‘Breed’ Sets the Standard


Thoughts on ‘Breed: The British & their Dogs’

Walking through to the main entrance of the Manchester Museum as it stands today, one could not possibly miss the recently opened exhibition ‘Breed: The British & their Dogs’, as it’s wonderful entrance wall—adorned with black & white photography of man’s best friend, welcoming dog lovers and curious passers-by alike through its inviting archway.

The ‘Breed’ exhibition explores the joint history of the British and their dog—focusing on six pedigrees in order to show the diverse and rich ways in which dogs have impacted different facets of our lives from the beginning of the British Dog Fancying movement in the Victorian period onwards.

Whilst I’ve only just managed to find the time to attend the exhibition, the opening was apparently quite the inter-species success as humans and dogs both attended the initial celebration, with Kennel Club members brining one each of the key breeds that the exhibition is based around—the Bulldog, Pekingese, Irish Wolfhound, Borzoi, Collie and Bulldog.

In addition to the grand representatives of the exhibition being present, the official opening of the exhibition was hailed in by the Museum Director, Nick Merriman’s, miniature Schnauzer jumping the traditional ribbon (marking a positively untraditional opening to the exhibition), whilst visitors were greeted inside the museum halls with dog bowls full of snacks and drinks such as beer from The Black Dog Brewery.


©Paul Cliff

Naturally Professor Worboys (whose work was foundational to the exhibition and who co-published ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen: Rabies in Britain, 1830-2000’) was there to attend the opening and to offer some insights into what he hoped viewers would gain from ‘Breed’. In a fitting manner Worboys seems to propose that, whilst ‘Breed’ seems to be the focus of his exhibition, viewers would be encouraged to see how dog breeds and breeding was just as much a construction as the ‘Breed’ exhibition itself is.

“[…]breed is something that was created by the Victorian dog fancy and has informed the way that we think about dogs”

Fellow blogger and attendant to the opening, Rachel recalls Worboys declaring.

“Dog breeders pioneered artificial insemination which was then transferred to agriculture [….] The Irish Wolfhound could be seen as the first designer dog”

In addition to these thought-provoking statements, challenging our (the British public’s) current understanding of dogs, the ‘Breed’ exhibition has been accompanied by some well-planned and appropriate events—including a talk titled ‘The Animal Estate 25 years on’ held by the foundational writer on Victorian animal studies Harriet Ritvo (which I deeply regret missing), an upcoming educational session for KS3/4 students titled ‘British: Born and Bred’ and even events for young children, such as a Magic Carpet session concerning Cats and Dogs.

With all this in mind I was rather excited to be attending the exhibition myself and about being able to see the exhibition lay-out for myself and come to some first-hand conclusions about the exhibition. These aspects of presentation and evaluation are what I wish to share now that I have the contextual groundwork of the exhibition laid out.


(Whilst I’ll be talking here about the presentation of ‘Breed’, describing it to the best of my abilities, I’ll also insert a video of the exhibition, as explained by the Curator of Living Cultures; Stephen Welsh, at the end of this section, allowing readers of this article who won’t be attending the exhibition to see the layout first-hand)

The archway that leads into ‘Breed: the British & their Dogs’ is graphically well-done and is bordered with vintage dog photography—showing dog’s both individually and with their owners—making the exhibition a welcoming space to walk into (and giving some comedy to viewers, especially when seeing the top left, top hat wearing terrier featured). A video showing an early 20th century dog show can be seen playing on the wall upon walking in, whilst the initial walls also have life sized silhouettes of the exhibitions featured breeds. This is the only section on the exhibition that could really be considered as ‘interactive’ in the traditional sense, and is a good way to gain an instant engagement with the exhibition.

This initial ‘interactive’ section is almost immediately followed by the opening wall of the exhibition, which features the introduction to the exhibition coupled with R. Marshall’s ‘An Early Canine Meeting’ (1855). Here we learn the exhibition’s goals, which seemed to be as follows:

-Firstly, to make its audience aware of the progression of the Dog Fancy movement (and the progression of dog characterising from ‘types’ to ‘breeds’) from the mid-19th century onwards, highlighting it as the product of the Victorian era.

-Secondly, to highlight the notion of ‘Breeds’ as directly relating to this movement, to explore the diverse, complex, affectionate and endearing relationships between humans and dogs that have occurred as a result of the Dog Fancy movement and the development of different dog breeds.

-Thirdly, and lastly, to highlight the genetic implications to the health and wellbeing of man’s best friend that Victorian breeding regimes have caused.

After this wall the exhibition doesn’t fail to dive straight into its first goal, as a timeline dedicated to the progression of the Dog Fancy movement is laid out on the proceeding wall (starting from the beginning of the Victorian age, at 1837 and ending at 1936 with an impressive attendance achievement for the Crufts Dog Show). Again, the graphics for this timeline are vibrant and eye catching, whilst still keeping a vintage feel that will allow audiences to consider it suitably Victorian.

A lot of images are presented, printed on the timeline itself and incorporated into the graphic display, whilst items of visual culture are also displayed behind raised glass boxes; such as dog collars, show certificates and the Queen’s kennel registrar. This integration of image, item and timeline allow for a smooth introduction to the progression of Dogs from the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign onwards, whist not being so full of information that they may detract from the summary-structure of the timeline.

From here the exhibition breaks off into separate sections for each breed, in the style of a traditional dog show, allowing the viewers of the exhibition to treat each section (and each breed) as a separate part of the exhibit. This was a very deliberate choice and, as such, I’ll also endeavour to describe each section as a separate space in this ‘presentation’ section of my review.

The Bloodhound


The space concerning the Bloodhound is presented to the viewer first, as the timeline wall literally guides the viewer into its allocated area.

The general format of each of these sections was to have two boards with information on each side and a glass case with memorabilia in them in the centre. The Bloodhound’s first board highlighted its role as a dog known for hunting, protection and (more to the interest of Victorian audiences) tracking, and highlighted the use of Barnaby and Burgho, two Bloodhounds recruited by Edwin Brough, in 1888 to try and hunt down Jack the Ripper.

The next board makes the association between the Bloodhound as a detective and Sherlock Holmes—noting the use of the Bloodhound’s breed ‘cousin’ in the Hound of the Baskervilles and the comparison made between Sherlock’s skills of detection and a the Bloodhound’s skills in tracking.

On either side of the glass case there are also items hung on the wall—on one side a trophy for a champion Bloodhound called Rollo, on the other a portrait of Bardolph, one of Edwin Brough’s Bloodhounds, as painted by Henry Rankin Poore (1859-1940).

In the glass case a collection of Bloodhound related items can be seen, including a dated metal statue and a much more recent little ornament of a bloodhound dressed as Sherlock Holmes.

This comparison between the rather dignified metal bloodhound, holding a confident, upright stance, and the comparatively dopey Sherlock Bloodhound, all dropped and soppy, proved to be quite a humorous contrast used to affectionate effect.

The Pekingese

Looty, https://i0.wp.com/www.avictorian.com/pets/Looty_peke.jpg

The next space was dedicated to the Pekingese, and brought up themes of Empire and Imperialism in the Victorian age. The first board looks at what is generally known as the first Pekingese brought to the U.K.—salvaged as loot from the Emperor’s burning Summer Palace in Beijing and presented to Queen Victoria by Lieutenant Dunne, who caringly (and with no small amount of wit) named the dog ‘Looty’. This doggy anecdote is coupled on the board with a very colourful and eye-catching painting of ‘Queen Victoria’s Pekingese Looty’ painted by Friedrich Keyl (1823-1871) in 1861, along with other images.

The second board explored the boom in the Pekingese breed’s popularity as a result of this Royal endorsement amongst upper-class British female. The continued legacy of the Pekingese in Britain is hailed through Dame Barbara Cartland’s relationship with her Pekingese, and her use of the breed in her novels.

Whilst the Pekingese lacks the side features that accompany the Bloodhound’s section, the glass case for the Pekingese is a compelling display—looking at examples of the Foo dogs which the Pekingese was associated with, as a mythological ‘little lion’. When concerning the themes of breeding, wellbeing and genetics that are considered in the exhibition, the Pekingese skull also shown in the glass case offers food for thought to its viewers.

The Irish wolfhound


The Irish wolfhound, in its own section, introduces the exhibition viewer to a dog breed that both defined national identity and held a significant position when it came to breed standards and the development of ‘designer dogs’ (as Professor Worboys suggested at the exhibition’s opening).

The first panel explores these themes, looking at former Indian Army captain George Augustus Graham’s attempts to revive the Irish wolfhound through the selective breeding of other breeds in order to achieve, what he believed to be, the perfect Irish wolfhound. The panel goes onto explain that this carefully designed Irish wolfhound gained great popularity in the British dog chow scene—being hailed for its ancient Celtic heritage, and even being placed next to Erin, the female archetype of Ireland, in visual culture.

The second panel explores the controversy that the English construction of a supposedly ‘Irish’ dog breed caused for Irish Republicans, and the contrasting championship of the Kerry blue terrier as the national dog of the Irish Free State. This conflict led to the formation of the Irish Kennel Club in 1922, showing how dog breeds can shape and define national identity and split opinions amongst the Dog Fancy. Images such as an Irish call to arms exemplify this association between breed a national pride.

The glass case for this breed complimented this cause, though didn’t manage to draw my attention as much as the interesting content of the panels, which could perhaps suggest an imbalance between the case and the panels in this section for some like-minded viewers.

The Borzoi


The Borzoi’s section reflects what its panels propose; a sense of elegance; as even the background graphics for the Borzoi’s panels have a touch of elegance. The first panel for the Borzoi brings up the dog’s heritage as a favourite amongst the Russian royal family, which would be given as a diplomatic gift to other European royal families, strengthening the link between man’s best friend, nobility and national identity. This is made clear with the panel’s assertion that, come the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, Revolutionaries executed not only the Royal family, but also their Borzois.

The second panel looks at the British attempts to breed, and later preserve, the Borzoi breed-type from extinction amongst aristocratic women—highlighting The Duchess of Newcastle and Queen Alexandra as two such women who were dedicated to preserving the breed, and strengthening the link between Borzoi’s and high fashion breeding.

Both panels incorporate a healthy amount of photography showing the Borzoi throughout its time as Russian nobility, and a British preservation cause—allowing for further engagement with the changing genetics and breed standards of the Borzoi. After all, when presented so clearly with the ‘Then’ it is not hard for viewers to compare the Borzoi breed to the ‘Now’.

Meanwhile the Borzoi’s glass case exemplifies the elegant, rich and aristocratic association of the dog—showing so many statues, fine artefacts and trinkets that the borzoi skull that is also shown seems somewhat out of place! Regardless the case compliments the section’s overall design and message, and works well in the space.

The Borzoi also has a pride-of-place in the exhibition—as one of the ‘Breed’ exhibition’s largest art acquisitions is a large oil painting of ‘Four of the Duchess of Newcastle’s Borzois’ painted by John Emms (1843-1912) in 1892. The dogs featured are Nagrajdai, Oudar, Golub and Ooslad, shown in a forest landscape with a dead rabbit between them. Highlighting both their hunting background and their elegance, the painting is a wonderful addition to the exhibition space, despite breaking the separation of each of the breed sections which were so deliberately created.

The Collie


The section dedicated to the collie addresses an issue that is perhaps well-known to any exhibition viewers that watched the recent London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

The first panel is concerned with the Collie’s increased popularity in the Victorian period, due to the drastic change of British landscapes called by the Industrial Revolution and the development of romantic notions of the British country side, and what it came to represent in contrast to the developing urban landscapes.

The panel then explores the collie’s consequent associations of loyalty, a good work ethic and companionship, looking at how this lead to the breed’s popularity concerning ‘Victorian values’, royal preferences (the Queen said to have a soft spot for collies) and literature from the mid-19th century onwards. Art of the collie from publications and an image of Queen Victoria with one of her collie’s compliment the panel’s messages.

The second panel reminds exhibition viewers of the nature of ‘Breed’ and breeding—as it explains the introduction of the ‘show collie’, a dog no longer meant for working purposes, but specifically for dog shows instead. Despite this the athletic nature of the show collies is highlighted, demonstrating a healthy standard of competition.

The collie’s glass case is sparsely filled compared to some of the other breeds, but regardless reflects the themes of loyalty and companionship which helped the popularity of the breed (as the first panel in its section suggests). At the centre of the display is an etching showing a collie mourning its master; reflecting the breed’s loyalty. A collie skull placed just beyond the etching acts well to create a parallel between faithful dogs mourning their owners, and the notions of loyalty which the collie reflected that Victorian audiences would like to see in themselves.

By the side of the glass case is a painting of ‘Sheep and Dogs’ painted by Joseph Verboeckhoven (1790-1881) in 1861, demonstrating the collie breed at work.

The Bulldog


The Bulldog’s section is the last (but certainly not least!) breed section to be shown in the exhibition.

Although it may be a breed that does not need introduction for most, panel one highlights the Bulldog’s history as our national dog—exploring its history and association with butchers, beef supplies and John Bull (the personification of Britain) long before the Victorian age. It then goes on to explain the increased interest in using Bulldogs in blood sports, such as bull baiting, bear baiting and dog fighting, during the 19th century—explaining the association these activities managed to create between Bulldogs and criminality.

The second panel highlights what exhibition viewers would now know well as the ‘Bulldog spirit’ and the use of the Bulldog breed in the early 20th century during war time (with World War II being highlighted). Despite the growing popularity as a national icon, and its association with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the exaggerated features of the bulldog, panel two tells its viewers, became an area for debate and concern.

This exaggeration can be seen well in the Bulldog’s section—as the first shows images of the Bulldog from the 19th century, which almost seem to be showing a different dog in comparison to some of the 20th century imagery shown on the second panel—and the choice to present the Bulldog’s breed section as last in the series might be seen as a wise one, as it speaks well to the exhibition’s ultimate goal to show how breeding has affected the appearance, health and wellbeing of dogs over time.

The glass case for this section works well to compliment what the Bulldog breed has represented to the British over the years and as a result of this the memorabilia shown is greatly varied showing every aspect of the bulldog—from its associations with bear baiting, shown through a rather formidable looking bear baiting jug, to its position as a lovable national icon, shown through a cuddly toy bulldog with the Union Flag on its T-shirt.

Artworks each side of the glass case in this section also compliment the information given on the bulldog. A painting of an English Bulldog and a French Bulldog side-by-side, painted by Fanny Moody (1861-1947) in 1904, titled ‘Entente Cordiale’ shows the Bulldog’s use as a national personification—as the painting celebrates the Entente Cordiale agreements made between Britain and France by showing these two Bulldogs together, symbolic of the Anglo-French cooperation that the agreements secured. Meanwhile, the painting of ‘Crib and Rosa’ on the other side of the glass case, painted in the early 19th century by Abraham Cooper (1787-1868), shows exhibition viewers the difference between what was considered to be the ideal breed standard for a bulldog in the early 19th century in comparison to what Bulldogs look like now.

Taxidermy & Trophies

In addition to the breed sections a vintage taxidermy example of each featured breed can be seen running down the centre of the exhibition space—allowing viewers to gain an idea of what these breeds looked like, thus aiding the exhibition’s goals further.

A series of trophies can also be seen in a glass cabinet near the beginning of the exhibition, although it may be initially walked past due to the format of the exhibition. All of these trophies are donated by The Manchester Dog Show Society—making viewers aware of the Dog Fancy heritage in Manchester, and demonstrating just how prevalent dog showing may be, even if it is not considered in daily life. Older than the Kennel Club, the Manchester Dog Show Society hosts a Champion Dog Show every year, with the winner gaining a chance to attend Crufts.

All of these elements come together to make the exhibition a clear-cut, easy to explore and informative affair for anyone who attends it—allowing viewers to gain new insights and new ways of thinking about man’s best friend.


What to say about this exhibition? I’ve come away from it with mixed thoughts, but feel optimistic about it overall.

As an Art Historian I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of art items in the exhibition (from both high and low art culture). I was particularly impressed when I walked through the archway of ‘Breed’ and was greeted with R. Marshall’s ‘An Early Canine Meeting’. This iconic painting often graces scholarship that concerns the progression of the dog in the Victorian era and with good reason. The painting illustrates what has been identified as a turning point when it comes to the relationship between the British and their dogs, namely the Dog Fancy movement that this exhibition highlights.

In it we see a group of men engaging in Dog Fancying, with breed examples both on the table and at their feet. All presented as rather refined gentlemen; the dogs reflect the men’s aspirations of ‘good breeding’ and sophistication as the new upwardly mobile middle classes of Victorian Britain. This aspiration for the dogs and their owners (who would use their dogs as status symbols) to progress into a class of refinement and strict standards is reflected in the art shown on the walls.

In contrast to the ‘well-bred’ dogs and equally ‘well-bred’ gentlemen sitting in the room, the art on the walls shows male boxing practices and dogs pits (In particular images of the famous dog Billy killing over 100 rats in various artworks). Contrasted against the paintings in the background, the club is presented as a civilised and morally progressive way for humans to interact with their canine companions, and heralds in the Dog Fancy movement of the Victorian age that this exhibition addresses. This is further validated by the right-hand sign above the men’s heads, which reads “Every man has his fancy Canine Meetings […]”.

This relationship between the art and the exhibition, however, was somewhat lacking in the exhibition and in many ways. On the ManCulutral blog it is stated that:

“There will be over one hundred objects on display, each of which illustrate the enduring and affectionate relationship between Britons and their dogs”

Yet, in places it seems as if the displayed objects are used simply as supplements to what is being explained in the exhibition, and there is no extensive attempt to create an active dialogue. This became apparent to me when I saw that an image of Billy killing 100 rats had been acquired for the exhibition—featuring in the timeline, instead of making any links between this image and ‘An Early Canine Meeting’ this artwork exists only as part of the timeline series, with no connections to other parts of the exhibition.

This was perhaps a difficult choice made by the curators, and others involved, considering the amount of objects involved and the items do work well in the spaces they have been assigned to. However, with so many images and visual items in the exhibition it seems like there could have been some strong potential for interdisciplinary engagement between the disciplines involved in the exhibition and Art History. To see a lack of this is a disappointment for myself (what with working in the area concerned) but would probably have no impact on the average viewer; as the items are well arranged.

On that note, whilst the arrangements of the items may lack a strong engagement with their social, political and historical significance, the large (and greatly varying) items provide effective food for thought for both the casual exhibition viewer and the interested academic alike—broadening the spectrum of cultural items that one might include in their research, or simply when they consider the history of the dog as a general point of discussion. I had personally thought that I’d considered visual items that represent the dog quite extensively, but the highly decorated dog show certificates shown on the ‘Breed’ timeline managed to prove me wrong!

In this manner ‘Breed’ is an excellent exhibition that provokes engagement with not just the scientific and breed history of the dogs it addresses, but also their cultural history, and the history of material and visual culture in relation to dogs (albeit through self-reflexive means).

In addition to this positive aspect, ‘Breed’ is quite effective at exploring the goals that it sets itself in the introduction to the exhibition.

A swift run through the timeline effectively makes the exhibition viewer adequately aware of the progression of Dog Fancying as a Victorian movement (and key points in this progression) allowing the rest of the exhibition to swiftly whisk the viewer into the rest of the exhibition (and the rest of the exhibition’s goals). Novelty items in the exhibition remind viewers of the humour affection with which we address dogs (such as the cuddly toy Bulldog and, my personal favourite, the soppy Sherlock Holmes Bloodhound), whilst images of owners and their dogs remind exhibition viewers of the endearing esteem with which we hold dogs, as man’s best friend, whilst also highlighting the diversity of dog owners.

_E3Q0016 copy

©Paul Cliff

Meanwhile, the associations with the Pekingese with China, and the Emperor, the Irish wolfhound with Ireland’s Celtic roots, the Borzoi with Russian nobility and the Bulldog with British spirit demonstrate the significant links between the development of dog breeding and the construction of significant national identities. Class struggles are also apparent in the wariness of the Bulldog (who became associated with ‘criminal classes’), the murder of the Tzar’s Borzoi’s, the glorification of the Collie’s rural, working class roots and even the phenomenon of Dog Fancying itself, which is a notably middle class phenomenon.

Controversial issues are also successfully addressed, without detracting from the presentation of human-dog relationships as affectionate and commendable. The controversy concerning the Irish wolfhound is a perfect example of this—as the Irish found themselves with a national breed whose ‘Irish’ heritage had been manufactured and enforced upon them by the British Dog Fancy, and caused an according retaliation. The Collie also addresses complex ideas of the countryside ideal versus the demonising of the urban metropolis, an issue that would have been controversial in its contemporary context. The employment of the British Bulldog as war propaganda is also a complex and provocative issue.

However, if there were a prize of ‘most controversial in show’ in this exhibition it would have to go to the Pekingese breed or, more specifically, Looty—Queen Victoria’s prize Pekingese dog, taken as part of the spoils of the Second Opium War (1856-1860) as literal loot from the Emperor’s summer palace. Addressing issues of Empire & colonialism, the claiming of Looty, and Queen Victoria’s very self-aware naming of the animal means that Looty can be seen to represent very complex issues that probably could not have been fully explored within the exhibition, but which benefit from being a part of the exhibition, if only in brief.

When it comes to the Exhibition’s issues concerning the physical changes breeding has caused over the years, and the health and wellbeing issues that these changes have caused, I felt that the exhibition did a suitable job, but perhaps lacked the strength of force that such an issue needs in order to be done justice.

I mentioned previously that each breed section had been deliberately divided; this division was made in order to mimic a traditional British dog show as it would have been. As such viewers could be encouraged to realise their own breed favourites based on the amount of time they spent in each section and recognise their own part in the propagation of different breeds. However, showing favouritism to one section alone isn’t perhaps enough to make the average viewer really consider, or realise, that the dog breeding which occurred as part of the Dog Fancy is done off of personal preference, instead of what may be entirely healthy for the dog, and the effect seems somewhat lacklustre when considering the eventual goal of the exhibition.

Equally the myriad of art, photography, sculpture and even taxidermy may serve to show the breeds as they were ‘then’, but without a clear ‘now’ comparison the issue of dog’s increasingly distorted and unhealthy breed standards may not be overly present in the minds of the general exhibition viewer—and the issue is only greatly highlighted in the Bulldog section, which raises concerns about the Bulldog’s increasingly exaggerated features.

This issue could have been easily brought more to the foreground, I feel, and one of the methods could have been by using the skulls in the exhibition. Most (if not all) of the breed sections had a skull of the breed with which it was concerned, and usually quite an old specimen to. If these skulls had been placed next to a replica (or even an image) of what that breed’s skull looks like now then considerations about what breeding has done to the dog’s physical condition, and subsequently its health and welfare, would have been much more present in the audience’s mind. Placing one of the images of the 19th century breed standard next to a modern photograph of a show dog would also have replicated this effect. As, whilst it must have been nice to be at the opening; where a Kennel club accredited dog of each breed was present; the everyday exhibition viewer does not have that luxury and the final goal of the exhibition suffers as a result of this.


©Paul Cliff

This, I feel, may have been the result of the difficulty of balancing our affection towards dogs and the harsh realities of the breed difficulties that modern day breeders are facing in contemporary fields. To champion the British relationship with dogs, whilst also highlighting the issue that the breed standards of dog fancying, which originated from Victorian Britain, have promoted the distortion of dogs, and the in-breeding of genetic defaults which are harming and killing dogs may have been a bit too much of a hard-hitting topic to present in any strong manner in a family friendly exhibition. There is also a need, when it comes to such issues, to stay as objective as possible, and not to emphasise any elements which may seem to allude to an animal welfare, or campaigning agenda, which could detract from exhibition attendance and interest.

If this is the case then ‘Breed’ should at least be commended for trying to address the issue to some degree, whilst also managing to keep it a comparatively subtle agenda in comparison to the other issues that it addresses—though I have to wonder if the exhibition benefitted from the inclusion of such an agenda it would have, no doubt, informed and shaped the overall project in a positive manner.

The only other pressing qualm I have with the ‘Breed’ exhibition is that whilst it tries to make the Victorian development of the Dog Fancy movement and its subsequent development of dog breeds seem clear-cut and precise—through its division of breed sections, the introductory highlighting of the Victorians shifting dogs from ‘types’ to ‘breeds’ and the inclusion of breed re-categorisations in some areas (where I assume it was deemed important)—the truth of the matter is that dog breeds and breed names and associations were not always so clear cut in Victorian society.

Again, Queen Victoria’s beloved pet Looty offers us a prime example of this—for, as late as 1900, the general Victorian public were still unaware of Looty’s breed, as one periodical recalls that:

“Looty is called in records a ‘Chinese Spaniel’ and described as very small; but in these degenerate days her breed is practically unknown. She rather (in her portrait) resembles the modern Jap spaniel with large brown eyes, a black snub nose and a white body with lemon markings.”

Admittedly there is still an apparent fascination with Looty’s breed, which underpins the growing popularity of the Dog Fancy movement, however the fact that this article was unaware of Looty’s breed, and that Looty wasn’t even recorded as a Pekingese, but as a ‘Chinese Spaniel’, seems like an odd thing to omit from an exhibition concerning the breed development of the six dog breeds chosen. Similarly the Duchess of Newcastle’s Borzois are highlighted in the ‘Breed’ exhibition, but in The Strand’s 1894 feature on ‘The Dogs of Celebrities’ the Duchess of Newcastle’s Borzoi is known simply as a sleuth-hound, with no further comment, or need, to accredit the dog to the Borzoi breed.


Despite these curiosities, and the issues I have raised, ‘Breed’ can be considered a resounding success for what it is and for the large amount of material, and issues, that it chooses to balance in the relatively modest exhibition space.

What ‘Breed’ functions as is an initial stepping stone into the world of Victorian Dog Fancying, and the legacy that the movement created—something which, up until this point, has never been presented to a public audience in such a detailed and accessible forum before. In this context ‘Breed’ is largely successful, and has allowed the public to begin to consider issues of the Victorian treatment of the dog with more validity than before, whilst also maintaining a core set of goals that are achieved to at least a suitable extent.

In addition to this, for any academics working with issues of the Dog in the Victorian era, ‘Breed’ may not present much in the way of new knowledge but it will certainly allow for the dissemination of new approaches to this field of interest—acting as a giant mind map and allow for expansion in an area that, thanks to the ‘Breed’ exhibition, is now more publically accepted as a field of research.

In conclusion these elements of public accessibility and academic stimulation means that ‘Breed: the British & their Dogs’ really does set the standards—establishing Victorian treatments of the dog as a valid field of research whilst also allowing for further expansion by future academics in the field.

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