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From Anecdotes of Dogs, by Edward Jesse, Esq., London: Bell & Daldy; 1870; pp. 466-474.



Almost every dog which is cross-bred is ranked as a cur dog or mongrel, but that which is specially described by Youatt, is the shepherd’s dog crossed 467 with the terrier, and is nearly smooth; but he is considerably longer in the legs in proportion to the size of his body, is stronger in the make, has half-pricked ears, is generally black and white, although sometimes all black, and has rather a short tail. In the north of England and southern counties of Scotland great attention is paid to the breeding of this dog, and to breaking him in for driving and tending cattle, which he does with great intelligence; indeed his sagacity in everything is uncommonly great, and he is very trusty. These dogs bite very keenly, and always make their attack at the heels of cattle, who, on this account, having no defence against them, are quickly compelled to run.

The cur has long and somewhat deservedly obtained a very bad name as a bully and a coward; and certainly his habit of barking at everything that passes, and flying at the heels of the horse, renders him often a very dangerous nuisance. He is, however, valuable to the cottager; he is a faithful defender of his humble dwelling; no bribe can seduce him from his duty; and he is a useful and an effectual guard over the clothes and scanty provisions of the labourer, who may be working in some distant part of the field. All day-long he will lie upon his master’s clothes seemingly asleep, but giving immediate warning of the approach of a supposed marauder. He has a propensity, when at home, to fly at every horse and every strange dog; and of young game of every kind there is not a more ruthless destroyer than the village cur.


The following story is strictly authentic: — “Not long ago a young man, an acquaintance of Lord Fife’s coachman, was walking, as he had often done, in his lordship’s stables at Banff. Taking an opportunity when the servants were not regarding him, he put a bridle into his pocket. A Highland cur that was generally about the stables observed the theft, and immediately began to bark at him; and when he got to the stable door would not let him pass, but held him fiercely by the leg to prevent him. As the servants had never seen the dog act thus before, and the same young man had been often with them, they could not imagine what could be the reason of the dog’s conduct. However, when they perceived the end of a valuable bridle peeping out of the young man’s pocket they were able to account of for it, and on his giving it up the dog let go his hold and allowed him to pass.”

“I recollect,” says Mr. Hall, “when I passed some time at the Viscount Arbuthnot’s at Hatton, in the parish of Marykirk, one of his lordship’s estates, that when the field-servants went out one morning they found a man whom they knew, and who lived a few miles’ distance, lying on the road a short way from the stable with a number of bridles, girths, &c. &c. near him, and the house-dog, which was of the Highland breed, lying also at his ease, holding the seat of the man’s breeches in his mouth. The man confessed his crime, and told them that the dog had struggled with 469 him, and held him in that position for five hours; but that immediately after the servants came up he let go his hold.”

The following anecdote is well known. In London, a few years since, a box, properly directed, was sent to a merchant’s shop to lie there all night, and be shipped off with other goods next morning. A dog, which accidentally came into the shop with a customer, by smelling the box, and repeatedly barking in a peculiar way, led to the discovery that it did not contain goods, but a fellow who intended to admit his companions and plunder the shop in the night-time.

John Lang, Esq., deputy-sheriff of Selkirk, had a female cur big with pups, which on one occasion, when out in the fields attending the cattle, was taken in travail, and pupped on the moor. She concealed her litter in a whin-bush, brought the cattle home at the usual time with the utmost care, and, having delivered her charge, returned to the moor and brought home the puppies one by one. Mr. Lang, with that humanity which marks his character, preserved the whole litter, that he might not give the least cause of pain to so faithful and so affectionate an animal.

In Lambeth Church there is a painting of a man with a dog on one of the windows. In reference to this, we learn by tradition that a piece of ground near Westminster Bridge, containing one acre and nineteen roods (named Pedlar’s Acre), was left to this parish by a pedlar, upon condition that his picture, and that of 470 the dog, should be perpetually preserved on painted glass on one of the windows of the church, which the parishioners have carefully performed. The time of this gift was 1504, when the ground was let at 2s. 8d. per annum; but in the year 1762 it was let on lease at l00l. per year, and a fine of 800l.; and is now worth more than 250l. yearly. The reason alleged for the pedlar’s request is, that being very poor, and passing the aforementioned piece of ground, he could by no means get his dog away, which kept scratching a particular spot of earth, until he attracted his master’s notice; who going back to examine the cause, and pressing with his stick, found something hard, which, on a nearer inspection, proved to be a pot of gold. With part of this money he purchased the land, and settled in the parish; to which he bequeathed it on the conditions aforesaid.

“It was with pleasure,” observes Mr. Taylor, in his “General Character of the Dog,” “that I watched the motions of a grateful animal belonging to one of the workmen employed at Portsmouth dockyard. This man had a large cur dog, who regularly every day brought him his dinner upwards of a mile. When his wife had prepared the repast, she tied it up in a cloth, and put it in a hand-basket; then calling Trusty (for so he was properly named), desired him to be expeditious, and carry his master’s dinner, and be sure not to stop by the way. The dog, who perfectly well understood his orders, immediately obeyed, by taking 471 the handle of the basket in his mouth, and began his journey. It was laughable to observe that, when tired by the way, he would very cautiously set the basket on the ground; but by no means would suffer any person to come near it. When he had sufficiently rested himself, he again took up his load, and proceeded forward until he came to the dock gates. Here he was frequently obliged to stop, and wait with patience until the porter, or some other person, opened the door. His joy was then visible to every one. His pace increased; and with wagging tail, expressive of his pleasure, he ran to his master with the refreshment. The caresses were mutual; and after receiving his morsel as a recompense for his fidelity, he was ordered home with the empty basket and plates, which he carried back with the greatest precisions, to the high diversion of all spectators.”

Some years since, a distiller, who lived at Chelsea, in Middlesex, had a middle-sized brown cur dog, crossed with the spaniel, which had received so complete an education from the porter, that he was considered a very valuable acquisition. This porter used generally to carry out the liquors to the neighbouring customers in small casks, tied up in a coarse bag, or put in a barrow; and whenever the man thought proper to refresh himself (which was frequently the case), he would stop the barrow, and calling Basto (which was the dog’s name), in a very peremptory manner bid him mind the bag; and away he went to drink, and 472 frequently left the barrow in the middle of the street. Basto always rested near his trust, and sometimes apparently asleep; which induced many idle people, who, seeing a bag in the road without an owner, to attempt stealing the same. But no sooner had they endeavoured to decamp with the prize, than this vigilant creature flew at them with such outrage, as obliged them immediately to relinquish the undertaking; and glad were they to escape with a few bites and whole bones, and leave the tempting bait to catch other dishonest rogues, as it had done them.

One day, a person having particular business with the master, which required dispatch, went to the distillery adjoining the dwelling-house, thinking it very likely he might meet him there giving orders to the servant; and finding the outward door open, walked into the still-room: but no sooner had he gone a few steps than a fierce growl assailed his ears, and almost imperceptibly he was pinioned by fear to the wall. The affrighted person called loudly for help; but the family being at the other part of the house, his cries were fruitless. The generous animal, however, who had the frightened man close in custody, scorned to take a mean advantage of his situation by recommencing hostilities. He remained perfectly quiet, unless the delinquent attempted to sir — he then became as furious as ever; so that the prisoner prudently remained like a statue fixed against the wall, while Basto like a sentinel on his post, kept a strict guard, lest he should 473 escape before the family arrived. In about twenty minutes the master, in coming from the parlour to the counting-house, beheld the prisoner, and Basto walking backwards and forwards beside him. The dog, by a thousand gesticulations, seemed to wish a proper explanation might take place. The master laughed heartily at the poor fellow’s expense, as did he likewise when liberated; but he had ever after the prudence, when business brought him to the house, to ring loudly at the door, notwithstanding it frequently stood wide open.

A carrier on his way to Dumfries, had occasion to leave his cart and horse upon the public road, under the protection of a passenger and his dog Trusty. Upon his return, he missed a led horse belonging to a gentleman in the neighbourhood, which he had tied to the end of a cart, and likewise one of the female passengers. On inquiry he was informed that, during his absence, the female, who had been anxious to try the mettle of the pony, had mounted it, and that the animal had set off at full speed. The carrier expressed much anxiety for the safety of the young woman, casting at the same time an expressive look at his dog. Trusty observed his master’s eye, and aware of its meaning, instantly set off in pursuit of the pony, which he came up with soon after he had passed the first toll-bar on the Dalbeattie road; when he made a sudden spring, seized the bridle, and held the animal fast. Several people having observed the circumstance, and 474 the perilous situation of the girl, came to her relief. The dog, however, notwithstanding their repeated endeavours, would not quit his hold of the bridle; and the pony was actually led into the stable with the dog, till such time as the carrier should arrive. Upon the carrier entering the stable, Trusty wagged his tail in token of satisfaction, and immediately relinquished the bridle to his master.

A short time ago a large cur, belonging to a gentleman at Richmond, in Yorkshire, accidentally fell into a well, and for the moment he gave him up as lost. But as a sort of desperate effort to save the dog, he directed a boy to let down a rope he had into the well, in the hope that possibly it might catch around his leg or neck. No sooner, however, did the rope come within reach, than the dog seized it with his teeth, and the parties above finding it had secured him, began to draw it up; when, about half-way up, he lost his hold and fell back. Again the rope was let down, and again the dog seized it, and he was drawn nearly to the mouth of the well; when his bite gave way, and the third time he fell into the water, Once more the rope was let down, and this time the dog took so thorough a hold, that he was brought triumphantly up; and when set down in safety, shook the water from his hair, and wagged his tail, apparently as proud of the exploit as the other parties were gratified with it.

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