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Posts Tagged ‘Alaunt Gentil’

The white dogs are from a breed  that was known as the Alaunt Gentil. The brown ones are heavy hounds, probably ancestors of the bloodhound/St. Hubert hound.

The white dogs are from a breed that was known as the Alaunt Gentil. The brown ones are heavy hounds, probably ancestors of the bloodhound/St. Hubert hound.

When you look at breed histories carefully, you notice that a lot of breeds that are thought of as ancient are really recreations of the original form.

The Irish wolfhound is a very good example. The Irish wolfhounds were rare in the eighteenth century. Indeed, the last of the Irish wolfhounds died off around the turn of the nineteenth century. When wolves became extinct in Ireland in 1786, the dogs were out of work, and they fell on very hard times, not unlike the hard times in which otterhounds, Skye terriers, and Sussex spaniels now find themselves. By the middle of the nineteenth century, there were dogs that could reasonably be thought of as having wolfhound ancestry, but then their luck got better. A Scottish soldier by the name of Captain Graham recreated the breed using the deerhound, the mastiff, the Great Dane (German mastiff, which probably a very close relative of the wolfhound), and the borzoi.

Now this tendency is very strong in the dog fancier world. Take the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. An American dog fancier named Roswell Eldridge offered a prize of 25 pounds for any English toy spaniel (King Charles spaniel) that had the longer nose of the toy spaniels of the seventeenth century. When one of these dogs was located, it was bred over and over to establish the type.

Now, I’ve always found these projects interesting.

But I’d thought I’d heard of all them until a few days ago.

It seems there is a recreated Alaunt.

A what?

An Alaunt. You know– the ancestral catch dog from whence the bulldog and its kin descend.

Supposedly, these catch dogs were brought to Europe by the Alani, who are the ancestors of the modern Ossetian people. They migrated from the Caucasus to France (Gaul) and Spain (Hispania)  in the last years of the Roman Empire, bringing with them these ancestral catch dogs.

Now, I don’t know if a single word of the theory that these dogs descend from Alani dogs is true. The depictions I’ve seen of them represent a dog that has a bit of sight hound in it with maybe a bit of mastiff. Supposedly the mastiff in the cross is something like the Caucasian Ovtcharka, which actually isn’t my first guess for an ancestor of a catch dog.

However, this breed went extinct or rather was absorbed into the bulldog breeds in the Middle Ages, as well as probably being a major source for the European sight hound breeds. Indeed, the French had two separate types of Alaunt. One of these was the Alaunt Gentil, which was basically a greyhound-type dog, and the other was the Alaunt Boucherie, which was called “Alaunt Butchers” in England. The Alaunt Butchers was the ancestor of the bulldog and its relations.

The Alaunt Gentil eventually evolved in the Alaunt Veantre, which sounds more like a sight hound breed.  These lighter French sighthounds were crossed with the St. Hubert/bloodhound type dog to make the lighter hounds, which have had a long history in France.

It’s now conjectured that the Alano dog of Spain and the White English Bulldog of Florida are very similar to the Alaunt Butchers.

Again, it’s conjectured. I have no idea whether any of these assertions is true.

Now, one would think that a breed that has so many different descendants wouldn’t be the first breed one would try to recreate.

And it wasn’t.

The person most responsible for the resurrected Alaunt was Brian Plummer. Yes, it’s the same fellow who developed his own strain of hunt terrier.

Plummer was a dog expert and a careful breeder with a very good imagination.

He decided that he wanted to breed back the lighter built Alaunt.

He took a greyhound cross, which we’d normally call a lurcher, and he bred her to a bull terrier. He kept a puppy from that breeding, which was then bred to a different bull terrier. Then he took a pup from that breeding and bred it to a greyhound.

And then from those dogs, he bred to a bullmastiff. He then added some more bull terrier to the strain, and then some more bullmastiff.

And the result was a dog that well, um, resembles Zuul from Ghostbusters.

(That’s a joke! I don’t mean anything by it!)

Now, as recreations go, it was very carefully planned, and health matters actually did play a role in developing the breed. The strain of bullmastiff used in the breeding was chosen because it was deemed free of most genetic defects.

The British Alaunt Society isn’t bad as breed clubs go. They are very concerned about genetic diversity, and they want their dogs to be working dogs. That’s a lot more than you got from Captain Graham, who only wanted his dogs to look like the original wolfhound.

I don’t know whether these dogs are anything like the Alaunts of yore.  But of all the recreations I’ve heard of, this is the only one that is based on trying to make the dogs healthier, more genetically diverse, and not exaggerated in body type.

I say that’s a whole lot better than any other attempts are reviving long gone breeds from the dead. It’s very interesting, and I’m interested in hearing from anyone who owns this strain of Alaunt. You have me intrigued!

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