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Dogs Their Origin And Varieties By H D Richardson, 1857


THE IRISH WOLFDOG .—Cani's Grains Hibernicus.

This renowned and redoubted animal, from age to age, in tradition and in song, one of the glories of " The Sacred Isle," and with his kindred unrivalled race, the Irish giant deer—her recognised emblem, from among her animated tribes, celebrated and extolled by all authors and lovers of natural history, native and foreign, and of universal fame in his own country—has been long ranked in peerless dignity, " facile princeps," at the head of the whole dog family. When the noble dogs of Greece and of India were at the height of their renown among the ancients, those of Erin were not as yet known, though they soon afterwards obtained celebrity. The dogs of Greece appear to have had a strange and mysterious affinity with those of the West. Those of India have disappeared from our knowledge, and baffled our research, though they, too, probably shared in this affinity, through, perhaps, the often-proposed medium of the Phoenicians, or through that of the Phocoean colony from Asia Minor, (see Herodotus.) Marsilia, in Gaul, the modern Marseilles, (see Moore.) Many derivations of the name greyhound have been suggested, and among others great hound—grey-hound, (from color.) My own impression is, that the true one is Greek hound, grains, and we have reason to believe that to that country we are indebted for the race.

The great point at issue relative to the natural history of the Irish wolf-dog, may be stated as being whether he belonged to the greyhound race, or was of more robust form, approaching that of the mastiff. There are, indeed, individuals who, without a shadow of ground on which to base their opinions, deem him to have been a mongrel, bred between mastiff and greyhound, &c. Of this last-mentioned theory, us it has no fact or authority of any sort to support it, I shall, of course, say nothing—more especially as no such proof is attempted by the advocates of this very singular opinion.

In support of the mastiff'* doctrine, we have one single modern authority—if, indeed, authority it can be called. About fifty years ago, the late Aylmer Burke Lambert, Esq., read a paper before the Linnsean Society, subsequently published in the third volume of that Society's Transactions, descriptive of some dogs in possession of Lord Altamont, son of the Marquis of Sligo, and stated to have been the old Irish wolf-dog. The dog described and figured by Mr. Lambert is a middling-sized and apparently not very well-bred specimen of a comparatively common breed of dog, called the Great Dane, an animal that shall be treated of in this volume in his proper place. Had this been the Irish wolf-dog, it were absurd to speak of his scarcity, far less of his ExtincTion ! That Lord Altamont thought his dogs were wolf-dogs, I do not doubt; and it is very possible that, some generations back, they might have had a strain of the true breed in them, subsequently lost by crossing ; and I likewise make no doubt but that the Great Dane, introduced into this country by our Danish invaders, was often used in olden time as an auxiliary in the chase of the savage animals, the wolf in particular, with which our woods abounded ; but is it not most absurd to find writers adopting Mr. Lambert's description and figure of his Danish mastiff, and yet adhering to the ancient nomenclature of " Canis Grains Hibernicus"—the Irish greyhound !

* I employ the term mastiff only for brevity, and for the sake of direct antagonism to the greyhound doctrine.

Nor would these mastiff-like dogs have, alone, proved equal to the task of wolf-hunting. They might, indeed, if very fine specimens—>but not such as Lord Altamont's—have been sufficiently powerful to grapple with their grisly foe ; but that foe was very swift of foot, and he had first to be caught—a feat that dogs of their heavy make would find it impossible to perform. Wanting the fleetness necessary to run into so swift an animal, they would equally have failed in attempting to run him down by scent. These dogs are of a very lethargic, sluggish temperament, qualities greatly in their favor as boarhounds, the purpose to which they are applied in their native country, for if they were too eager or too swift in pursuit of the boar, there would very soon be but few of the pack left alive ; but such qualities would be most unsuitable, indeed, in the chase of an animal characterized by

The long gallop which can tire
The hound's deep hate, and huntsman's fire.

It is evident, then, that the desideratum in a wolf-dog was a combination of extreme swiftness, to enable him to overtake his rapid and formidable quarry, and vast strength to seize, secure, and slay him when overtaken.

I may here observe that, about five or six years ago, I published an article on this subject in the "Irish Penny Journal," ( May, 1841) which every writer on dogs who has published since that time has done me the honor of appropriating, some with full and fair acknowledgment, others with only such a partial acknowledgment as was calculated to mislead the reader. I now lay claim to my own property, and finally embody it in the following pages, with many additions, the result of subsequent investigation.

Pliny relates a combat in which the dogs of Epirus bore a part. He describes them as much taller than mastiffs, and of greyhound form; detailing an account of their contests with a lion and an elephant. This, I should think, suffices to establish the identity of the Irish wolf-dog with the farfamed dogs of Epirus.

Strabo describes a gigantic greyhound as having been in use among the Celtic and Pictish nations; and as being held in such high esteem, as to have been imported into Gaul for the purposes of the. chase.

Silius describes a large and powerful greyhound as having been imported into Ireland by the Belgce ; thus identifying the Irish wolf-dog with the celebrated Belgic dog of antiquity, which we read of in so many places as having been brought to Rome for the combats of the amphitheatre.

Hollinshed says of the Irish—" They are not without wolves, and greyhounds to hunt them, bigger of bone and limb than a colt." Campion also speaks of him as a "greyhound of great bone and limb."

Evelyn, describing the savage sports of the bear-garden, says—" The bull-dogs did exceeding well, but the Irish wolfdog exceeded, which was a tall greyhound, a stately creature, and did beat a cruel mastiff." Here we have an actual comparison of powers, which marks the dog to have been a greyhound, and quite distinct from a mastiff.

In the second edition of Smith's " History of Waterford," the Irish wolf-dog is described as much taller than a mastiff, and as being of the greyhound form, unequalled in size and strength. Mr. Smith writes:— " Roderick, King of Connaught, was obliged to furnish hawks and greyhounds to Henry II. Sir Thomas Rue obtained great favor from the Great Mogul, in 1615, for a brace of Irish greyhounds presented by him. Henry VIII. presented the Marquis of Dessarages, a Spanish grandee, with two goshawks, and four Irish greyhounds."

* In justice, I must here stale that the account in question was only subscribed with my initials, H. D. R.

In the reign of Richard II., lands were still held under the crown, and amongst other families, by that of Eugaine, on condition of the holders keeping a certain number of wolf-dogs fitted for the chase. (H. Smith.)

Sir James Ware has, in his " Antiquities of Ireland," collected much information relative to this dog, from which I give the following extract:—" I must here take notice of those hounds, which, from their hunting of wolves, are commonly called wolf-dogs, being creatures of great strength and size, and of a fine shape. I cannot but think that these are the dogs which Symmachus mentions in an epistle to his brother Flavianus. ' I thank you,' says he, ' for the present you made me of some canes Scotici, which were shown at the Circensian games, to the great astonishment of the people, who could not judge it possible to bring them to Rome otherwise than in iron cages.' I am sensible Mr. Burton, (Itinerary of Anton, 220,) treading the footsteps of Justus Lipsius, (Epist. ad Belg. Cent, i., p. 44,) makes no scruple to say, that the dogs intended by Symmachus were British mastives. But, with submission to such great names, how could the British mastive get the appellation of Scoticus, in the age Symmachus lived ? For he was Consul of Rome in the latter end of the fourth century ; at which time, and for some time before, and for many centuries after, Ireland was well known by the name of Scotia, as I have shown before, (Chap. I.) Besides, the English mastive was no way comparable to the Irish wolfdog in size or elegant shape ; nor would it make an astonishing figure in the spectacles exhibited in the circus. On the other hand, the Irish wolf-dog has been thought a valuable present to the greatest monarch, and is sought after, and is sent abroad to all quarters of the world ; and this has been one cause why that noble creature has grown so scarce among us, as another is the neglect of the species since the extinction of wolves in Ireland ; and, even of what remain, the size seems to have dwindled from its ancient stateliness. When Sir Thomas Rowe was ambassador at the court of the Great Mogul, in the year 1615, that emperor desired him to send for some Irish greyhounds, as the most welcome present he could make him, which being done, the Mogul showed the greatest respect to Sir Thomas, and presented him with his picture, and several things of value. We see in the public records an earlier instance of the desire foreigners have had for hawks and wolf-dogs of Irish growth. In a privy seal from King Henry VIII. to the Lord Deputy and Council of Ireland, wherein his majesty takes notice, ' that at the instant suit of the Duke of Alberkyrke of Spain, (of the Privy Coun cil to Henry VIII.,) on the behalf of the Marquis of Desarrya, and his son, that it might please his majesty to grant to the said marquis, and his son, and the longer liver of them, yearly out of Ireland, two goshawks and four greyhounds; and forasmuch as the said duke hath done the king acceptable service in his wars, and that the king is informed that the said marquis beareth to him especial good-will, he, therefore,grants the said suit, and commands that the deputy for the time being shall take order for the delivery of the said hawks and greyhounds, unto the order of the said marquis and his son, and the longer liver of them, yearly ; and that the treasurer shall take the charges of buying the said hawks and hounds.' It is true that British hounds and beagles were in reputation among the Romans, for their speed and quick scent. Thus, Nemesian, in his Cunegeticks :—

Divisa Britannia mittit
Veloces, nostrique orbis venatibus aptos.

('Great Britain sends swift hounds,
Fittest to hunt upon-our grounds.')

And Appian calls the British hound, (ocr error in text) of, a dog that scents the. track of the game. But this character does not hit the Irish wolf-dog, which is not remarkable for any great sagacity in hunting by the nose. Ulysses Aldrovandus, and Gesner, have given descriptions of the Canis Scoticus, and two prints of them very little different from the common hunting-hound. ' They are,' says Gesner, ' something larger than the common hunting-hound, of a brown or sandy spotted color, quick of smelling, and are employed on the borders between England and Scotland to follow thieves. They are called sleut-hound.' In the Regiam Majestatem of Scotland is this passage—' Nullus perturbet aut impediat Canem trassantem aut homines trassantes cum ipso ad sequendum latrones, aut ad capiendum latrones:' 'Nobody shall give any disturbance or hinderance to tracing-dogs, or men employed with them to trace or apprehend thieves or malefactors.' This character no way agrees with the Irish wolf-dog ; and the reader must observe, that when Gesner and Aldrovandus wrote, in the sixteenth century, modern Scotland was well known by the name of Scotia, which it was not in the fourth century, when Symmachus wrote the aforesaid epistle ; and, therefore, the Canis Scoticus described by Aldrovandus and Gesner, were dogs of different species."

Thus far we have proved the Irish wolf-dog to have been a large greyhound, of size and strength far superior to ordinary dogs.

The original greyhound was unquestionably a long-haired dog, and the modern smooth-coated and thin animal, now known by that name, is comparatively of recent date. Of this we have sufficient evidence in the ancient monuments of Egypt, where, as well as in Persia and India, rough greyhounds of great size and power still exist. A dog of the same kind has been described by H. Smith, as well known in Arabia; and a gigantic rough greyhound was found by Doctor Clarke, on the confines of Circassia, and by him described as identical with our old Irish greyhound. (Clarke's Travels in Russia, Tartary, and Turkey.)

We find that the smooth greyhound was, on its first introduction, known as " gaze-hound," being remarkable solely for sight and speed, (H. Smith ;) and in process of time the new appellation became forgotten, and merged in the original and well-known one of greyhound, up to that period given exclusively to the long-haired variety, (H. Smith.) We may then infer, that not only was the Irish wolf-dog a greyhound, but also long-haired. Whence he originally came would, perhaps, be difficult to determine with any precision ; but if I might be permitted to hazard a conjecture, I should refer his origin to Western Asia, where we find a distinct representative of him still existing. From thence he was brought by the Scythi, the progenitors of the Scoli, or ancient Irish. Perhaps the best mode of defining the true character of the ancient wolf-dog, will be to point to his modern representative ; and this can, I conceive, be done without difficulty. I may here quote a writer in the " Penny Cyclopaedia," (Art. Ireland,*)—" The Scoti, who were in possession of the island at the time of the introduction of Christianity, appear to have been, to a great extent, the successors of a people whose name and monuments indicate a close affinity with the Belgse (a Teutonic tribe) of Southern Britain. A people also, called Cruithore by the Irish annalists, who are identifiable with the Picts of Northern Britain, continued to inhabit a portion of the island distinct from the Scoti, until after the Christian mission ; and it is observable that the names of mountains and remarkable places in that district, still strikingly resemble tha topographical nomenclature of those parts of North Britain which have not been affected by the Scotic conquest. The monuments and relics which attest the presence of a people considerably advanced in civilization, at some period in Ireland—such as Cyclopean buildings, sepulchral mounds containing stone chambers, mines, bronze instruments and weapons, of classic form and elegant workmanship—would appear to be referable to some of the predecessors of the Scoti, and indicate a close affinity between the earliest inhabitants of Ireland and that ancient people." We may infer, then, that as Ireland was peopled by the Belgse, the Belgic dog of antiquity was the source whence we derived our Irish greyhound.

* My friend, George Petrie, the celebrated Irish antiquarian, who has published an interesting account of Cyclopean architectural remains as found in Ireland, is disposed to connect these remains with the mysterious m\aoyn (Pelasgi) of Herodotus, which have given rise to many Pelasgian theories. He has also found many curious traces of Greece in Ireland. Now the Irish annalists, &c., trace these colonies, as well as the Tuatha da Danaans, (Danai ?) from Greece. Is not Mr. Petrie's opinion, therefore, that to that country we owe the dog, deserving of attention ; and will not this afford some sort of plausibility, at least, to my own derivation of the name of the greyhound : Canis Grains—Grajus—Aive Gracus—Greek hound !

We are informed by two very eminent authorities—the Venerable Bede, and the Scottish historian, Major—that Scotland was peopled from Ireland. We know, and I have shown as much in my extract from Sir James Ware, that by the early writers Scptland was styled Scotia Minor, and Ireland, Scotia Major; and it is scarcely necessary for me to make any remark as to the identity of the native languages of the primitive inhabitants of the two countries. The colonization?therefore, of Scotland from Ireland, under the conduct of Reuda, being admitted, can we suppose that the colonists would omit taking with them specimens of such a noble and gallant dog, and one that must prove so serviceable to their emigrant masters ; and that, too, at a period when men depended upon the chase for their subsistence ? True, this is but an inference ; but is it not to be received as a fact, when we find that powerful and noble dog, the Highland deerhound, a tall, rough greyhound, to have been known in Scotland since its colonization ? Formerly it was called the wolf-dog ; but with change of occupation came change of name. In Ireland, wolves were certainly in existence longer than in Scotland ; but when these animals ceased to exist in the former country, the wolfdogs became gradually lost. Not so in Scotland, where abundant employment remained for them, even after the days of wolf-hunting were over : the Red Deer still remained ; and useful as had these superb dogs proved as wolf-dogs, they became, perhaps, even more valuable as deerhounds.

Such relics of Celtic verse as have escaped the merciless hand of time, and amongst other fragments, those collected by Macpherson, under the title of " The Poems of Ossian," inform us that the ancient Scoti* possessed a gigantic greyhound, an animal of vast size and prodigious strength, qualities more than equalled by his surpassing speed, which was used by warriors of olden time in the chase of the wolf and deer. Such was "bran," "Bounding Bran," " Whitebreasted Bran," " Hairy-footed Bran."f Bran, whose very name is beautifully indicative of his character—of the character of his race—signifying, as Celtic scholars inform us, " mountain torrent." Such, indeed, was Bran, the favorite wolf-dog of Fionn Mac Comhal, popularly known as Fin Mac Coul ; and be it recollected, Fionn was an Irish chieftain, known to modern ears as Fingal.

That the Irish dog was imported into Scotland, and even at a later period than that to which I have alluded, is sufficiently evident from the following document, being a copy of a letter addressed by Deputy Falkland to the Earl of Cork, in 1623 :—

" My Lord,

"I have lately received letters from my Lord Duke of Buccleuch, and others of my noble friends, who have entreated me to send them some greyhound dogs and bitches out of this kingdom, of the largest sort, which, I perceive, they intend to present unto diverse princes, and other noble persons ; and if you can possibly, let them be white, which is the color most in request here. Expecting an answer by the bearer, I commit you to the protection of the Almighty, and am

" Your Lordship's faithful and attached friend,

" Falkland."

* Irish or Scotch indifferently.

These epithets will strongly remind the reader of Homer, and will go to show how nearly the diction of all ancient languages will be found to approximate—" Dog-faced Agamemnon," " Swift-footed Achilles," " Golden-footed Thetis." The simile of " Mountain torrent" is here given, as employed by Ossian, to designate the impetuosity of the wolf-dog. Scott was evidently thinking of this epithet, as thus applied, when he used almost its converse in describing a torrent, as

" A tawny torrent
Like the mane of a chesnnt horse."

Fingal, or Fionn Mac Comhal, son-in-law of Cormac, monarch of Ireland, of whom we read that he was " the most accomplished of all the Milesian princes, whether as legislator, soldier, or scholar—was, according to the general report of all his historians, the monarch and general of the famed Fianna Eiriaun, or ancient Irish militia."—(Moore's Ireland, 1. pp. 130-133.)

Moryson, secretary to Lord Deputy Mountjoy, likewise dwells on the excellence of our Irish greyhounds, while he at the same time pays a compliment to the physical qualities of our men. He observes :—" The Irish men and greyhounds are of great stature." Lombard says that the " best huntingdogs in Europe" were produced in Ireland.

Sir William Betham, Ulster King-at-Arms, has stated it as his conviction, that the Irish wolf-dog was "a gigantic greyhound, not smooth-skinned, like our greyhounds, but rough and curly-haired. The Irish poets call the wolf-dogs ' Cu,' and the common hound ' gayer'—a marked distinction, the word ' Cu' signifying also a champion."

The justly celebrated Ray has described the Irish wolf-dog as a tall, rough greyhound ; and so also has Pennant, who descants at some length on his extraordinary size and power. Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, was presented with one of these dogs by John, king of England. The reader must be familiar with that beautiful ballad, founded on the circumstance of this noble animal's having saved Llewellyn's young heir from the attacks of a wolf, entitled " The Grave of the Greyhound."

In a code of Welsh laws, we find heavy penalties laid down for the maiming or injuring of the Irish greyhound : in this code he is called " Canis Grajus Hybernicus." We know that the dog presented by John was a tall, rough greyhound. These extracts are all confirmatory of the Irish wolf-dog having been a tall, rough dog, of the greyhound make, but far stronger—similar, in short, to the modern Highland deerhound—but I can adduce further reasons why we must regard him as identical with that dog. The canine skulls found by that eminent naturalist, Surgeon Wilde, some years ago, at Dunshaughlin, and described by him in a paper read before the Royal Irish Academy, were evidently those of rough greyhounds, differing from the modern Highland dog, only in their superior size—of which more anon.

The Irish greyhound, although very scarce, and evidently much degenerated, has existed in Ireland until within a few years—and that in well-authenticated purity. Amongst other possessors of the breed, I may mention Robert Evatt, Esq., of Mount Louise, county Monaghan—specimens of whose stock have passed into the hands of Francis Carter, Esq., of Vicars Field, county Dublin. Mr. Carter has been most assiduous in keeping up the breed, by crossing it with the best Scottish and Welsh dogs he could obtain ; and I never could perceive any difference between them, except that the Irish dogs were thicker, and not so high on their legs, as either the Scottish or Welsh. One of these dogs, sent by Mr. Carter to America, coursed and killed a wolf, upon the open prairie, without assistance. Few dogs can do this ; and I refer for my authority to Mr. Carter.

As to the size to which the Irish wolf-dog attained, Goldsmith says that he " saw above a dozen, and one was about four feet high, or as tall as a calf of a year old." Buffon says he never saw more than one, and that it was five feet high when sitting. Ray calls it "the greatest dog he had ever seen." In the same communication from Sir W. Betham,* which I have already quoted, that gentleman says, "Sir J. Browne allowed them to come into his dining-room, when they put their heads over the shoulders of those who sat at table."

If Goldsmith meant that he saw a wolf-dog four feet high at the head, we may believe him; and so may we believe BufFon, if we are to understand him as measuring the sitting dog with a line along the back. I cordially agree that it was " the greatest dog" Ray had ever seen ; but I am uncertain as to the manner in which the dogs described by Sir William Betham " put their heads over the shoulders" of the guests seated at table. Did they place, as dogs are apt to do, their forefeet on the back rung of the chair ? I think they did : still, however, even with these limitations, they must be admitted to have been gigantic dogs.

* Made to Mr IJaffio'.ci in 1841

A large skull was recently found in a bog in Westmeath, by a collector of antiquities and other curiosities, named James Underwood—a man long and favorably known to men of science, for his unwearied diligence, patient research, and acute discernment. Of this skull an account was subsequently published in several of the newspapers, by Mr. Glennon, of 3, Suffolk-street, Dublin, describing it as the skull of our Irish wolf-dog. Every allowance must, however, he made for Mr. Glennon's zeal and anxiety to bring the matter forward in a hurry. The length of this skull was between seventeen and eighteen inches, which would have furnished a living head of upwards of twenty inches. The living owner of the skull must have been at least four and a half or five feet high at the shoulder. I do not, however, believe this to have been the skull of our wolf-dog; although I cannot, at the same time, agree with those who suppose it to be the skull of a bear. Many of these gentlemen are comparative anatomists, and their opinions are deserving of some attention; but to a close observer, the skull in question will be found to present many discrepancies, from the characters of the ursine group of animals. It certainly differs also from the canines, in the absence of the last molar tooth of the upper jaw, and some other particulars. My own opinion is, that this is the skull of an extinct animal, allied to, but by no means identical with the dog ; and an animal with which we are now unacquainted ; partaking, likewise, somewhat of the characteristics of the bears, and perhaps, also, the hysenas. It differs from the skull of the hysena even more than it does from that of the bear. The only bear to whose skull this at all approaches is the Great White Bear, (Ursus Maritimus,) whose head is not at all unlike that of a shaved deerhound. This skull, then, I only mention, in order to avoid any misconception arising relative to it; or any misrepresentation as to my own views respecting it.

The canine skulls found by Surgeon Wilde, at Dunshaughlin, afford a very rational mode of determining the size, or at least, the extreme size, of the wolf-dog in ancient times. The longest of these skulls (at present preserved in the Royal Irish Academy) measures in length, as accurately as may be, eleven inches in the bone. This, at a small computation, allowing for muzzle, hair, skin, and other tissues, would give fourteen inches as the length of the head in life. As the skulls are those of greyhounds, we must take the head of a greyhound to furnish an analogy. Oscar,* the noble dog. property of Mr. J. J. Nolan, which so long proved an ornament to our Zoological Gardens, Phosnix Park, measured nine and a half inches, from muzzle to occiput: his height at the shoulder was twenty-nine inches. The calculation is thus resolved into a common sum in proportion : which may be stated thus; for the sake of brevity we assume Oscar's head to have measured ten inches :—

* Figured in our frontispiece
10 : 29 : 14 : 40-5

This would give a height of three feet four inches ; but this skull was much superior in size to any others ; and we may, therefore, fairly come to the conclusion, that from thirty-six to forty inches was the ordinary stature of the wolf-dog—a height attained to by none of our modern Highland deerhounds, or by any dog with which we are acquainted.

It has been asserted, that the large dogs in possession of the late celebrated Hamilton Rowan, were Irish wolf-dogs—an assertion which I find contradicted by Mr. Martin, (Knight's Weekly Volume, History of the Dog,) on the authority of a " Dublin Correspondent," who has informed him they were not wolf-dogs, but large bloodhounds. The truth is, Mr. Rowan possessed several fine dogs, of the breed called the Great Dane, animals of a slaty-blue mottled color ; but Mr. Rowan was well aware of their proper designation, and never by any chance called them by a wrong name. How any person could be so ignorant of natural history as to call them bloodhounds, I cannot conceive. Mr. Rowan also possessed a wolf-dog, and knew him to be such, calling him the " last of his race." This dog was a very large rough greyhound, of an iron-gray color, perfectly similar to our Highland deerhound. Mr. Carter, a gentleman to whom I have already alluded, recollects this dog perfectly, and affirms him to have in every respect resembled his own, but was superior in size. Mr. Rowan subsequently presented this wolf-dog to Lord Nugent. I suppose this is the dog that Mr. Jesse mentions as having possessed so wondrous a power of detecting, by the scent, the presence of the Irish blood royal !*

The Irish wolf-dog forms the subject of several traditions. The following, relating to " Bran," the favorite hound of Fingal, the hero of Macpherson's Ossian, may not prove uninteresting. There are two accounts of this transaction, one given by Mr. Grant, in his work on the Gael, and the other by Mr. Scrope, in his delightful volume on Deer-stalking. They differ in the result of the encounter. I shall adopt Mr. Scrape's, deeming it the most authentic.

* See " Punch," vol. x., p. 230.

" Fingal agreed to hunt in the forest of Sledale, in company with the Sutherland chief, his cotemporary, for the purpose of trying the comparative merits of their dogs. Fingal brought his celebrated dog Bran to Sutherland, in order to compete with an equally famous dog belonging to the Sutherland chief, and the only one in the country supposed to be any match for him. The approaching contest between these fine animals created great interest; White-breasted Bran was superior to the whole of Fingal's other dogs, even to the 'surly strength of Luah;' but the Sutherland dog, known by the full-sounding name of Phorp, was incomparably the best and most powerful dog that ever eyed a deer in his master's forests.

" When Fingal arrived in the forest with his retinue and dogs, he was saluted with a welcome that may be translated thus—

" ' With your nine great dogs,
With your nine smaller game-starting dogs,
With your nine spears,
Unwieldy weapons!
And with your nine gray, sharp-edged swords,
Famous were you in the foremost fight.'

" The Sutherland chief also made a conspicuous figure, with his followers, and his dogs and weapons for the chase. Of the two rival dogs, Bran and Phorp, the following descriptions have still survived amongst some of the oldest people in Sutherland. Bran is thus represented :—

" ' The hind leg like a hook or bent bow,
The breast like that of a garron,*
The ear like a leaf.'

" Such would Fingal, the chief of heroes, select from amongst the youth of his hunting-dogs. Phorp was black in color, and his points are thus described :—

" ' Two yellow feet such as Bran had;
Two black eyes;
And a white breast;
A back narrow and fair,
As required for hunting;
And two erect ears of a dark brown red.' '

* A stout gelding.

" Towards the close of the day, after some severe runs, which, however, still left the comparative merits of the two dogs a subject of hot dispute, Bran and Phorp were brought front to front, to prove their courage ; and they were no sooner untied, than they sprang at each other, and fought desperately. Phorp seemed about to overcome Bran, when his master, the Sutherland chief, unwilling that cither of them should be killed, called out,' Let each of us take away his dog.' Fingal objected to this; whereupon the Sutherland chief said, with a taunt, that ' it was now evident that the Fingalians did not possess a dog that could match with Phorp.'

" Angered and mortified, Fingal immediately extended his ' venomous paw,' as it is called, (for the tradition represents him as possessing supernatural power.) and with one hand he seized Phorp by the neck, and with the other, which was a charmed and destructive one, he tore out the brave animal's heart. This adventure occurred at a place near the March, between the parishes of Clyne and Kildonan, still called ' Leek na Con,' ' The stone of the dogs,' there having been placed a large stone on (he spot where they fought. The ground over which Fingal and the Sutherland chief hunted that day is called ' Dirri-leck-Con.' Bran suffered so severely in the fight that he died in Glen Loth before leaving the forest, and was buried there. A huge cairn was heaped over him, which still remains, and is known by the name of 'Cairn Bran.'"

In a work published at Belfast, in the year 1829, entitled " The Biography of a Tyrone Family," there is a note at foot of page 74, narrating the mode of the destruction of the last wolves in Ireland. That note I shall abridge thus :—

In the mountainous parts of the county Tyrone, the inhabitants suffered much from the wolves, and gave from the public fund, as much for the head of one of these animals, as they would now give for the capture of a notorious robber on the highway. There lived in those days an adventurer, who, alone and unassisted, made it his occupation to destroy those ravagers. The time for attacking them was in the night, and midnight was the best time for doing so, as that was their wonted time for leaving their lair in search of food, when the country was at rest, and all was still ; then, issuing forth, they fell on their defenceless prey, and the carnage commenced. There was a species of dog for the purpose of hunting them, resembling a rough, stout, half-bred greyhound, but much stronger. In the county Tyrone there was then a large space of ground enclosed by a high stone-wall, having a gap at the two opposite extremities, and in this were secured the flocks of the surrounding farmers. Still, secure though this fold was deemed, it was entered by the wolves, and its inmates slaughtered. The neighboring proprietors having heard of the noted wolf-hunter above mentioned, by name Rory Carragh, sent for him, and offered the usual reward, with some addition, if he would undertake to destroy the two remaining wolves that had committed such devastation. Carragh, undertaking the task, took with him two wolf-dogs, and a little boy, the only person he could prevail on to accompany him, and at the approach of midnight, repaired to the fold in question.

" Now," said Carragh to the boy, " as the wolves usually attack the opposite extremities of the sheepfold at the same time, I must leave you and one of the dogs to guard this one, while I go to the other. He steals with all the caution of a cat, nor will you hear him, but the dog will, and will positively give him the first fall; if you are not active, when he is down, to rivet his neck to the ground with this spear, he will rise up and kill both you and the dog."

" I'll do what I can," said the boy, as he took the spear from the wolf-hunter's hand. The boy immediately threw open the gate of the fold, and took his seat in the inner part, close to the entrance, his faithful companion crouching at his side, and seeming perfectly aware of the dangerous business he was engaged in. The night was very dark and cold, and the poor little boy being benumbed with the chilly air, was beginning to fall into a kind of sleep, when at that instant the dog, with a roar, leaped across him, and laid his mortal enemy upon the earth. The boy was roused into double activity by the voice of his companion, and drove the spear through the wolf's neck, as he had been directed, at which time Carragh made his appearance with the head of the other.

We possess no accurate information as to the date of the destruction of the last Irish wolf. There was a presentment for killing wolves granted at Cork, in 1710. An old gentleman, lately deceased, informed me that his mother had often told him she recollected wolves having been killed in the county Wexford so lately as 1740-50, and it is asserted by credible persons, that a very old one was killed in the county Wicklow in 1770! These assertions, how. ever, depending only on hearsay evidence, are not implicitly to be relied on.


This dog is, as I have shown, the modern representative, unchanged, save as to stature, of the Irish wolf-dog.

The deerhound presents the general aspect of a high-bred greyhound, especially in all the points on which speed and power depend ; but he is built more coarsely, and altogether on a larger and more robust scale. The shoulder is also more elevated, the neck thicker, the head and muzzle coarser, and the bone more massive.

The deerhound stands from twenty-eight to thirty inches in height at the shoulder; his coat is rough, and the hair strong ; color usually iron-gray, sandy-yellow, or white ; all colors should have muzzle and tips of ears black.

Attempts have been made to improve the deerhound by crossing him with other breeds, such as the Pyrenean wolfdog, the bloodhound of Cuba, and the British bloodhound; but all these attempts have failed of their object, and produced only deterioration. The cross with the Cuban bloodhound has proved least objectionable. It was of this breed that Sir Walter Scott's dog, Maida, bred and presented to him by Glengarry, sprung. I must not omit to mention that a tuft, or pencil of dark hair on the tip of the ear, is likewise a proof of high blood. In my opinion the Persian greyhound, or a very similar greyhound at present used in the hills of Macedonia,* would be found a really valuable cross, and would improve, instead of deteriorating this valuable breed, which we may otherwise expect soon to degenerate, if not wholly disappear, from the baneful effects of breeding within too close consanguinity, or, as it is called, "in and in."

Her majesty possesses a magnificent specimen of deerhound, called "Bran." This noble animal stands over thirty inches in height at the shoulder, and is supposed to be the finest specimen of the breed in existence. I am not sure whether Bran was the gift of Lord Glenlyon, but I know that that nobleman presented her majesty with some fine specimens of this breed.

* Described p. 56.

The following description of deer-coursing, extracted from Mr. Scrope's admirable volume, will, I am confident, be read with interest:—

" No time was to be lost: the whole party immediately moved forward in silent and breathless expectation, with the dogs in front, straining in the slips, and on our reaching the top of the hillock, we got a full view of the noble stag, who, having heard our footsteps, had sprung to his legs, and was staring us full in the face, at the distance of ahout sixty yards.

" The dogs were slipped ; a general halloo burst from the whole party, and the stag, wheeling round, set off at full speed, with Buskar and Bran straining after him.

" The brown figure of the deer, with his noble antlers laid back, contrasted with the light color of the dogs stretching along the dark heath, presented one of the most exciting scenes that it is possible to imagine.

" The deer's first attempt was to gain some rising ground to the left of the spot where we stood, and rather behind us; but being closely pursued by the dogs, he soon found that his only safety was in speed; and as a deer does not run well up hill, nor, like a roe, straight down hill, on the dogs approaching him he turned and almost retraced his footsteps, taking, however, a steeper line of descent than the one by which he ascended. Here the chase became most interesting ; the dogs pressed him hard, and the deer, getting confused, found himself suddenly on the brink of a small precipice, of about fourteen feet in height, from the bottom of which there sloped a rugged mass of stones. He paused for a moment as if afraid to take the leap, but the dogs were so close that he had no alternative.

" At this time the party were not above 150 yards distant, and most anxiously awaited the result, fearing, from the ruggedness of the ground below, that the deer would not survive the leap. They were, however, soon relieved from their anxiety; for though he took the leap, he did so more cunningly than gallantly, dropping himself in the most singular manner, so that his hind legs first reached the broken rocks below : nor were the dogs long in following him ; Buskar sprang first, and extraordinary to relate, did not lose his legs; Bran followed, and on reaching the ground, performed a complete somerset; he soon, however, recovered • his legs, and the chase was continued in an oblique direction down the side of a most rugged and rocky brae, the deer apparently more fresh and nimble than ever, jumping through the rocks like a goat, and the dogs well up, though occasionally receiving the most fearful falls.

" From the high position in which we were placed, the chase was visible for nearly half a mile. When some rising ground intercepted our view, we made with all speed for a higher point, and on reaching it we could perceive that thi» dogs, having got upon smooth ground, had gained on the deer, who was still going at speed, and were now close up with him. Bran was then leading, and in a few seconds was at his heels, and immediately seized his hock with such violence of grasp, as seemed in a great measure to paralyze the limb, for the deer's speed was immediately checked.

" Buskar was not far behind, for soon afterwards passing Bran, he seized the deer by the neck. Notwithstanding the weight of the two dogs which were hanging to him, having the assistance of the slope of the ground, he continued dragging them along at a most extraordinary rate, in defiance of their utmost exertions to detain him, and succeeded more than once in kicking Bran off. But he became at length exhausted ; the dogs succeeded in pulling him down, and though he made several attempts to rise, he never completely regained his legs. On coming up, we found him perfectly dead."

I have seen smooth deerhounds in Scotland, but they were not deerhounds properly so called, being merely a cross between the ordinary greyhound and foxhound. In such caso it is better that the greyhound should be father, as you will thus be more likely to obtain size and power, combined with swiftness. This is more particularly to be attended to when it is the rough greyhound to which you resort, for among all the rough greyhounds, and more especially those of Ireland and Scotland, there exists a greater disparity of size between male and female, than between the sexes of any other member of the canine family. For instance, of a litter of pups— a dog shall grow to the height of, say, thirty inches—and not a female of the same litter shall exceed twenty-four inches in height at the shoulder. This is a very remarkable fact, and worthy of attention.

The bloodhound has been employed as a cross, but the progeny arc too slow and heavy for deer coursing, whatever they may be worth as finders, for which latter purpose why not use the bloodhound at once, without resorting to any cross at all ? It is a pity that the deerhound should be so scarce ; if suffered to become extinct, we may seek in vain for any dog that shall combine in his single person so many valuable qualities.


This is but a degenerate deerhound—a deerhound rendered inferior in size, less shaggy in coat, less ardent and courageous in the chase, less powerful, and therefore less serviceable for deer-coursing, by the effects of breeding too long within the degrees of consanguinity, or, perhaps, from having been crossed with some other breed, most probably the lurcher, or the smooth greyhound. Under these circumstances I do not think any description of him necessary : his height seldom exceeds twenty-seven inches ; his color is usually white, or gray, though often brindled.

The Lurcher is a mongrel, bred from greyhound and any other dog, usually the shepherd's dog, or terrier ; though for deer-stalking, often the bloodhound or foxhound. They are not creditable followers, being in greater demand by poachers. This dog will be noticed in his proper place as a mongrel.

Although I have here separated the Irish wolf-dog from the Highland deerhound, and from the Scottish greyhound, I have only done so, partly in conformity with general opinion that I have yet to correct, and partly because these three dogs, though originally identical, are now unquestiona bly distinct in many particulars. That is to say, the modern Highland deerhound, though the descendant of the Irish wolf-dog, yet in some respects differs from what that noble animal was; and the Scottish greyhound, again, is just as different from his prototype the deerhound. THE GREAT DANE*

This is a dog of gigantic stature ; he is, indeed, perhaps, one of the very largest dogs with which we are at presenly acquainted, standing from thirty to thirty-two inches in height at the shoulder, or even more. In form, the Dane is very powerful, but yet graceful ; his head is elongated, but the muzzle does not taper to a point—it is, on the contrary, somewhat truncated, looking as if it had been originally intended to be longer, but had been abruptly cut short within an inch of what should have been the muzzle. The coat of the Dane is close and short, and its color, although occasioiially fulvous or yellow, is more frequently a bluish, slaty white, marked with spots, or rather blotches, of brown and black. The ears of the Dane are short, and droop, but very slightly. I never yet saw an imported specimen that had not the ears cropped oil' close to the skull. In ils native country the Dane is employed chiefly in boar-hunting ; it was also formerly used in the chase of the elk. It is not improbable that the Danes brought this dog with them to Ireland when they invaded that country, and that it was employed as an auxiliary in wolf-hunting. Once the matter came to a regular grapple, few dogs could have proved more serviceable ; and few could have afforded a better cross with our own ancient wolf-dog. That such crossing did actually take place, is more than probable ; and hence the many misconceptions that have since arisen relative to the real characters of our genuine Irish wolf-dog. Hamilton Rowan had some very fair specimens; so had Lord Altamont—also.Lord O'Neil; but by far the finest I ever had the good fortune to see, was " Hector," the property of his Grace the Duke of Buecleuch, still living, about ten years ago, at Dalkeith palace.* Hector stood a trifle more than thirty-two inches in height at the shoulder; notwithstanding that when I measured him he was close upon his twentieth year, and consequently much drooped. I had the honor of receiving an interesting communication from the duke respecting him, in which his grace stated, that Hector had been purchased by his brother, Lord John Scott, from a student at Dresden, and that the breed were called, in Germany and Saxony, " boar-dogs." His grace also informed me that Hector was the tallest dog he had ever seen.

* Since dead, and preserved by Mr. Carfrae of Edinburgh.

* I may remind my readers that this dog has also been set forward as the Irish Wolf-dog.

Hector was very good-natured, and far from being quarrelsome. He frequently took a walk into the little town of Dalkeith, on which occasions he was often followed by the street dogs, and they would sometimes even venture upon an attack. Until an absolute aggression was made, however, Hector contented himself with proceeding on his way in dignified contempt; but if a Newfoundland, mastiff, or other dog at all approaching to his own size, dared to meddle with him, he would " turn him up" in a twinkling, and, raising his hind leg, treat him with the strongest mark of canine contumely.

I had a son of Hector's, not, however, true bred, but produced from a South American dam, of the so-called tigerhound breed. " Lincoln" was his name. This was, without exception, the best dog I ever knew. In attachment and sagacity he more than equalled the spaniel, and his courage was of the most indomitable kind. Often have I seen him from my window engaged in conflict with two or three large Newfoundland dogs resident in the neighborhood, and have rushed to the rescue, but have as often found him victorious ere I could interfere. Lincoln's only fault was a propensity to kill cats ; and of this he was eventually cured, by one of those animals, at whom he rushed with open mouth, mistaking his fury for play, and rubbing herself, purring, against the very jaws that were open to crush her.


EDITOR NOTE: You can read
HDR's Dublin Penny Journal 1841 article here

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