The previous poll about the Dandie Dinmont terrier was not a rhetorical question. I don’t think anyone has a good answer about where to classify it. If a dachshund is a hound, then this dog is more hound than a dachshund is. If a Boston terrier isn’t an earth dog and cannot be considered a terrier, then the current form of Dandie Dinmont is the same boat. Both dogs have definite terrier in them, but they have other things. I think I will show you what we know about Dandie Dinmonts and see if we can find a place to fit them.
1. This breed is meant to be a pet dog. It really does not have the working temperament of a terrier, and it is quite large. Because its temperament is more docile than other terriers, it should have been promoted as a family dog– which it was for most of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
2. The classic text on this breed’s origins is The Dandie Dinmont Terrier: Its Origin and Characteristics by Charles Cook (1885). The author actually went to the areas where this breed originated and tried to retrace its ancestry. Such a task does not seem difficult on face value. The Dandie Dinmont had only been standardized in 1876, and it surely would have been easy to trace this breed’s origin from that spot. The exact origins, though, become nebulous.
The earliest record of such a dog comes an eighteenth century “tinker” (I assuming this means Roma) named Willie “Piper” Allan, who lived near Rothbury, Northumberland. Piper was called “Piper” because he played the bagpipes. His dogs were terriers used to hunt otters. Now, hunting otters requires a different terrier from hunting foxes. It requires a larger dog and one that is a bit gamer. Of course, it is illegal to hunt otters in the UK, so such dogs would be out of work now. From the Allan strain of working terrier, a large number of these dogs became popular among the farmers of the Borders and Northumberland.
They were called “mustards” and “peppers.” Mustards were reddish brown in color, and peppers were gray. Sir Walter Scott became familiar with these dogs and then he included them in his novel Guy Mannering. Dandie Dinmont is a character in the novel. He is a farmer who keeps a pack of these terriers, which are named “Auld Mustard” and “Auld Pepper” or “Young Mustard” and “Young Pepper,” depending upon their color.
Now, this novel was one of Scott’s best selling novels, and its characters were well-established within the British public’s mind.
This is where things start to get murky. Dandie Dinmont was based upon a real person named James Davidson. Davidson also named all of his dogs “Mustard” and “Pepper.” These dogs are supposedly drawn from the Allan strain of these terriers, and the foundation dogs were named “Tarr” and “Pepper.”
These dogs are supposedly the ancestors of all Dandies Dinmont terriers in existence today.
Now, things start to really get murky. Regular readers of this blog know about the Dukes of Buccleuch. It is from the breeding program of the Dukes of Buccleuch that we get the modern Labrador retriever, which was standardized from imported St. John’s water dogs that were crossed with other retrievers, spaniels, and hounds on their estate in Scotland. One day, a dog named “Old Pepper” was caught in snare on the 5th Duke of Buccleuch’s estate. This dog is considered the ancestor of the modern Dandie Dinmont terrier.
The pedigree of this dog was unknown. However, a son of “Old Pepper” named “Old Ginger” is known to be the ancestor of every Dandie Dinmont in existence today. Of course, within just a few decades after receiving this backing from the Dukes of Buccleuch, the dog became a popular pet dog in the UK.
I’m sure some of its popularity had to do with the fact that it was associated with the dogs in Guy Mannering.
But we still don’t know exactly what they are.
One of my favorite theories is that these dogs are the result of crossing dachshunds with Scottish terriers. I think it is basically nonsense. Dachshunds were not common in rural England or Scotland at the time. I think it takes a big leap to say that this theory is actual origin theory.
Another theory says that these dogs were the aboriginal terrier of the Borders and Northumberland. Some evidence for this exists. Some dog remains that were unearthed near Hadrian’s Wall were short-legged and long-backed like dachshunds. It is possible that the landrace terrier of this part of Britain is actually more like a dachshund or a Dandie Dinmont.
All of these theories have holes in them. The main working terrier of this region today is the fell-type, which is the ancestor of the Patterdale, the modern fell, and the border terrier. It is not a short-legged dog in the least. It is nothing like a dachshund. Maybe these dogs replaced that earlier strain.
Or maybe the mustard and pepper terriers were actually something else.
Now, it is now often hypothesized that dachshunds are related to the turnspit dogs. In fact, one authority believes that the original difference between a turnspit or a dachshund was whether a commoner or a noble owned them. It is also widely accepted that the Irish Glen of Imaal terrier is derived from the turnspit. And I think it is likely that the Dandie Dinmont terrier is also derived from a turnspit dog. That’s why they look like dachshunds.
First of all, turnspits are probably related to terriers. However, they were used very differently. They were used to turn wheels that turned cooking spits, and thus, they were used by the early open-air restaurants to cook large amounts of meat. The dogs are mentioned in Caius’s Of English Dogs (1576), and they were common in many European countries.
Because these dogs were common “equipment,” it is very likely that Border “mugger” or “tinker” (Roma) could obtain some of these dogs and use them for hunting otters, perhaps crossing them game terriers and adding some basset or otterhound blood.
Now, when the turnspit’s original purpose became obsolete, it is generally believed to have become extinct. The last of these dogs was named “Whiskey” and ooked a lot like a small long-haired dachshund. You can see her taxidermied form for yourself.
But it is also that these dogs played a role in developing some standardized breeds. In dachshunds, it is becoming more common to postulate about the turnspit’s relationship to the that breed.
And I think it is very likely that the Dandie Dinmont is derived from a turnspit that may have been used as a terrier for a time. It is also possible that the dog caught in the trap at the Buccleuch estate was actually an errant turnspit and not a terrier. In which case, it actually belongs in the Utility or Nonsporting group.
Having looked at the sources, I have no idea where the Dandie Dinmont belongs. I’ll have to my readers who are terrier experts to look through what I’ve found. I need more connections to the mustard and pepper terriers, the Allan strain of these dogs, and the dogs currently called Dandie Dinmonts to really be convinced. However, I am aware that my theory that these dogs are derived from turnspits also requires evidence, and all I have is some intelligent speculation.