1902 Encyclopedia > Dog > Wolf Dogs

(Part 4)

I. WOLF-DOGS. – Throughout the northern regions of both hemispheres there are several breeds of semi-domesticated wolf-like dogs having nearly erect ears, and long woolly hair; there include among the others the dogs of the Esquimaux and the Kamtchadales.

Esquimaux Dog is usually of a black and white colour, nearly as large as a mastiff with a fine bushy tail and sharp pointed muzzle. It is of the greatest value to the inhabitants of the boreal regions of America in hunting the seal, bear, and reindeer; while it is equally useful as a beast of burden, carrying loads on its back – a kind of work for which dogs are by no means well suited – and drawing sledges over the snow. On a good road half a dozen of these dogs will draw, it is said, from 8 to 10 cwts., at the rate of 7 miles an hour; and Kane, the Arctic traveler, tells how what that number of dogs, well worn by previous travel, carried him with a fully burdened sledge, between seven and eight hundred miles during the first fortnight after leaving the ship – a mean rate of 57 miles a day. According to the same authority, the training of these dogs is of the most ungracious sort. "I never heard," he says, " a kind accent from the Esquimaux to his dog. The driver’s whip of walrus hide, some 20 feet long, a stone or a lump of ice skillfully directed, an imprecation loud and sharp, made emphatic by the fist or foot, and a grudged ration of seal’s meat, make up the winter’s entertainment of an Esquimaux team." Owing to the ill-treatment to which they are thus habitually subjected, they are highly irritable and difficult to manage, and in sleighing it is necessary to have a well-trained dog as leader, to whom the driver speaks, and by whom the other dogs in the team are guided. They readily relapse into the wild state, and have been known thus to hunt the reindeer in packs like wolves. These dogs have borne a prominent part in Arctic exploration, and mush of the difficult work done in this field would have been well-nigh impossible without them. The Kamtchatka dogs are also used for sledging, and are famed for their swiftness and endurance. During summer they run at large and cater for themselves, returning in wineter to their masters, who feed them principally with the heads of dried fish.

The Sheep dog. – In Eastern countries where the sheep follow the shepherd, the duties that fall upon the dog are simpler, and require less intelligence, than those performed by the European breeds. Their task is chiefly to defend the flocks and herds from wild beast and robbers, and for this purpose the wolf-like Turkoman Watch-dog and the Sheep-dog of Natolia are by their great strength and courage, eminently fitted. The former is described by Sir J. McNeill as a shaggy animal, nearly as large as the Newfoundland dog, and very fierce and powerful, the dam of the specimen he described having killed a full-grown wolf without assistance.

Sheep Dog image

Sheep Dog

The sheep-dog of Europe is generally classed among the wolf-like dogs, owing to the erect or semi-erect character of its ears, its pointed nose, and shaggy covering; and Buffon, for such reasons, regarded it as nearest to the primitive type of the domestic dog. It is more reasonable to suppose with Martin (History of the Dog) that those points "only indicate purity of breed unalloyed by admixture with other varieties." The fact that its life is spent almost entirely out of doors, and that it has little or no opportunity of mixing with dogs other than of its own kind, would tend to preserve uniformity in external appearance; while its high cerebral development and intelligence prove beyond a doubt that the breed of sheep-dogs is one of the most highly improved, and in this respect remotest from the primitive type. Its whole intellect is devoted to the one duty of tending its master’s flocks, and in the performance of this it is equally sagacious, vigilant, and patient. At a word, or even a look, from its master, it will gather the sheep, scattered for miles around, to one place. During and after the snowstorms to which highland districts are so frequently exposed to which highland districts are so frequently exposed, the sheep-dog is invaluable in saving its master’s property form almost total destruction. Without it the Highlands of Scotland would be almost useless for sheep-farming purposes, "It would require," says the Ettrick Shepherd, "more hands to manage a stock of sheep, gather them from the hills, force them into houses and folds, and drive them to markets, than the profits of the whole stock would be capable to maintaining." The sheep-dog stands about 15 inches high, is covered with long shaggy hair of a black colour varied with dark grey or fulvous brown, and its tall is of moderate length, slightly recurved and bushy. In disposition it is quiet; and although not quarrelsome, it shows great courage in defending its charge. It will not wantonly attack a stranger, but evidently regards him with suspicion, and rejects all friendly advances.

There are three varieties of the sheep-dog found in Great Britain, viz. – the Scottish Collie, standing only from 12 to 14 inches high, and regarded as the purest and most intelligent; the Southern Sheep-dog, of larger size, but with shorter fur, and having the tail often very short—a peculiarity which, according to Bell," appears to be perpetuated from parents whose tails have been cut’" and the Drover’s Dog or Cur, generally black and white in colour, and taller in its limbs than the other. It is employed, in driving sheep and cattle to the city markets, and in the discharge of this duty shows intelligence quite equal to that of the other varieties; although in the treatment of the herds under its charge, if often displays a more savage disposition.

The sheep dogs of South America are so trained as to unite in themselves the duties of dog and shepherd. "When riding," says Darwin, "it is a common thing to meet a large flock of sheep, guarded by one or two dogs, at the distance of some miles form any house or man." And on inquiry he found our the method by which this friendship between dog and sheep had been established. The dog when a puppy is removed from its mother, and is no longer allowed to associate with other dogs, or even with the children of the family. It is kept in the sheep pen, and suckled by a ewe. Generally also it is castrated and thus has little or no community of feeling with its kind. Brought up among the sheep it shows, no desire to leave the flock, but assumes the position of leader. "It is amusing," says the above writer, "to observe, when approaching a flock, how the dog immediately advanced barking , and the sheep all close in his rear as if round the oldest ram." It comes home daily for food, on receipt of which it immediately returns to the flock; and this it is often taught to bring home in the evening.

The Newfoundland and Great St Bernard or Alpine Dogs occupy an uncertain position, forming, according to some authors, a group by themselves, and being classed by others among the wolf-like dogs, although in their large and pendulous ears they differ widely from the typical forms already noticed.

Newfoundland Dog image

Newfoundland Dog

The Newfoundland Dog is believed to have been brought to England from the island to which it owes its name, but probably owing crossing, if differs somewhat form the original American breed, the latter being smaller in size, with the muzzle less blunted, and almost totally black in colour. In Newfoundland and Labrador these dogs are used as beats of burden, drawing considerable loads of wood and provisions on sledges. The feet are partially webbed, and consequently they are unrivalled as water-dogs, and although their weakness of scent and comparative slowness of foot renders them useless to the hunter, yet in a country of fens and morasses, the sportsman finds them of the greatest service in rescuing birds that have fallen into the water; nor do they hesitate in their eagerness for retrieving to make their way through the roughest cover. The English variety of Newfoundland Dog is a noble creature, standing 30 inches high at the shoulders, its hair waved or curly and of a black and white colour in nearly equal proportions, its tail massive and bushy and curled upwards at the extremity. Equally noble in disposition, it does not allow the annoyance of smaller digs to disturb its serenity, while its patience with children is not readily exhausted. In defence of its master’s property it will fly with bull-dog ferocity at any intruder, while, it will battle with the waters to save him from drowning, Its service in the saving of life are well known. When kept in confinement its temper is more variable, and in a fit of irritation these dogs have been known to attack those for whom they have previously shown the greatest regard; but even in confinement such cases are altogether exceptional. This breed is supposed by some not to be indigenous to North America, but to have been introduced either on the first discovery of Newfoundland by the Norwegians about the year 1000, or on its re-discovery by Cabot in 1497. The Norwegians, according to Martin, have dogs closely resembling the Newfoundland breed, which are used in hunting bears and wolves, and which are armed with spiked collars in order to protect them from the wolves which seek to seize them by the throat.

The Great St Bernard Dog of the present day is a powerful animal, as large as a mastiff, with close short hair and pendulous ears, and varying in colour, in one case being described as "sandy red or tawny" with black muzzle, in another as "more or less marked with grey, liver colour, and black clouds." Previous to 1820 there existed another breed of these dogs, closely allied in form and size to the Newfoundland, but in that year the greater portion of them died of an epidemic, which necessitated the introduction of the present variety. These dogs are kept by the monks of the Hospice of St Bernard, in their convent, situated on one of the most dangerous passes between Switzerland and Italy, near the top of the Great St Bernard, where they are trained to the work of rescuing travelers who, overtaken by the snowstorm, may have lost their way, or sunk benumbed by the cold. On such occasions there sagacious and powerful dogs set out from the convent in pairs, one bearing a flask of spirits attached to his neck, the other with a cloak. Should they come upon the baffled yet struggling travelers, they conduct him to the convent; but should he have succumbed and be covered by the snow, their keen scent detects his presence although buried several feet beneath the surface, By loud barking – and a young dog of this breed kept many years ago in the suburbs of Edinburgh was able to make itself heard a mile away – they apprise the monks of the need of succour, while with their feet they attempt to clear away the snow form the body. In this way these dogs are instrumental in saving many lives every year, although often at the sacrifice of their own; one dog which thus met its death bore a medal stating that it had been the means of saving twenty-two lives.

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