Katherine here! I’ve been researching Georgian and Regency dogs for my September 7th book, The Mercenary Pirate, Heart of a Hero Series Book #10. In the book, my heroine’s father seeks admission to the ton through the advantageous marriages of his two children. Mr. Herding is a middle-aged man doing everything he can to live a gentile and luxurious life in Cornwall’s mining district. Life is hard there, a daunting trial for a mineral lord who has acquired financial wealth and has no way to flaunt it before his aristocratic counterparts. New money doesn’t award him social status.
So what does a self-made man living in the Georgian and Regency eras need on hand to attract lofty persons to his estate? He needs a great house, fashionable clothes, excellent liquor, and the ability to provide entertainment. Mr. Herding has all of those things, especially an excellent breed of hunting dog.
Hunting as well as attending dog fights was a popular activity in the Georgian and Regency eras.
Gambling played a huge part in pastimes experienced at Westminster Pit where money changed hands as bulldogs and terriers fought to the death.
At Tattersalls, founded in 1773 by Richard Tattersall, the center of the sporting world, hounds were auctioned off every Monday and Thursday in the winter, and only on Mondays in the summer.
So what dogs did the Georgian and Regency set prefer? Canine friends were an extension of a man or woman’s personality, and cherished for loyalty, bravery, and humility.
During my research, I was surprised to find a long list of beautiful and intelligent breeds. I was not surprised to learn that then, as now, the loss of one of these noble friends cuts deep.
Lord Byron’s Newfoundland has a monument larger than Byron’s. Boatswain was buried on Byron’s estate after contracting rabies and dying a horrible death there in 1808.
“To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; I never knew but one – and here he lies.”
~ Byron, Epitaph for a Dog
Georgian and Regency breeds:
Pug: Pugs date back to the Han and Shang Dynasties where they sat on sovereign’s laps. Later, descendants from the Pekingese, Japanese Spaniel, and pugs traveled west via free trade with China. Longer legged and less wrinkled than today’s pug, 18th and 19th Century pugs had small heads and short, elastic-skinned coats. They were perfectly proportioned to clean up crumbs under the table, making them excellent house pets. King William and Queen Mary brought the pug from Holland to England in 1688, and soon the dogs delighted courtiers. Pugs’ ears were often clipped and they were essential fashion accessories to ladies throughout the 18th Century.
Collie: A long and short-haired sheep dog with a pluming tail, the Collie wasn’t well-known outside of Scotland until after 1800. Males stood 24-26 inches high and weighed 60-75 lbs. Females weighed 50-65 lbs. and stood 22-24 inches tall. With a curling tail, a tight-lipped mouth, and a triangular head with semi-erect ears, the Collie won favor with Queen Victoria for its cleverness and agility when she traveled to Scotland.
Dalmatian: Standing 22-24 inches and 50-65 lbs, Dalmatians had enough stamina and speed to keep up with horses and they often rode under a carriage’s rear axles. The dogs were perfect companions for overnight stays while traveling because they slept in the stables and kept guard over the horses, preventing thieves from stealing the vehicle or tampering with its contents. Dalmatians were popular dogs with the aristocratic set for their sleek, colorful fur and long, tapering tails.
English Mastiff: This breed descends from 6th Century B.C. and the large mastiff-type dogs that were used to hunt wolves and fight other dogs at that time, a bloody sport that included fighting a lion or a bear.
Newfoundland: A large working dog capable of swimming in cold water and pulling fishnets and heavy equipment, Newfoundlands were giant dogs that weighed between 130-150 lbs., and stood 22-28 inches high. They had webbed feet and had long, thick, oily waterproof coats in various colors: black, brown, gray, and landseer (black head or black and white body) that protected them from the cold. Napoleon was once saved by a Newfoundland dog that jumped into the water and kept him afloat until help could arrive when his ship capsized while he was in exile to Elba in 1815.
English Foxhounds: This breed was very popular during the 17th-18th Centuries. Foxhounds stood 21-25 inches tall and weighed 60-70 lbs. Their short, dense black and tan on white coat made them perfectly suited to hunting in woody areas. They were a favorite with aristocrats who needed hounds to hunt foxes between November and March.
Greyhound: This breed dates back to Egyptian times, 2,000 BC. Greyhounds were associated with royalty and the aristocratic set and were used to hunt game that included rabbits to deer. The Earl of Sefton favored Greyhounds during the Regency period and the dogs were used in ‘coursing’, a practice in existence for 3 centuries that involved slipping two hounds into an open field and training them to flush out rabbits.
English Pointer: Pointers date back to the 16th Century. English Pointers are bird dogs with great instincts and a short ‘beesting’ tail. They were used to sniff and point out game that was then netted or chased by coursing hounds. Males grow to 25-27 inches tall and weigh 55-75 lbs. Females range from 23-25 inches tall and weigh 44-65 lbs.
Pomeranian: This breed originated from Pomerania as a sledge or guard dog. It’s popularity soared when Queen Charlotte brought large white Pomeranians with her to England in 1761. Pomeranians weighed an average 30 lbs. with white, black, or cream fur. The Prince of Wales had a white and black Pomeranian named Fino. Today’s Pomeranians are much smaller.
Poodle: A favorite canine in France, poodles were native to Germany as early as the 15th Century. Hunters used them to retrieve birds shot out of the air and then landing in water. Their intelligence and happy personalities made them perfect companion dogs for ladies of the court.
Terrier: Terriers startled vermin and small game out of their burrows. Though they were small dogs, there were various types of terriers during the Georgian and Regency period.
Curly Coated Retriever: The exact origin of this breed is unknown. This elegant dog was first documented on paper in 1803, but was probably bred in the late 1700s. Males grew to 25-27 inches tall and weighed 70-90 lbs. Females stood 23-25 inches tall and weighed 50-70 lbs. The Curly’s coat varies from solid liver to black. The dog’s coat is densely curled, except on its head where the fur lays short and smooth. Curlies are perfect family dogs. Gamekeepers and poachers revered them for their intelligence, strength, and stamina. Great hunters that fetched birds and game on command.
Spaniels: This breed excels at flushing game out of brambles and brush, but covers less ground than pointers and setters. Cockers typically hunted woodstock. Springers concentrated on partridge, pheasants, and hares. The Sussex Spaniel found popularity in the late 18th-19th centuries. Dogs’ coats were golden liver-colored, and they stood 15 inches high at the shoulder and weighed 35-45 lbs. The coat was flat or slightly wavy, almost fringe-like, with feathers on the ears, chest, underside and rear.
Georgette Heyer’s Regency World (Cocks and Dogs, page 263)
Which dog would you choose to have by your side in the Georgian and Regency era?