The Dog – Part VI, Dogs Devotion

This is the final part of Chapter 1 of “The Dog” by William Youatt.. While this book was published in the mid-1800s, there is still much that remains unchanged today, including the Dogs devotion to its master and family, and sometimes to its fellow dogs.

This final part ends with an introduction into chapter 2, by defining the three divisions that modern dog is broken up into. These divisions are related to the length and size of the head.

We will not further pursue this part of our subject at present. We shall have other opportunities of speaking of the disinterested and devoted affection which this noble animal is capable of displaying when he occupies his proper situation, and discharges those offices for which nature designed him. It may, however, be added that this power of tracing back the dog to the very earliest periods of history, and the fact that he then seemed to be as sagacious, as faithful, and as valuable as at the present day, strongly favor the opinion that he descended from no inferior and comparatively worthless animal, — that he was not the progeny of the wolf, the jackal, or the fox, but he was originally created, somewhat as we now find him, the associate and the friend of man.

If, within the first thousand years after the Deluge, we observe that divine honors were paid to him, we can scarcely be brought to believe his wolfish genealogy. The must savage animals are capable of affection for those to whom they have been accustomed, and by whom they have been well treated, and therefore we give full credit to several accounts of this sort related of the wolf, the lion, and even the cat and the reptile: but in no other animal — in no other, even in the genus Canis — do we find the qualities of the domestic dog, or the slightest approach to them.

“To his master he flies with alacrity,” says the eloquent Buffon, “and submissively lays at his feet all his courage, strength, and talent. A glance of the eye is sufficient; for he understands the smallest indications of his will. He has all the ardor of friendship, and fidelity and constancy in his affections, which man can have. Neither interest nor desire of revenge can corrupt him, and he has no fear but that of displeasing. He is all zeal and obedience. He speedily forgets ill-usage, or only recollects it to make returning attachment the stronger. He licks the hand which causes him pain, and subdues his anger by submission. The training of the dog seems to have been the first art invented by man, and the fruit of that art was the conquest and peaceable possession of the earth.”

“Man,” says Burns, “is the God of the dog; he knows no other; and see how he worships him. With what reverence he crouches at his feet — with what reverence he looks up to him — with what delight he fawns upon him, and with what cheerful alacrity he obeys him!”

If any of the lower animals bear about them the impress of the Divine hand, it is found in the dog: many others are plainly and decidedly more or less connected with the welfare of the human being; but this connection and its effects are limited to a few points, or often to one alone. The dog, different, yet the same, in every region, seems to be formed expressly to administer to our comforts and to our pleasure. He displays a versatility, and yet a perfect unity of power and character, which mark him as our destined servant, and, still more, as our companion and friend. Other animals may be brought to a certain degree of familiarity, and may display much affection and gratitude. There was scarcely an animal in the menagerie of the Zoological Society that did not acknowledge the superintendent as his friend; but it was only a casual intercourse, and might be dissolved by a word or look. At the hour of feeding, the brute principle reigned supreme, and the companion of other hours would be sacrificed if he dared to interfere; but the connection between man and the dog, no lapse of time, no change of circumstances, no infliction of evil can dissolve. We must, therefore, look far beyond the wolf for the prototype of the dog.

Cuvier eloquently states that the dog exhibits the most complete and the most useful conquest that man has made. Each individual is entirely devoted to his master, adopts his manners, distinguishes and defends his property, and remains attached to him even unto death; and all this springing not from mere necessity, or from constrain, but simply from gratitude and true friendship. The swiftness, the strength, and the highly developed power of smelling of the dog, have made him a powerful ally of man against the other animals; and, perhaps, these qualities in the dog were necessary to the establishment of society. It is the only animal that has followed the human being all over the earth.

There is occasionally a friendship existing between dogs resembling that which is found in the human being. The author pledges himself as to the accuracy of the following little anecdote. Two dogs, the property of a gentleman at Shrewsbury, had been companions for many years, until one of them died of old age. The survivor immediately began to manifest an extraordinary degree of restless anxiety, searching for his old associate in all his former haunts, and refusing every kind of food. He gradually wasted away, and, at the expiration of the tenth day, he died, the victim of an attachment that would have done honor to man.

Dogs DevotionThe Dog, belongs to the division of animals termed Vertebrated, (see The Horse, 2d edition, page 106), because it has a cranium or skull, and a spine or range of Vertebrae proceeding from it. It ranks under the class Mammalia, because it has teats, by which the female suckles her young; the tribe Unguiculata, because its extremities are armed with nails; the order Digitigrades, because it walks principally on its toes. The genus Canis has two tubercular teeth behind the large carnivorous tooth in upper jaw; and the sub-genus familiaris, the Dog, has the pupils of the eye circular, while those of the wolf are oblique, and those of the fox upright and long.

There has been some dispute whether the various species of dogs are of different origin, or sprung from one common source. When we consider the change that climate and breeding effect in the same species of dog, and contrast the rough Irish or Highland greyhound with the smoother one of the southern parts of Britain, or the more delicate one of Greece, or the diminutive but beautifully formed one of Italy, or the hairless one of Africa or Brazil – or the small Blenheim spaniel with the magnificent Newfoundland; if also we observe many of them varied by accident, and that accidental variety diligently cultivated into a new species, altogether different in form or use, we shall find no difficulty in believing that they might be derived from one common origin.

One of the most striking proofs of the influence of climate on the form and character of this animal, occurs in the bull-dog. When transported to India he becomes, in a few years, greatly altered in form, loses all his former courage and ferocity, and becomes a perfect coward.

It is probable that all dogs sprang from one common source, but climate, food, and cross-breeding caused variations of form, which suggested particular uses; and these being either designedly or accidentally perpetuated, the various breeds of dogs thus arose, and they have become numerous in proportion to the progress of civilization. Among the ruder, or savage tribes, they possess but one form; but the ingenuity of man has devised many inventions to increase his comforts: he has varied and multiplied the characters and kinds of domestic animals for the same purpose, and hence the various breeds of horses, and cattle, and dogs.

The parent stock it is now impossible to trace; but the wild dog, wherever found on the continent of Asia, or Northern Europe, has nearly the same character, and bears no inconsiderable resemblance to the British fox-dog, while many of those from the Southern Ocean can scarcely be distinguished from the English lurcher. There is, however, no more difficulty in this respect with regard to the dog, than any other of our domesticated animals. Climate, or chance, produced a change in certain individuals, and the sagacity of man, or, perhaps, mere chance, founded on these accidental varieties numerous breeds possessed of certain distinct characteristic properties. The degeneracy of the dog, also, in different countries, cannot for a moment be disputed.

The most natural arrangement of all the varieties of the dog is according to the development of the frontal sinus and the cerebral cavity, or, in other words, the power of scent, and the degree of intelligence. This classification originated with M.F. Cuvier, and has been adopted by most naturalists. He reckoned three divisions of the dog:

  1. Those having the head more or less elongated, and the parietal bones of the skull widest at the base, and gradually approaching towards each other as they ascend, the condyls of the lower jaw being on the same line with the upper molar teeth. The Greyhound and all its varieties belong to this class.
  2. The head moderately elongated, and the parietals diverging from each other for a certain space as they rise upon the side of the head, enlarging the cerebral cavity and the frontal sinus. To this class belong our most valuable dogs, — the Spaniel, Setter, Pointer, Hound, and the Sheep-dog.
  3. The muzzle more or less shortened, the frontal sinus enlarged, and the cranium elevated, and diminished in capacity. To this class belong some of the Terriers, and a great many dogs that might very well be spared.

This division of the different species of the dog is adopted here as being the most simple, intelligible, and satisfactory.

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