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 flesh."

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 particular.

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 Kingdom.

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 none.

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 foreign dogs.

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 price.

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 England.

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 indeed.

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 animals.

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 appeared.

The "Times," however, for the 2nd December, says it was a most capital show.

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 by him.

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 cut-and-come-again sort.

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.