Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

THE POINTER

As dogs go, the pointer is of very respectable antiquity, having arrived in our latitudes from Spain about the beginning of the eighteenth century. It is said to have been introduced by a “ Portugal Marchant,” and exploited by a “needy baron ” of the name of Bichell, who resided in the county of Norfolk, and eked out a livelihood by sending game for sale to London, though how he got it there in the then state of the roads and the facilities of transport, deponent, Sydenham Edwards, sayeth not in his Cynographia Britannica. It is recorded that Baron Bichell was amongst the first to master the art of shooting birds on the wing—a semi-miraculous feat in those days, and with the contemporaneous fowling-piece, something of the Robinson Crusoe type.

With the improvement in firearms and the art of shooting, and the more extended "bag" they led to, the Spanish pointer, with its lack of speed and its too slow and sluggish style of hunting, proved too much of a laggard in a long day, and a dog with more dash was considered desirable, and experimented for. Even in those dim days of dog-fancying, as in these dazzling ones, the development of the dog was an art practised in England, and thus it came to pass that it was sought to rectify the failings of the Spanish pointer

with a dash of the blood of the old southern hound and the foxhound. The improved pointer of his day is well described by the aforesaid Sydenham Edwards, who, writing about the same year as Reinagle painted the animal (whose outline I reproduce as an appropriate illustration to the quotation), left the following information on record :

The sportsman has improved the breed of pointers by selecting the lightest and gayest individuals, and by judicious crosses with the foxhound, to procure courage and fleetness. From the great attention thus paid has resulted the present elegant dog, of valuable and extensive properties, differing much from the original parent, but with some diminution of his instinctive powers. He may thus be described :-Light, strong, well-formed, and very active, about 22 inches high; head small and straight; lips and ears small, short, and thin; coat short and smooth, commonly spotted or flecked upon a white ground, sometimes wholly white; tail thin and wiry, except when crossed with the setter or foxhound, when it is a little brushed

This dog possesses great gaiety and courage, travels in a grand manner, quarters his ground with rapidity, and scents with acuteness; gallops with his haunches well under him, his head and tail up; of strength to endure any fatigue, and invincible spirit. But with these qualifications he has concomitant disadvantages. His high spirit and eagerness for the sport render him intractable and extremely difficult of education ; his impatience in company subjects him to a desire to be foremost in the points, and not give time for the sportsman to come up, and to run in upon the game, particularly down wind. But if these faults can be overcome in training,-if he can be made staunch in standing, drawing, and backing, and to stop at the voice, or token of the hand, he is highly esteemed, and those who arrive at such perfection in this country fetch amazing prices.

The most judicious cross appears to have been made with the foxhound, and by this has been acquired speed and courage, power and perseverance; and their disadvantage difficulty of training to be staunch. I believe the celebrated Colonel Thornton first made the cross, and from his producing excellent dogs it has been very generally followed.

The “celebrated Colonel Thornton ” is a character,

I might almost call him a dog-fancier, who looms large in the canine literature of a hundred years ago, and he was as great, perhaps even greater, in pointers than in

CON

a

UN

SPANISH POINTER (1803).

After Reinagle.

POINTER (1803).

After Reinagle. foxhounds or beagles. Thus he owned two celebrated pointers called Pluto and Juno, of whom it is recorded that they pointed for a hundred minutes whilst an artist of the name of Gilpin painted their picture! A rather tall story, but tall stories are the badge of this

tribe. He also owned a specimen called Dash, which he sold, or rather bartered, for another pointer, an excellent gun, a hogshead of claret, a hundred and sixty pounds worth of champagne and burgundy, and the proviso that if the dog came to be disabled from work the Colonel might claim him back for £50. The dog subsequently broke his leg, and under the terms of the bargain went back to his old master.

From this time forward-and at this time it is easy to see the pointer was a dog much fancied-increasing attention was paid to the breeding and perfecting of the pointer, and in the first half of the nineteenth century quite a number of famous kennels of the breed sprang into existence. Amongst them may be mentioned those of Mr. Meynell, Squire Osbaldstone (both of foxhunting fame), the Earl of Derby, the Duke of Kingston (celebrated for his black strain), the Earl of Lauderdale (equally noted for his small strain, which weighed a little over 30 lbs.), Mr. Webbe Edge, Mr. Mattingley, and others whose names are household words in the pointer - world. The breed improved greatly, and reached a zenith in the 'Seventies, which produced such peerless specimens as Ch. Wagg and Ch. Drake, who each weighed 65 lbs., and did a lot of winning on show-bench and at field trials. Drake, who was bred by Sir R. Garth, was sold when passing well on in years for £150. He was the fastest and most wonderful animal that ever quartered a field — "a phenomenon of pointers,” Mr. Rawdon Lee calls him. His grandson, Faust, was sold for £450 to go to America. “Pointers' Prices Current” reveal some astounding figures, especially across the Atlantic, where they are very popular, and enormous prices have been paid for extra good specimens. And in England, too, values seem to have kept the high level Edwards makes mention of a hundred years ago—allowing for the difference in the standard of valuation of the canine.

As I have hinted a little earlier, anecdote gathers round the pointer like moss round the stone that does not roll. I will not weary my readers with the old chesnut about the pointer that pointed not merely to death, but to skeletonhood, nor with less chesnutty stories of dogs that “stood” for twelve hours, but here is an authenticated item that tells of a singularly grim adhesion to duty in a pointer which might have been christened “Stickphast." Clio was a bitch belonging to a Mr. Lee, and as she was out with him one day she became aware of a nest of partridges just as she was in the act of jumping a five-barred gate. It is inferred she performed the feat of pointing in mid air, for her master, missing her about two hours afterwards, harked back on his trail to find her, and came across Clio, her front legs planted on the ground and her hind ones hooked on to the gate. In this attitude she had remained all that time, pointing at the nest of partridges, which Mr. Lee, on his arrival to investigate her improbable attitude, searched for and discovered. He relieved her, but she was so stiff she could not move, and he had to set her down on the grass and rub her legs before she could bend them again.

Having paid this conventional tribute to the capacity of the pointer for performing incredible feats,—there is no breed of dog whose annals are so magnificently decorated with marvellous achievement as this, I will try to relapse into truth, and continue my discourse where I suspended it to introduce an anecdote which I am assured is true, but don't believe.

The Rev. Thomas Pearce, better known as “Idstone," has left us a description of the pointer of his time so

« ForrigeFortsett »