Let me ask another question. Where does the Series I Landrover belong?
Well, it’s definitely a classic. It was the first vehicle of its class – a good all-round utility vehicle; small but powerful. Not very fast but tough and versatile. It has been developed over many generations, and despite many copies, its descendants are (arguably) still the best at what they do. And the Series I is still just as capable as it was sixty years ago.
So back to the Dandie. It was developed as a good all round sporting terrier in the days when there was nothing else in its class. There was the ‘Scotch terrier’, the otter hound, the deer hound and so on, but the Dandie was ‘designed’ to combine the best features of all that was available in a small low-maintenance dog.
I say designed – they seem to have been carefully and selectively bred by the Border Gypsies, and particularly a man called William Allan, from the available stock. They have a steady temperament, a waterproof non-shedding coat, short legs for going to ground, very powerful jaws (I’m told they have a very painful bite, though I’ve never yet had reason to experience this personally!), and a high pain threshold. They were designed for poaching, but also had to be easy to live with in the gypsies’ ‘itinerant’ lifestyle.
Through the eighteenth century, they proved to be very effective hunters of foxes badgers and otters. So much so that the wealthy aristocrats would hire the services of the gypsies to dispose of such ‘vermin’. The aristocrats wanted to buy the dogs, but the shrewd gypsies would not sell at any price. It was only after Will Allan’s death in 1779, and later the imprisonment (again!) of his son Jamie, that the dogs which later became known as Dandie Dinmonts got out into wider ownership.
So meanwhile, the more ‘modern’ terriers such as Borders and Lakelands came along. Most of them have Dandie in their breeding. They may be more refined in many ways than the Dandie, and they are certainly now better known and more widely used – and the Dandie through its scarcity has become more of a show dog and rarely used as a working terrier – but as a good all rounder the Dandie still has a lot in its favour. Its temperament is much calmer that most terriers.
I say it is rarely used nowadays, but I know of at least two people who have worked Dandies in recent years. One of my own Dandies had a really good working temperament, and used to be able to feed herself off the land quite happily – though she’s almost 14 now, so a bit past it. I have seen her go to ground after a fox, but I was able to call her off (try that with other terrier breeds). I have to be very careful in my local area to keep her on the lead near badger setts.
And not so long ago there was a renowned terrier man by the name of Alf Rhodes, with a Dandie called Cindy who had “despatched over two dozen foxes in her working life”, and I hear was used to remove badgers (unharmed) from a building site. Again, what other terrier could do that?
During the second world war the Dandie was found to be the best dog for finding land mines. They used an amazing sense of smell (or another sense?) to find mines despite all efforts by the other side to remove any smell. Even when the mines were covered with metal plates or concrete slabs, the Dandies, with their true terrier determination would still keep digging. Sadly this is not a good evolutionary tactic! This, combined with food shortages, almost wiped out the Dandie population. And despite all attempts so far, the population has not recovered. But we enthusiasts of the breed, like our dogs, don’t give up easily. There is a great amount of international cooperation in keeping the bloodlines pure but still diverse, and in DNA research to try to remove the sort of problems which are likely to crop up with a small gene pool.
So where does the Dandie Dinmont belong? Quite definitely still in the terrier group. The Series I Landrover of terriers.
You know how many Dachshunds are used to do this work?
And why are they hounds?
Is it because we are idiotic English speakers who can’t speak a word of German. Hund doesn’t mean hound. In Germany and the FCI standard, Dachshunds are categorized by chest circumference.
What I think hasn’t been provided in any Dandie Dinmont terrier literature is evidence that these dogs actually descend from actual working terriers. It seems to me much more likely that the turnspit dogs, which could have a touch of terrier blood, were worked into a breed based upon a fictional bunch of terriers. I’ve heard stranger things happening.
Remember, in my breed it was accepted as absolute truth that they descend from Russian circus dogs (most likely ovtcharkas). It was only when proof was provided that this story was nonsense that we could prove this story incorrect (yet many people still believe it).
Have some points that are worth considering:
1. There were drop-eared Skye terriers– easily confused with a Dandie. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth kept a pack of Skye terriers, yet I thought the were Dandies when I first saw their potraits.
2. I’ve seen plenty of depictions of turnspits that could with Dandies or Glen of Imaals (and the Glen of Imaal people, to their credit, admit to it.)
3. The main working terrier of the North of England and the Borders has been the Fell-type terrier (the ancestor of the Border, the Welsh, and the Patterdale). If you could find some way of connecting that breed to these dogs you mention. Of course, I don’t have evidence that these dogs are related to turnspits, except some nineteenth century depictions of them and the Glen of Imaal’s history as a strain of turnspit. However, I don’t see the relationship between this dog and the Fell-types.
4. You also claim that the dogs are the ancestors of the Fell-types– it’s possible. I believe I read somewhere that the oldest terrier ever found was something like a Dachshund. If you could find some really good historical evidence to connect these dogs, I would be most pleased.
5. I think it might be interesting to see if any basset-type hounds (like the Fawn Brittany bassets) are related to the Dandies. I do think they are related to Dachshunds. And Dachshunds are believed to have been standardized with an infusion of turnspit blood.
I think the Dandie can’t be saved as a working terrier. However, as family pet, I don’t see why it’s not promoted more. They are generally good with kids. I think the dog is too big to fit down the average fox burrow. It may also be too sweet natured to really put up with a fox, except in those rare instances you mention. It would have to be a big fox or a small Dandie.
Family members have had working Jack Russells. These dogs are very different from a Dandie. Border terirers, Patterdales, and fells are more similar to the Jack Russells in conformation.
The Dandie was worked into the late 1970s by the late Alf Rhodes and Peggy Hulme still used them till recently if she found vermine in her barns. My eleven year old is still by nature a hunter and will go for rabbit and has tackled small vermine losing some of her front teeth and demolishing a wall in the garden to get to the nest. I have to be careful with her when there are stray cats around and only a couple of years ago it was fantastic to see her working with her mother and cornering a cat in the garden till they were called off.
I have lived on an estate where the keepers had packs of hunting terriers of mixed breeds and from that background I can recognise that the hunting instinct still evinces itself in play when they will seize a toy and toss it into the air, trapping it with the paws as it lands taking hold of an end and pulling and twisting it then shaking it with gusto, the action of a working terrier killing. It is we who have changed our attitude to the working terrier and the classification of vermine which means that we have different attitudes to terriers hunting. It would be illegal to put a terrier to fox, otter or badger and we discourage any breed of terrier from killing. I have had a dog go to ground and waited for ages to eventually call it in but now I would have to prevent anything from happening unless there were guns present to make the kill if something was flushed. The Dandie is being changed by our actions and attitudes but the instincts are still there.
Where does the Dandie Dinmont belong. Its origins are hunting in the hills of the border country between Scotland and England along with the Bedlington Terrier with which it shares a common ancestry but it is now a house dog and has to conform to our needs and mores as a family pet and house dog but the instinct is still there.
In Terrierman’s article it is suggested that hunting with dogs in the UK is legal under the Hunting Act of 2004. However the Act only allows the use of a single dog to flush out the quarry.
“The terrier’s role is to locate and flush the mammal, not to fight with it.
Only ‘soft’ terriers which stand back and bark are to be used.”
“It is not permitted to use a terrier to locate, dig down and dispatch the quarry.”
The Dandie was bred to go to ground, dispatch and extract quarry, not to flush it out alive.
You suggest that the Dandie’s reputation comes only from “Guy Mannering”. This is of course a work of fiction. However, Scott’s fictional characters were generally based on real people. The character of Dandie Dinmont was based not on a single person but on several people with whom Scott had had dealings in his travels around Liddesdale. There are many other written works from the eighteenth century which discuss the hunting prowess of the Dandie and its immediate ancestors. For example see the footnotes to the second edition of Dr John Brown’s “Horae Subsecivae” (you can find it on Google Books), the biographies of Jamie Allan (the 1828 version is on Google Books, the more detailed 1818 biography is rather harder to find), discussions in “The Field” and footnotes in later editions of Walsh’s “Dogs of the British Islands” (Google Books again).
It may also be worth considering percentages of dogs used for hunting. In 2008 there were 9145 Border terriers registered in the UK. There would have been many more unregistered. How many of those are used for hunting. Now apply that same percentage to the 119 Dandie Dinmonts registered (and few if any unregistered) and you’ll almost certainly find it comes to less than one dog. So statistically it is unlikely that any Dandies would used as working dogs.
And yes, the Dandie has been bred away from working size and temperament for many generations. Ask those who have worked them (and yes, I do know someone who has) and they say that most Dandies today are too big. Of my three Dandies, one is far too big, one is a good working size but wrong temperament, and one is working temperament but a bit big and came to us as an oldie (but with quite a reputation for herself and her litter-brother). But don’t condemn the breed until you’ve tried them yourself.
I should add here that personally I in no way condone hunting with dogs. I am against any sort of killing in the name of sport or entertainment. I am personally against the culling of badgers, and work actively for the protection of wildlife. But that’s just my opinion, not a topic for discussion.
Then if your dogs are no longer used for their work, why not put them in the Utility or Nonsporting groups? You concede that they are no longer used for work. Boston terriers aren’t used for any kind of terrier work, and they aren’t with the terriers.
I am also in favor of conserving wildlife. However, I do see a place for hunting with dogs in conservation. How would you handle the growing raccoon and raccoon dog population in Europe? These things are very harmful to native wildlife. The best way is to use dogs.
Mixing conservation and sport is something of a grey area. I accept that in many cases using dogs is the best way to control harmful wildlife. But I am (personally) repulsed by the idea of killing for pleasure. On the other hand, I admit that I enjoy my work (which doesn’t involve killing anything!) As I say, a grey area.
Think I’d better just go back to my previous statement that it’s just my opinion, not a topic for discussion.
Oh, and good call on the ‘Turnspits’. I hadn’t heard of them before.