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Dublin University Magazine 1840. Critical Notices
On Naturalist's Library, Vols 9 & 10 Dogs Canidae or Genusa Canis of Authors
Including also Genera Hyaena and Proteles by Lt Col Charles Hamilton Smith
Getting to the truth of Irish Wolfdog/Wolfhound History




(Ed Note. The Dublin University Magazine had a section entitled "Critical Notices" where the University would review books/publications and critique them. In this instance they reviewed and critiqued a book on dogs authored by Lt Col Charles Hamilton Smith. They examined Smith's statements about the Irish Wolfhound origins and concluded Smith was in error and cited credible evidence in support of their conclusion. The full article is shown below).

On Naturalist's Library, Vols 9 & 10 Dogs Canidae or Genusa Canis of Authors Including also Genera Hyaena and Proteles
by Lt Col Charles Hamilton Smith, Lizars, Edinburgh; Curry & Co., Dublin.


We purposely deferred noticing the first of these volumes until we had seen the second, conceiving that we should be then better able to form an opinion of the manner in which Colonel Smith had performed the arduous task assigned him. A very arduous task it undoubtedly was,— a task in which the aid of books and records could avail but little, and in the execution of which nought but diligent personal investigation, and indefatigable perseverance could offer any prospect of ultimate success.

Colonel Smith was, we think, the very individual of all others best suited to the task, — we do not know of any other naturalist who could have even attempted it, or, attempting, could have made anything of it. As to books, we have ourselves rummaged the shelves of many a valuable and well-filled library, in the hope of gleaning information respecting our faithful and constant friend the dog and his numerous varieties; but we confess that our search proved a useless and an unprofitable one. As we found scarcely so many as half a dozen authors who pretended to treat of the subject at all; and of these at least five out of the six appeared to know as little of what they were writing about as even our inquiring selves. We might say less, but that modesty of disposition for which we have always been remarkable will not permit us. It was therefore very fortunate for us that the Colonel brought out his volumes just at the time he did, as the perusal of them has not merely afforded us inexpressible delight, but instructed us on several important points relating to the canine family and their congeners with regard to which we were not a little curious.

Independently, however, of the amusement and instruction which we derived from perusing these truly useful volumes, they possess an additional merit in our eyes that enhances them still more. They give positive and decisive information as to one or two varieties of dog of which little is known, at least in these islands, and concerning which many very erroneous opinions have got afloat.

As an instance, I may mention the account they present us of the dogs of the Great Saint Bernard. Animals which, though we are constantly speak of them, and hearing them spoken of, we nevertheless know little or nothing about. That great anecdote-monger, Brown, who perpetrated about as infamous a book on dogs as we ever had the misfortune to lay hold of, did a good deal towards mystifying the reading public as to the dogs of St. Bernard; and he has given, in his book, a sketch of one of them, as an enormous Spaniel with a feathered tail and longfringed ears! Shades of Gesner and Caius! what an idea! The captain had, we suppose, heard these dogs erroneously called the Spaniels of St. Bernard or the " Alpine Spaniel," and being " on book-making alone intent," desired no more, — no further foundation on which to ground a plate and a description. We had always been of opinion, however, that the dogs of St. Bernard were rather of the mastiff than of the spaniel kind,— we conceived them indeed to be a sort of cross betwixt mastiff and Newfoundland, if not in fact, at least in appearance, and we are pleased to find our supposition confirmed both by an engraving and a full and accurate description in the volumes before us.

In these volumes our readers will likewise find a description of the German Boardog; an animal usually neglected or misrepresented in works on Natural History. We do not, however, admire the drawing of this animal given in Plate 7, Vol. 10. We have seen several specimens of the animal ourselves, and cannot but observe that in the plate to which we refer, our readers sec nothing of those gigantic proportions, or proud bearing, which characterise the dog in question. The figure there given bears a greater resemblance to the common Wolf-terrier of Russia, than to the stately and terrific Boar-dog.

We have likewise one more fault to find, before we part. Our author describes the Highland Deerhound and the Scottish Greyhound as one and the same dog; whereas they are essentially and totally different: the former being an animal partaking but little of the form or appearance of the common greyhound, the latter being nothing more than a rough greyhound. The Highland Deerhound is likewise, by some blunder of the binders, named Staghound, and described page 189, after British Staghound. There is here a palpable error, which doubtless has escaped the notice of the clever author.

In his notice of the Irish Wolf-dog, —called by some, but erroneously, the Irish Greyhound—the Colonel mentions having heard that the late celebrated Hamilton Rowan possessed two fine animals of this breed. We make no question but that many others have heard the same thing, and we take this opportunity to disabuse them of their error. We have in our possession a letter from the gentleman to whom Mr. Rowan was indebted lor the dogs in question; and the writer expressly states that the dog was bred at Mr. Henry's, of Straft'an, between mastiff and greyhound! That Hamilton Rowan and he used frequently to walk the streets accompanied by this large dog, and that the people would say, as they passed by, " There is the remains of an old Irish wolf-dog." Mr. Rowan used to smile, but never contradicted these remarks, and thus the rumour got wind. The other dogs which Mr. Rowan subsequently obtained were fine specimens of the Great Dane; very similar to some large mottled dogs that used, until very lately, to be the rage in Dublin, under the very erroneous and unfounded appellation of bloodhounds these dogs are now much less common than they were, and are daily decreasing in value. Could it be that the clever article on the Bloodhound and Medical Piess some time back, by our worthy friend Mr. H. D. Richardson, had aught to do with this change in the canine fancy.

The head of the Staghound (Highland), Plate 31, is not so well drawn as it might be; neither has that of the Bloodhound been taken from a wellbred specimen, the ears being too short, and the hair too rough.

We have now, we confess, enumerated every fault that we could detect, after a careful and impartial perusal of these two volumes and our readers will perceive that they are not numerous. In fact, a good work, or indeed any work at all, on the dog tribes, is too rare an article to find fault with,— it being well for us to get it as we find it.

The terrier's head, which forms the frontispiece of Vol. 10., is excellent. One would almost fear looking at it too closely, in case of getting a bite. The other engravings are likewise executed in the very first style; and we conclude with earnestly recommending these volumes to the notice of the Naturalist, the Sportsman, and the Dog Fancier.

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