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"The Country" Magazine
Letters and Discussion on Capt Grahams January 13 1876
Article about The Irish wolfhound
1. DEERHOUNDS AT THE ALEXANDRA PALACE
(Letter from Philocyon)
Permit me a few final words of reply to your correspondents on this subject,-and then I, too, will retire from the scene.
In his last letter, " A Roving Scot," not satisfied with my statement that I had never imputed any motives, reiterates his voluntary disclaimers of writing up any man's dog through partiality, forgetful of the maxim, Qui s'excuse s'accuse, and also of the circumstance that, when a man is always protesting his innocence of self-raised charges, people cannot help thinking of the lines in "Hamlet," "Methinks the lady doth protest too much."
As to the other portion of " A Eoving Scot's" letter, where he states that he has received a dozen letters in praise of Young Torrum, I would ask him how far he would think it a good argument if I stated that I had received a hundred lettersjunning down the dog, unless I could show that they were from persons whose opinions were entitled to respect, or who could justify their assertions by argument. He would laugh at me.
But "A Roving Scot's" trump card is reserved for the last. He hurries up to London, and measures Young Torrum, and then, curiously enough, just like Mr. Musters in the care of the sire, produces them as a triumphant refutation of all detractors. This is certainly a way of simplifying the judging of deerhounds, and Mr. Musters is entitled to credit for making it still more simple, for, after adding up his dog's measurements to a total of 246 inches, he points to them with pride and says : " The similar measurements of Mr. Field's celebrated deerhound Bran only amounted to 229 inches ; " so that the dog whose total of measurements " lumped ' together is greatest is, it is to be inferred, the best dog in Mr. Musters's opinion. But the merest tyro would admit that, even granting size is everything, this remarkable test of comparing the sum total of measurements is ridiculous, as it gives no information as to symmetry and proportion of the various parts, and in fact dispenses with them.
With advocates of mere size then, it appears that the judging of the future will be capable of ? ithematical demonstration, and the only requisites in a judge will be an impartial manipulation of the standard, the tape, and the scales, and the ability to add up a total of measurements. Then, indeed, the disappointed exhibitor will be a thing of the past, as no one can question the inexorable logic of figures.
Whilst on the subject of measurements, I may notioe that Capt. Graham doubts whether I was right in asserting that, after all, Young Torrum U only about iin. taller than certain other dogs. But he admits he never measured Young Torrum, so that he only speaks from appearances, which it what I complained of at first; that, though people assume that this dog is so muoh bigger than others, they would, to their surprise, find they were deceived if they would accurately compare them.
It is curious to see how Young Torrum's measurements vary, and how fully I was justified in being incredulous. He was sold to Capt. Graham as 32in. or 33in. high, and not more than a week ago was described by his owner as 31iin. standard measure, and as 13in. in the head, and 37in. in girth when in condition, but then 35in. "A Roving Scot" then comes to London, and then the above measurements come down respectively to 31in., 12 1/2in ., and 33 1/2in. Now, after this series of reductions, it is possible that in other hands he might be found to be nearly half-an-inch still less, as I described him.
Lastly, a word with Mr. Musters. I fully agree with him that the Monzie strain was, so far as appears, pure; and it is evident Mr. Cameron thought so, though he was compelled to admit what no one who looked at Torunn, and knew anything of the deerhound, could deny that he had a cross in him. I have always understood that the cross was in the maternal line, and came from King of the Forest. Mr. Musters says that there is no proof that the latter was one of his dog's ancestors. How was it then that he is so described in "The Kennel Club Stud Book," in the pedigree supplied by Mr. Musters? and how is it that in one of his advertisements of Old Torunn, as a stud dog, the gentleman stated him to be descended from King of the Forest, and that the latter was 36in. high (!)? Surely he would hardly make these statements without some proof.
Again, Mr. Musters is hardly consistent. In his first letter he describes his Brenda as one of the two "pure" bitches sent to Torunn; and in his last one he states that he knew she had a cross, but trusts by judicious breeding to get rid of it. This is also rather hard on the bitch, for, though Torunn had ample opportunity given him, all the dogs of any account by him are, I believe, out of this one bitch, in which state of things the reasonable inference is that they owe their excellence chiefly to the dam.
I have now done with the subject, which I have taken up from a love of, and some experience in, the breed. I am sorry to have to find fanlt with any man's dog, but the blame, if any, should rest on those who challenged criticism by an eulogy, which even Capt. Graham describes as "injudicious," and Mr. Musters as "highly coloured," and which, to use the words of Macaulay, "by seeking to enshrine this carrion has forced us to gibbet him," by showing that he is bad in head, ears, coat, feet, and legs; and that even in mere size, which his friends set up as the touchstone of excellence, his pretensions have been greatly exaggerated, and crumble to pieces at each successive touch.
2. HEIGHT OF DEERHOUNDS
(Letter from G. T. Bartram)
I observed in the letter written by Capt. Graham in The Country, Jan. 13, the following: "At 31in. he (Old Torrum) would be a good inch taller than almost any deerhound." Now, it just happens that I know a deerhound of as pure a breed as the dogs about which there has been so much written of late, that stands 31in. at shoulder, and measured whilst standing on level boards, and taken with a standard, not a tape; and he measures 34 1/2 in. round chest, full measure, with a very tight tape; he is also a very long dog, and is well proportioned, and I consider a grand dog, about two ????? old. On reading Capt. Graham's letter, it occurred to me that it was just possible that, in this particular, it might convey an erroneous impression to those not conversant with deerhound measurement; and that is why I ventured to send measurement of this dog. Ho is now only in moderate condition, as he is in training by the park keeper to the Marquis of Bristol, and is already an excellent dog at his work. I mention this because it has been suggested by writers on this breed that a large dog is only fit for the show bench to win prizes, and do not answer the real end for which deeerhounds are bred. Mr. Chaworth Musters mentions iu his letter, as something remarkable, that Old Torrum once broke away from his kennel, and went and pulled down a deer single-handed.
I can say of the dog I give measurement of that he has taken—fairly taken—several bucks single-handed. To show his courage, I may be permitted to say that a short time since he was "laid on " a dry doe, and his speed being too much for her, she took to the canal and made for the island in the middle of it. The dog proved to be the better swimmer of the two. Just before she reached the land he collared her, and the dog eventually got her to the land, and, unassisted, dragged her several yards into the island, and killed her in less than two minutes. The cracking of her jaw bones bore evidence to his powerful muscular jaws.
I hope some day to place him beside some of the big dogs of the present day, as it is my impression that he is a very grand dog (and I am not unaccustomed to deerhounds); still, I long to see him placed by tho side of some of the crack winners, as I believe that the only way to correctly form a fair estimate of a dog's capacities is to have them so placed that simultaneous observations can be taken.
The sister to this dog I sold last year for 25 guineas. If thought desirable, I could give full measurement of him and pedigree. He is not for sale.
G. T. Bartram.
3. HEIGHT OF DEERHOUNDS (Continued)
(Letter from Philocyon) Feb 24 1876
As I imagined, the bucks killed by Mr. Bartram' s dog were run down in an English park. This dog may have all the speed, pluck, and endurance, attributed to him, but on the Scotch mountains he would be far more likely to kill himself than the stag.
My "position," therefore, remains unaffected by this instance, and you will perhaps allow me to restate it, so as to avoid misconception. It is this:
1. That our largest show dogs would be too big for actual work.
2. That, nevertheless, ceteris paribus, I would give the preference to the larger dog.
3. That to assert a dog to be the finest for the Bingle reason that he is the biggest, is, therefore, to say that he is the best deerhound, because he ˇ? the most unfit for his work.
As to settling the points of deerhounds, there is ne doubt there is something to be done in that direction, as those in the dogs of the British Islands have been servilely copied verbatim from the description of M'Neil of his brother's own dogs, who thus set up their accidental qualities as points. Whilst on this point, I may say that sufficient importance is not attached to colour. I am convinced that the true colour of the Scotch deerhound is a dark one, viz., iron-grey, grizzle, blue, or brindled, so that they may be unseen by the deer, their colour closely resembling the dark grey rocks and heather, whereas a fawn dog would be visible for a mile or so, and I have known of instances where suoh dogs had to be covered with a dark cloth to hide their colour when stalking. However, owing to crosses, the fawn colour occurs in most litters, and can now be hardly eradicated; but I believe that their colour was originally in all cases adapted, either by nature or selection, to their natural work, just as the Russian wolfhound is mostly white, so as to be less conspicuous on the snow.
As to publishing my name, as Mr. Bartram suggest, I must decline to do so, for my own reasons; but I may state that I have kept deerhounds for many years, and flatter myself I know as much as most. I must likewise decline the invitation to enter into details as to my "decided opinion " as to Hector, on the ground that I have
no wish to disparage any gentleman's dog, unless public criticism be provoked by his being set up as a standard of excellence to what I should consider the prejudioe of the breed.
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