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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Thursday, August 19, 2010

rather patronizing 19th c thoughts on the italian greyhound

The following excerpt is found in A history and description of the modern dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (Non-Sporting Edition) by Rawdon B. Lee (London: Horace Cox, 1894). You'll see it's lengthier than I usually go in for, but I was so struck by the sheer John Bull roast-beef English attitude toward these elegant (and foreign!) creatures.

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THIS graceful and fragile little creature, with the equally choice Maltese dog, may not survive long in this country. He has never been a particularly great favourite, owing doubtless to his delicate constitution and the great difficulty there has always been to produce perfect specimens of the ordinary English greyhound in miniature, which the so-called Italian variety undoubtedly ought to be, though in proportion the limbs of the latter are more slim, and were never ordained by nature for rougher work than playing on the lawn, or having a romp in the dining room.

Here is what a writer at the commencement of the century says of what he calls "a diminutive native breed, which seem only calculated to sooth vanity and indulge frivolities: these dogs are so deficient of the spirit, sagacity, fortitude, and selfdefence of every other sort of the canine race as not to be able to officiate in the services of domestic alarm and protection ; and in consequence are dedicated only to the comforts of the tea table, the fire-side carpet, the luxurious indulgences of the sofa, and the warm lap of the mistress. As a proof of the delicacy of this little animal, it is averred that if held up by its legs the texture of the skin is so exceedingly fine when interveningly opposed to the sun, or a strong light, that the distinct chain of the intestinal canal is truly perceptible to a nice observer." The fallacy of this must be apparent.

When the Italian greyhound became fashionable in this country there is nothing to tell us, but that it was a favourite at Court in the time of the Stuarts there is no doubt whatever, though I fancy at that time it was a bigger and stronger animal than it came to be at the early part of this century. In the picture gallery at Hampton Court there is a portrait of the Queen of James I. in the act of mounting a horse attended by a black servant. In the picture are included several Italian greyhounds, some of them fawn in colour, others blue and blue and white, and they are undoubtedly going to accompany their royal mistress on her equestrian excursion. These dogs, although much of the make and build of the Italian greyhounds of the present day, appear to be somewhat larger, going perhaps up to 16lb. in weight; still they are unmistakably of the same stamp we have now, and their appearance in the picture is sufficient proof that such dogs were fashionable very early in the seventeenth century, for James came from Scotland to be King of England in 1603. (pps. 334-37)

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1 comment:

parlance said...

Definitely John Bullish, and also, in my opinion, sexist - those women with their useless little dogs!