptionally keen senses, and can easily pinpoint even the most secretive game.
Scent Hounds: Scent hounds were and are today some of the most hardy dogs known. They were especially good at locating and tracking prey by scent. They were very efficient and methodical in their tracking, and have been known to follow the same scent for several days on end without rest.
In addition to the above groups, the spread of the use of firearms also required that gun dogs be developed for hunting. Feudal paupers who had severe rodent infestations developed terrier breeds to hunt and eliminate vermin and small prey. Particular breeds became very compartmentalized: there were specific breeds for hunting each of the following: fowl, wolves, bears, squirrels, hogs, foxes, rodents, deer, and many others. Many of these breeds still survive today, although still many more have become extinct and even forgotten.
Today, we use dogs in hunting much the same as we always have: Labradors wait patiently in duck blinds?Jack Russell Terriers ferret out rats, badgers, and groundhogs?Beagles track and harass foxes to their death? The specific purpose for each of these hunting types is so ingrained in the particular breed that it has actually become part of their nature. In the above examples, this is why Labs love water, why Jack Russell?s cannot resist a good hole, and beagles will run off after certain types prey. They cannot help it, as it has actually become instinctual to them. Our hunting dogs always have and continue to serve us well. We should take their intended purposes into account in their daily lives, and ensure that they are allowed to do what they were built for: to hunt.
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Written by David Hancock (U.K.)
"Now Bull! Now Dogge! Loo Paris, Loo! The bull has the fame,' Ware Horns Ho!'"
The "Paris" so vigorously encouraged in these lines was a very different type of dog than the English Bulldog of today, much more on the leg, infinitely quicker and more active; and a hot tempered brute to whom the joy of fighting was as the breath of his nostrils." These lines by the Kennel Correspondent of Country Life in the edition of June 10, 1905 were illustrated by photographs of Bulldogs of that time. These, when compared to the 1980 Bulldog, show that 75 years later we have today once more produced a very different type of dog even from the "improved" breed of 1905.
Often used as the British national symbol and identified with our native doggedness, the Bulldog has always had a rather special place in the heart of the nation. In the first World War, a Bulldog wearing the union flag and a sailor's cap was used as a recruiting lure for the Royal Navy. In the second World War, Winston Churchill's head used to symbolize our national determination never to submit to a larger, better equipped adversary. But, perhaps because of this very identification with steadfastness, solidness, indefatigability, and massive determination, the modern Bulldog has become even heavier boned, bigger headed and shorter legged than his ancestors. Bulldog fanciers would claim perhaps that the physique of the modern dog merely perpetuates the build needed to fulfill if s original task, and that the 1980 shape reflects the historic model. But does such a claim withstand scrutiny?
In very ancient days, man utilized dogs to hunt animals such as the bison, the bear and the boar-, these hunting dogs employed those qualities handed down from even more ancient fighting dogs" the speed to maintain the chase, the courage to take on an enraged, highly dangerous quarry and, perhaps above all, the ability to hang on to and thereby retard a much speedier quarry until the hunters with their primitive weapons arrived for the kill. These dogs needed an extremely powerful jaw to maintain the grip, the setback nose to enable the dog to breathe whilst maintaining the hold, and well developed forequarters to withstand the physical strain. Eventually, a breed type emerged known as "Beissers" or the biters, with affixes indicating how the varieties developed for each specialized use were employed. Hence, bullen-, baren-, or bullen-beisser to denote a buffalo, bear, or bull biter.
One of man's earliest domestic animal assets, these dogs helped primitive man in the chase to obtain food. They were trained to guard his property and in turn, secured his protection. These barren-beissers or bullen beissers can be traced right back to the earliest Celtic and Teutonic tribes, and subsequently throughout the British Isles. By medieval times, these dogs had evolved into three distinct sizes; the heavy guard/protectorbullen-beisser (English/Mastiff type); the lighter, faster hunting mastiff hound (which in turn led to the emergence of the Deutsche Dogge or modern Great Dane); and the smaller, more compact bullen-beisser , - forerunner of the English Bulldog and the Boxer and part-ancestor of our modem Bull Terriers.
Although there are records of such a breed type being used for Bull baiting in 1209, a more precise description of the breed we know as bulldogs did not emerge until 1631 and was featured in Chardin painting of 1740. At one time it had been illegal to kill a bull that had not been baited. One reason was that in this way, the local people would be aware that a bull was about to be killed and that genuinely fresh meat would be on sale. Another was the belief that any animal killed immediately after very violent activity produced the most tender meat.
This commercial purpose in time became a sport, with huge wager being made on the outcome. The bull was tethered by a 25 yard rope from his horns or collar to a stake in a fairground or on the village square. Sometimes the bull’s horns were encased in leather sheaths. It was the practice to goad the bull until it was suitably enraged .
The Bulldogs had to be keen, brave and cunning; they were frequently gored and often killed. When slipped, the dogs never rushed in headlong but crept forward, low, as flat to the ground as possible. The bull waited, head down, forelegs closed, it’sthroat protected. If the bull had been baited before, he had learned enough to dig a hastily scraped hole in a pathetic attempt to guard his vulnerable nose. When the dog attacked, the bull's aim was to get one horn under the "dog and hurl him into the air. The dogs owner would try to break the dog's fall using a leather apron or even more adroitly a bamboo poleto to slide the dog down. In any case. the dog was at least badly winded, but even when cracked ribs or vertebrae were sustained. the dog was expected to return to the fray.
The dog's aim was to seize the bull's nose, lips. cheek or ears and hang on, quite literally, for dear life. Eventually, after a protracted ordeal, the wretched bull's head would drop in sheer fatigue: the Bulldog had pinned it's quarry and won the stake. At this stage, young bulldogs were sometimes released to taste blood and "learn their trade.''
Regarding the American Bulldog's origins there are three main theories.
According to the first one, the American Bulldog was brought over to America by the colonists, where they were primarily used as farm guards, stock dogs gathering cattle and as pack dogs to hunt or tree bears. It is, according to this theory, the "original" English Bulldog which has survived unchanged in remote rural communities, just as it was when it was still a working breed rather than the present-day English Bulldog.
According to the second one, the American Bulldog is a "made-up" breed concocted from a mixture of other breeds.
The third one consists of a combination of theories (1) and (2). Basically, the "original" English Bulldog was an ancestor of today's American Bulldog but he has been much modified through the years by selective breeding and judicious outcrosses. We should remember at this point that many of the bullbreeds we know today are ultimately descended from the "original" English Bulldog: this includes Bullmastiffs, Staffordshires, English Bull Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers among others. All of these were selectively bred to create very different dogs, each suited to his individual purpose.
The advocates of the first theory believe the American Bulldog is the pure embodiment of the original English Bulldog as it looked when the early settlers from the British Isles and Europe came to America in the 17th and 18th centuries. This idea was popularized by a couple of breeders, probably as a marketing ploy to sell their dogs. Others have eagerly swallowed the story, enabling its passage from myth to modern legend to widely-perceived truth.
Records do exist which show that many bulldogs and bull terriers were exported to America and many contemporary British paintings and sculptures show bulldogs which look similar to American Bulldogs, and many people point to these as evidence to support this belief.
The white coloring predominant in today's American Bulldogs was also the base color of most of the English bulldogs of that times, which could suggest a very strong link. However, it seems highly unlikely that the original English bulldog could possibly have survived unchanged in America for hundreds of years; through the generations he would have been interbred and shaped by his environment and the needs of his masters. This theory does have a certain romantic attraction to it however, so it is easy to understand it's continuing popularity.
The advocates of the second theory believe the American Bulldog was created from a blend of various types of dog, which of course is true for every breed. More important is to know what exactly where the foundation dogs of these breeding programs, hence, the third theory option.
The third theory, and the probably the one closest to the truth, is that the American Bulldog is descended from a selectively-bred blend of bulldogs and bull terriers. Immigrants from the British Isles, Spain and Northern Europe brought their prized bulldogs and bull terriers with them on their voyage to the New World, where they would certainly have proved their worth in many ways. The dogs provided welcome protection in a sometimes hostile land and also were invaluable to the livestock farmer whose cattle and pigs roamed unfenced over wide areas; this made the livestock hard for the farmer to catch when required, and so the "catch dog" came into being. The selective breeding that had created a dog with the strength, tenacity, courage and longing to seize a bull at a baiting or engage in some other form of animal combat now made him the free-range livestock farmer's best friend. In his new role the bulldog could seize a cow or pig and and hold him firm until his handlers joined him to tie or slaughter the animal. In addition those same abilities made him a most formidable tool for hunting wild game, a scenario the American Bulldog continues to excel in today in parts of the United States. His major role however was as a general watchdog and companion more than anything else, which continues to be the breed's forte.
Pedigrees or other records were not kept, these were not show dogs so there was no need. Natural selection governed the development of the bulldog in America in those times, and as working dogs in a harsh world, poor performing dogs either died in action or would be culled by their owners. Breedings would be decided purely on a dog's abilities: If you had a good bitch and wanted a litter and you knew someone who had a good proven dog then a tie might be arranged to create another generation of working bulldogs, some of which may have been sold to provide a little extra cash in those tough times.
Many breeding experiments would undoubtedly have been tried over the many decades that have elapsed since those first bulldogs and bull terriers landed in America, some successful and some probably less so. For example, some hound blood was likely crossed in to help enhance the breed's hunting/tracking/baying abilities. Higher proportions of terrier blood would have added tenacity and quickness to some strains too. An extra dose of modern "sour-mug" English Bulldog blood has apparently been added by at least one well known breeder in fairly recent history to increase the "bulliness" of his lines. A couple of mystery ingredients have probably been added too at some points back in the past. This old recipe probably holds true for all lines/types of American Bulldog with only the proportions of ingredients varying. However the American bulldog is now certainly far enough away from its "root-breeds" to unquestionably be regarded a true breed in its own right, and a fine and versatile one too.