From Anecdotes of Dogs, by Edward Jesse, Esq., London: Bell & Daldy; 1870; pp. 463-466.
Buffon was of opinion that this variety, which is chiefly found in Denmark, Russia, and Northern Germany, is only the Mâtin (the usual sheep-dog of France) transported into a northern latitude. The colour of this dog is generally white, marked all over his body with black spots and patches, in general larger than those of the Dalmatian, of which some have supposed him to be a congener. His ears are for the most part white, while those of the Dalmatian are usually black.
The great Danish dog is a fine sprightly animal, but is of little use for sporting or watching. Like the Dalmatian, he is chiefly used in this country as an attendant on carriages, to which he forms an elegant appendage.
Mr. Johnson, a traveller from Manchester, on his route through Scotland on horseback, was benighted, and coming to a small public-house on the road, he 464 thought it better to take up his lodgings there, if possible, than to proceed further that night. On entering the house, he found only an old woman, who, to his inquiries, answered she would accommodate him with a bed, and provide for the horse in a small shed, it he would assist her in carrying hay and litter, as there was no other person then in the house. This was readily agreed to by Mr. Johnson, who, after having done so, and taken a little refreshment, was shown by the old woman to his bedroom.
A large Danish dog, which accompanied him on his journey, offered to go up to the room with him, which the old woman strongly objected to, but Mr. Johnson firmly persisted in having him admitted. The dog, on entering the room, began to growl, and was altogether very unruly. His master in vain attempted to quiet him, — he kept growling and looking angrily under the bed, which induced Mr. Johnson to look there likewise, when, to his utter astonishment, he saw a man concealed at the farther end. On encouraging the dog, he sprang immediately at him, whilst Mr. Johnson seized his pistols, and presenting one at the stranger, who had a large knife in his hand, and was struggling with the dog, declared he would instantly shoot him if he made further resistance. The man then submitted to be bound, and acknowledged that his intention was to rob and murder Mr. Johnson, which was thus providentially prevented by the wonderful sagacity of his faithful dog. Mr. 465 Johnson, after securely binding the man and fastening the door, went (accompanied by his dog) to the shed where his horse was left, which he instantly mounted, and escaped without injury to the next town, where he gave to a magistrate a full account of the murderous attempt, and the culprit was taken into custody and afterwards executed.
A gamekeeper belonging to the castle of Holstein (in Denmark), returned one evening from a long and fatiguing chase, and deposited the game in the larder, without being aware that he had locked up his dog at the same time. Business of importance unexpectedly called him away immediately afterwards, and he did not return for five days; when, mindful of his game, he went to the larger, and beheld his dog stretched dead at the door. The gamekeeper stood extremely affected; but what were his sensations, when he saw on the table eleven brace of partridges, and five grouse untouched! This admiration increased his grief, when he found the poor dog had suffered starvation rather than transgress his duty.
At a convent in France, twenty paupers were served with a dinner at a certain hour every day. A mâtin dog belonging to the convent did not fail to be regularly present at this repast, to receive the scraps which were now and then thrown to him. The guests, however, were poor and hungry, and of course not very wasteful, so that their pensioner did little more than scent the feast, of which he would fain have partaken. The 466 portions were served by a person at the ringing of a bell, and delivered out by means of what in religious houses is termed a tour — a machine like the section of a cask, that, by turning round on a pivot, exhibits whatever is placed on the concave side, without discovering the person who moves it. One day this dog, who had only received a few scraps, waited till the paupers were all gone, took the rope in his mouth, and rang the bell. His stratagem succeeded. He repeated it the next day with the same good fortune. At length the cook, finding that twenty-one portions were given out instead of twenty, was determined to discover the culprit. In doing which he had no great difficulty; for, lying in wait, and noticing the paupers as they came for their different portions, and that there was no intruder except the dog, he began to suspect the truth; which he was confirmed in when he saw the animal continue with great deliberation till the visitors were all gone, and then pull the bell. The matter was related to the community; and to reward him for his ingenuity, the dog was permitted to ring the bell every day or his dinner, on which a mess of broken victuals was always afterwards served out to him.