A Birmingham Dog Show by "Old Calabar"
Fourteen years have passed away and somewhat mildewed my hair since the
first show of dogs took place at Birmingham.
How many glorious fellows connected with that and subsequent
exhibitions have "gone from our gaze," never again to be seen by those
who were "hail-fellow well met" with them!
Poor Frederick Burdett, Paul Hakett, George Jones, George Moore, that
inimitable judge of a pointer; Joseph Lang, and lately, Major Irving,
with a host of others, have passed away.
Ruthless Death, with his attendant, "Old Father Time," has mowed them
down in quick succession without favour or distinction.
It makes one sad to think of it; and also to know that some who are in
the land of the living have, to use a sporting expression, "cut it."
For years I have not seen "the Prior," "Idstone," the Revs. O'Grady and
Mellor, John Walker of Halifax, and Croppen of Horncastle. Yet I know
that some of them are still to the fore in dog matters, and are running
their race against "all time."
Poor Walker, by-the-by, I saw last year. He was unfortunately shot by
accident some two or three seasons back by a friend; he has never, if I
may so term it, "come with a rush" again. William Lort, one of our
oldest judges, is hard at work here, there, and everywhere, with one or
two more of the old circuit.
What has become of Viscount Curzon, who so well filled the chair at the
Annual Dinner? Death has been busy again, for Viscount Curzon is, by
the demise of his father, now Earl Howe. The last time I saw his
Lordship was at the "Hen and Chickens" at Birmingham, in 1869. Poor
Lord Garvagh was on his right hand; he too has gone "the way of all
On that occasion I remember that prince of good fellows, R. L. Hunt,
who has been connected with the show from its commencement, singing a
song that made our hair curl, and drove one or two white-tied gentlemen
from the room.
The Earl Howe has been chairman of the Committee ever since the show
was started, and Mr George Beech, the secretary, nearly as long; and
right well has he done his work.
I do not exactly know with whom the idea of dog shows originated. My
old friend, the late Major Irving, told me it was with Frederick
Burdett; others have informed me it was Mr Brailsford, the father of
the present men, and formerly keeper to the Earl of Derby, the present
Earl's father. Whoever it originated with, it was a happy idea, and has
given endless amusement to thousands.
As I have often stated, I do not think shows have improved the breed of
dogs, but they have brought many strains forward which were known
nothing about before, except to a few.
Dog shows have opened the door to a good deal of roguery; unscrupulous
breeders have bred dogs for size, head, coat, and colour. To effect
this they have mixed up strains; the consequence is that, although it
cannot be detected by the judges, the animals are, in reality, nothing
more or less than mongrels; this has been done more particularly in the
sporting classes, and with fox-terriers especially.
But dog shows are wonderfully popular all over the kingdom. It has not
rested with us alone, for the French have for years had exhibitions,
and this year there was one at Vienna.
It has often surprised me there is so much wrangling, and so many
letters from disappointed exhibitors, after a dog show. The same thing
does not occur in cattle and horse shows; why then with dog shows?
The Birmingham Dog Show is a favourite of mine. Everything is so well
conducted and carried out. The comfort of the animals is strictly
attended to, and the building is spacious and airy. You see so many old
friends you would not otherwise meet, which makes it very enjoyable.
One of the most celebrated breeders of bloodhounds is Major John A.
Cowen, of Blaydon Burn, Blaydon-on-Tyne; and he has also a famous breed
of setters, but he never has a bad one of any sort.
All coursing men breed good greyhounds, so I cannot pitch on anyone in
particular for these—and foxhounds, deerhounds, otterhounds, harriers
or beagles, are bred by so many that I cannot pick out anyone in
The most celebrated breeders of fox-terriers are Messrs Murchison and
Gibson, Brokenhurst, Lymington, Hants; Mr Cropper, of Horncastle, and
Mr T. Wootton, Mapperley, near Nottingham. Of pointers, small and
medium-sized, perhaps Mr Whitehouse, Ipsley Court, Redditch,
Warwickshire, is the best known; of the large size, Mr Thomas Smith,
The Grange, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton; Richard Garth, Esq., Q.C.; Lord
Downe, Danby Lodge, Yarm, Yorkshire; Mr Francis R. Hemming, Bentley
Manor, Bromsgrove, and others. Of setters, R. Ll. Purcell-Llewellin,
Esq., Willesley Hall, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Leicestershire; Edward
Laverack, Esq., Broughall Cottage, near Whitchurch, Shropshire; Geo.
Jones, Esq., Ivy Cottage, Ascott; Thomas Pilkington, Esq., Lyme Grove,
Prescot, Lancashire; Major John A. Cowen, Blaydon Burn,
Blaydon-on-Tyne; Captain Thomas Allaway, Highbury House, near Lydney;
Captain Richard Cooper, Thornly Hall, Welford, Rugby; Capt. Hutchison;
The Prior, and many others. Of retrievers, I shall only name one, Mr J.
D. Gorse, Old Manor House, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Notts. His curly
black-coated dogs are the handsomest I ever saw.
There are so many different breeds of spaniels that I will not attempt
to name any breeders—their name is legion—neither do I intend to
touch on the non-sporting classes; but should anyone wish to know where
any particular sort of dog is to be had, and will write to me, I shall
have great pleasure in giving him every information.
Gentlemen who are anxious to become members of a canine society,
cannot, I imagine, do better than belong to the National, which is
composed of many of the first noblemen and sportsmen in the United
The society held their show the latter part of last year at Nottingham,
and a very capital show it was, too, and bids fair to be second to
To exhibitors, disappointed or otherwise, I would say, never mind the
reports you read in papers as to the merits or demerits of your dogs;
remember that such reports are only the production of one, and
that one may know just as much of a dog as he does of the man in the
moon. It is amusing to read the accounts of a show in the different
papers. I have very frequently seen every one of them disagree; one
calling a dog a splendid animal; another, that the said splendid animal
was nothing but a cur: so I say, never be disheartened at what the
papers may write, and remember the fable of the old man and his ass.
Curzon Hall has been much enlarged of late years, and it is now not
nearly big enough for the number of dogs that are sent. It is a fine
building, and eminently adapted for the purpose. Walking along the
galleries, which are very spacious, you can look over and see all the
dogs below and the people as well.
The entries this year are exactly thirty-three in advance of 1872. Take
it altogether, it is the best entry, as to numbers and quality, they
have ever had. The total entries in the sporting classes were 557;
viz.:—10 bloodhounds, 23 deerhounds, 19 greyhounds, 4 otterhounds, 11
harriers, 8 beagles, 127 fox-terriers, 85 pointers, 87 setters, 78
retrievers, 82 spaniels, 15 Dachshunds, and 5 in the extra class for
any foreign breed of sporting dogs.
For dogs not used in field-sports there were 387 entries; viz.:—46
mastiffs, 24 St Bernards, 19 Newfoundlands, 26 sheep-dogs, 6
Dalmatians, 23 bull-dogs, 27 bull-terriers, 15 smooth-haired terriers,
25 black-and-tan terriers, 16 Skye terriers, 15 Dandie Dinmonts, 6
broken-haired terriers, 17 Bedlington terriers, 12 wire-haired
terriers, 14 Pomeranians, 19 pugs, 6 Maltese, 7 Italian greyhounds, 8
Blenheim spaniels, 7 King Charles spaniels, 28 toy terriers, and 21
I have before remarked that many, very many, find fault with the
decisions of judges when there is no occasion to do so, and some when
there is just reason; but they should remember it is not etiquette to
question the judges' fiat. They enter their dogs subject to those who
are chosen to adjudicate on their merits; and after the awards are
made, right or wrong, there should be an end to the matter.
I have always thought, and always shall think, that the public would be
much more satisfied if they knew who the judges would be at the time a
show was advertised. Those intending to exhibit could then do as they
liked, enter or not. But, on the other hand, if this were done, the
entries would not be nearly so numerous, and the receipts smaller in
proportion; but in such a show as Birmingham, where the Committee have
a good balance in hand, it would not much matter. At any rate, it is
worth the trial. The Birmingham Committee is composed of men who are
thoroughly well up on the subject, and have, doubtless, good reasons
for continuing as they do.
An attempt was made, some years ago, of judging by points—a thoroughly
absurd notion, and one worthy of those from whom it emanated.
Fancy men who really knew what a dog was, going about with a tape, like
a tailor! Would you see judges of horses or cattle doing this? Perhaps
to take the girth of a bullock it might be, and is done; but that is
all, except weighing them. When the entries are numerous, of course it
takes time to judge them. In such a class as the fox-terriers, which is
extremely large at Birmingham—this year it being no less than 127, and
many of the animals being very evenly balanced—it is anything but an
easy task; but with all this, judges generally manage to spot the right
animals. It does not follow that sporting dogs who gain a prize at a
show are any good for the field. Many first-prize dogs are utterly
useless for it, never having been broken: and, if they had, might
perhaps have turned out worthless. Dogs of the first breed are often
gun-shy, want nose, face, method of range, will not back or stand, and
are otherwise utterly unmanageable. It is not every dog that breaks
well; not one in ten makes what is called a first-class animal. All
judges can do, when the dogs are led from their benches, is to give
prizes to those who come up to the standard in head, shape, strength,
colour, and general goodness of formation.
At some shows judging in public is the fashion; but this is a very
great mistake, and has been proved to be so time after time. Judges
should be quite to themselves when they are giving their awards; and
not have a crowd around them making their remarks, which are sometimes
anything but flattering. A dog, to win at such a show as Birmingham,
must not only be handsome, but he must go up in good coat and in the
pink of condition.
Having now given a general outline of the Birmingham Dog Show from its
commencement, I will turn to the show itself for this year. Take it
altogether, it has been the most successful one that has yet taken
place; and when in Class 3, bloodhounds (dogs), the following prices
are attached to them, perhaps all readers may form some idea how the
owners value their animals:—Rival, £500; Brutus, £1000; Baron, £1050;
Draco, £10,000,000,000. Of course these prices are only put against
them to show they are not for sale. Another, by the same owner as
Draco, was merely £10,000. So highly are stock dogs and breeding
bitches valued, that it is simply impossible to get them; and it is
very rarely the best pups are sold, and if they are, at an enormous
Altogether, there were 103 classes, so it will be impossible for me to
notice all; in fact, I must leave the non-sporting classes, and confine
myself to pointers, setters, spaniels, and retrievers.
I will take three gentlemen who sent heavy entries:—Mr Price of
Rhiwlas, Bala, North Wales, had fourteen entries, comprising 1
fox-terrier, 6 pointers, 1 setter, 2 retrievers, 1 spaniel, 1
sheep-dog, 1 Dalmatian and 1 bull-dog. He only got with these, two
first prizes, one commended, and five highly commended. Notwithstanding
all the puff and long pedigrees given by this gentleman in the
catalogues, it will be seen he did not do very much. Two of the highly
commended ones, Ginx's Baby, and a dog with an unwriteable name, were
bred by Mr Purcell Llewellin, who has three more of the same litter in
his kennel far superior to these. His pointer bitch, Belle, was absent,
but in her place was a large photograph—another species of puff. The
bitch is not A 1, being a soft, tiring animal. In the catalogue she
appears with £10,000,000,000 as her price. Take away the figure 1, and
we should then get at her right value. As regards his old setter,
Regent, who took a first in Class 34, it is an incomprehensible bit of
judgment; for Mr Llewellin's eleven months old, Flame, was the best in
the class, far away. I am forced to admit that the Rhiwlas kennel is
but a second-rate one. Mr Purcell Llewellin had eight entries, one
absent (Nellie). None of his dogs were in feather, yet so good are they
that out of the seven who represented him six were to the fore—two
first prizes, one second prize, and three highly commended. This is
something like form. Prince took the first in the Champion Class. He
is, without doubt, the handsomest headed setter in England, and the
Champion Countess not only very beautiful, but the best in the
field. Prince won at the Crystal Palace this year, taking champion
prize and extra cup—the same at Birmingham in 1872 and 1873; first
prize and extra cup at the Crystal Palace in 1872; at Birmingham in
1871 and 1872, first prize and extra cup. He has never been shown
anywhere else, and has never been beaten. Countess, the nonpareil,
though out of feather, was in good muscle and condition, and beat Mr
Dickens's celebrated Belle. Countess has only been exhibited four
times—at the Crystal Palace and Birmingham—has won each time and
never been beaten. Take her altogether she is the setter of
Mr Whitehouse of Ipsley Court, Warwickshire, had an entry of twelve—11
pointers and 1 retriever. Out of these there were three first prizes,
one second, one highly commended, and one commended. It will thus be
seen that, as breeders, both Mr Whitehouse, for pointers, and Mr
Purcell Llewellin, for setters, are far before Mr Price—and will be,
for his animals are not up to the mark. Mr Thomas Smith of the Grange,
Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, had a grand entry of ten; and he spotted
three first prizes and one commended. Take the setters all through,
they were very good.
The black-and-tan setters in Class 37 (dogs) were good; but in Class 38
(bitches) were still better.
Class 39, setters (Irish dogs), was good. Curiously enough, there was
exactly the same entry this year as last, viz., 14. Mr Stone, with
Dash, spotted the first prize; Mr Purcell Llewellin, the second with
Kite, V.H.C. with Kimo, and three others got V.H.C.
In 1872 the entry for Class 40, setters (Irish bitches), was 10; this
year it was only 8; but they were the best lot that have ever been
shown at the Hall, and so highly were they thought of by the judges
that every one in the class was highly commended. Here three gentlemen,
probably the best breeders of the Irish setter we have, contended,
viz.:—Captains Cooper and Allaway and Mr Purcell Llewellin. Captain
Cooper exhibited three, Captain Allaway one, Mr Llewellin one; but the
first prize fell to neither of these gentlemen, Mr Jephson beating them
on the post with Lilly II., and Captain Cooper running a good second
with Eilie; though neither were bred by the same gentleman, yet each
was two years and four months old.
There were 78 entries for retrievers. For the best in all classes
(curly-coated), Mr Morris took it with True; he also secured the
Champion Class Bitches (curly-coated) with X L; second prize in Class
43 with Marquis; highly commended in same class with Monarch; first
prize in Class 44 with Moretta. So with an entry of six he secured
three first prizes, one second, and one highly commended—good form
My old friend Mr Gorse, one of our very best breeders, took the
champion prize in smooth or wavy-coated dogs with Sailor, four years
old; and a fine animal he is. The spaniels were 82 entries, and some
very good ones, too, there were among them. Classes 55 and 56 were
capital. Better have never been seen at Curzon Hall.
The greyhounds were a poor lot. It is not the time of year for hounds
or greyhounds, as they are all at work.
The non-sporting and toy classes were well represented. And it was
amusing to see the excitement and hear the exclamations of some of the
ladies on looking at the cages which held these beautiful little
I have often thought how much better it would be if ladies, or others
who want dogs, instead of sending to a London dealer, who is almost
sure to "do" them, were to attend such shows as Birmingham, the Crystal
Palace, or Nottingham. There you can pick out what you want—always
remembering you must give a good price for a good article. But, then,
if you intend to exhibit, and you have a good animal, it will soon pay
itself; and if you breed, the pups will see your money back.
Good as the other exhibitions have been at Birmingham, this must be
considered the best; and with an entry of 944 against 911 of last year.
At the time of writing this—the 3rd December—I have seen no letters
from disappointed exhibitors or others. But then, "Bell's Life," "Land
and Water," and THE Authority (query) have not yet
The "Times," however, for the 2nd December, says it was a most capital
Both Mr Murchison and the Rev. Mr Tennison Mosse were conspicuous by
their absence, but I hope to see them to the fore again at the Crystal
Palace Show, with their unapproachable fox and Dandie Dinmont terriers.
Talking of fox-terriers, I have overlooked them. Not only was the entry
a grand one (127), but the quality was good too. I love the terrier,
for he is a sporting little dog, no matter what breed; but the
fox-terrier is the favourite, if one may judge from the entries. But
why other terriers, such as smooth-haired, black-and-tan, Skye,
drop-eared, and others, Dandie Dinmont, broken-haired, wire-haired, and
Bedlington should not be included in the sporting classes, I have ever
been at a loss to imagine. There is no better terrier exists to drive
heavy gorse for rabbits than the Dandie Dinmont. He is the gamest of
the game, and no cover, however thick, will stop him. Mr Wootton of
Mapperley, near Nottingham, has a magnificent breed of wire-haired
terriers, the best in England. For this class (92), there were twelve
entries; but Mr Wootton skinned the lamb, taking first and second
prizes with Venture and Tip, and the highly commended Spot being bred
Whatever sort of terrier Mr Wootton has, you may be sure of one
thing—that it is the right sort.
I confess to a penchant for the wire-haired terrier, rather than
the fox-terrier, for the latter are now bred very soft and
delicate—there is too much Italian greyhound in them for me. Of course
I am speaking generally. Give me, if I must have fox-terriers, hard
ones, such as Old Jock was—something that will stand wet and cold, the
One thing I sincerely hope will be done away with next year at
Birmingham, viz.:—the photographic dodge of advertisement, as was the
case with Mr Price's Belle. It is quite wearying enough to inflict his
long-winded pedigrees on the public, without the picture puff; and I
trust the committee will see the necessity of putting a stop to this,
or in a few years Curzon Hall will be turned into a photographic
gallery instead of a dog show, which I hardly think would be pleasing
to the visitors.
The next dog show of any importance will be at the Crystal Palace, held
from June 9th to the 12th. It is to be hoped that the judges this year
will be properly selected; but as it is to be held under the auspices
of the Kennel Club, I suppose none but their own clique will officiate.
But let me hope they will see the folly of such a course, and that they
will select judges that do not belong to their association—then the
public will have confidence, which they will not if members of the
club exhibit, and members of the club adjudicate.