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From Anecdotes of Dogs, by Edward Jesse, Esq., London: Bell & Daldy; 1870; pp. 454-458.



“The heroes of a bull-fight, and the champions of a cock-fight, can produce but few, if any, disciples brought up under their tuition, who have done service to their country, but abundant are the testimonies which have been registered at the gallows of her devoted victims, trained up to the pursuits of bull-baiting.” — DR. BARRY.

THE bull-dog has been called the most courageous animal in the world. He is low in stature, although remarkably deep-chested, strong, and muscular. From the projection of his under jaw, which occasions his teeth always to be seen, and from his eyes being distant 455 from each other, and somewhat prominent, he has an appearance which would prevent a stranger from attempting any familiarity with him. He is, however, a dog capable of strong attachment to his master, whom he is at all times ready to defend. His strength is so great, that in pinning a bull, one of this breed of dogs has been known, by giving a strong muscular twist of his body, to bring the bull flat on his side. In consequence also of his strength, high courage, and perseverance, a bull-dog has gone a greater distance in swimming than nay other dog has been known to do.

It is universally known amongst the lovers of bull-dogs, that when once exasperated by an opponent, or encouraged by the owner, no pain or punishment will induce him to swerve from his purpose, or in the least relax the violence of his endeavors to subdue whatever may be the object of his dislike or resentment. Amidst the many instances which might be adduced in support of this assertion, we shall notice one which is well-authenticated. Some years since, when bull-baiting was more common than in the present improved state of civilization, a juvenile amateur, at an entertainment of this kind in the north of England, confident in the courage and purity of blood in his bull-dog, laid a wager “that he would at four distinct intervals deprived the animal of one of his feet by amputation, and that after every individual deprivation he should still attack the bull with his previous ferocity; and that, lastly, he should continue to do so 456 upon his stumps.” Shocking as the recital must prove to the feelings of every reader, the experiment was made, and the dog continued to seize the bull with the same eagerness as before. In a match which was made for the purpose, one of these animals fought and beat two powerful Newfoundland dogs.

It must be a matter of congratulation to every humane person, that the barbarous and cruel custom of bull-baiting no longer exists in this country. That it tended to brutalize the working classes, whatever its advocates may have stated to the contrary, cannot be doubted. In the part of Staffordshire in which I formerly resided, and where the custom was extremely prevalent, idleness, drunkennness and profligacy, were conspicuous amongst those who kept bull-dogs. Even females might be seen at a bull-baiting, in their working dresses as they came out of a factory, their arms crossed and covered with their aprons, standing to enjoy the sport, if such it could be called.

The breed of dogs kept by the persons referred to was said to be of the purest kind, and large sums were frequently given for them. Lord Camelford purchased one for eighty guineas; forty and fifty pounds was no uncommon price for one. These dogs would appear to have a natural antipathy to the bull, as puppies will attack them when only a few months old, and if permitted to continue the combat, will suffer themselves to be destroyed rather than relinquish the contest. A well-bred dog always attacks the bull in front, and 457 endeavours to seize on the lip as the most sensitive part.

A nobleman had a favourite bull-dog, which was his constant companion in his carriage to and from his seat in Scotland for many years. The dog was strongly attached to his master, and was quite gentle and inoffensive. As he grew old, it was determined to leave him in London. The carriage came to the door, his master entered it, and drove off, taking another dog for his companion. The packing — the preparations — had all been witnessed by the faithful bull-dog, who was evidently aware that he had been deserted by the only being he loved. From that moment he became melancholy. He refused to eat, and notwithstanding all the care taken of him, he pined and died.

A bull-dog, not many years since, saved a ship-wrecked crew by towing a rope from the vessel to the shore, after two fine Newfoundland dogs had perished in the attempt. This success may be attributed to his indomitable courage, which prevented him from giving up his exertions while life remained.

I remember many years ago hearing of some robberies, which took place by means of a bull-god in the neighbourhood of London, which was near my own residence. A gentleman in riding home one winter’s evening, had one of the hocks of his horse seized, as he was trotting along the road, by a bull-dog, who kept his hold, and brought the horse to the ground. A man then came up, and robbed the gentleman of his purse.


It was common in Staffordshire, before young dogs were able to cope with a bull, to practise them with a man, who stood proxy for the bull. On one occasion of this sort, Mr. Deputy Bull being properly staked, began to perform his part by snorting and roaring lustily. The dog ran at him, but was repulsed, — the courage of the animal, however, increased with every struggle, and at last he seized his biped antagonist by the cheek, who, with rueful countenance, endured it for some time, till at length he was compelled to cry out to his companion to take the dog off; but he, unwilling to damp the courage of his élève, vociferated, “Woot spoil the pups, mun? — let ’em taste bloode first!”

Bull-dogs are now much less common than they were. A cross breed between them and a good terrier is said to produce better fighters and harder biters than the pure bull-dog. If one of these dogs is crossed wit a greyhound, the offspring is found to be too courageous, and from this cause in attacking deer they have been frequently killed.

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