This section is from the book "All About Dogs - A Book For Doggy People", by Charles Henry Lane. Also available from Amazon: All About Dogs: A Book For Doggy People.
I think it may be interesting here to quote the eulogistic terms in which Mr. Burchell, the well-known African traveller, wrote of his dogs, as he had a considerable experience of the breed in the course of his long and perilous journeys in that (at the time he was there) almost unknown country.
"Our pack of dogs," says he, "consisted of five and twenty, of various sorts and sizes. This great variety, though not altogether intentional, as I was obliged to take any that could be procured and were at all likely to answer my purposes, was often of the greater service to me, as I observed, some gave notice of danger, or their suspicions of it, in one way, and others in quite a different manner. Some were more disposed to keep watch against men, others against wild beasts of prey, and others for animals and birds of sport; some discovered an enemy by their quickness of hearing, others by that of scent; some were useful for speed in pursuing game, some for their vigilance and barking, and others for their courage in holding ferocious animals at bay. So large a pack indeed was not maintained without adding greatly to our care and trouble, in supplying them with meat and water, for it was sometimes difficult to procure for them enough of the latter; but, their services were invaluable, often contributing to our safety, and always to our ease, by their constant vigilance, as we felt confident that no danger could approach us at night without its being announced by their barking.
"No circumstances could render the value and fidelity of these animals so conspicuous and sensible as a journey through regions which abounding in wild beasts of almost every class, gave us continual opportunities of witnessing the strong contrast between the ferocious beasts of prey, many of which fly at the approach of man and these kind, but not always duly appreciated, companions of the human race. Many times when we have been travelling over plains where the wild creatures of all kinds have fled directly we appeared in sight, have I turned my eyes towards my dogs, in admiration of their devotion and attachment and have felt a grateful affection towards them for preferring our society to the wild liberty of other quadrupeds.
"Often in the middle of the night when all my people have been fast asleep round the fire, have I stood to contemplate these faithful animals lying by their side, and have learned to esteem them for their social inclination to mankind. When wandering over pathless deserts, oppressed with vexation and distress at the conduct of my own men I have turned to them, as my only friends and felt how much inferior to them was man when actuated only by selfish views.
"The familiarity which exists between these animals and our own race, is so common to almost every country of the globe, that any remark upon it must seem superfluous, but I cannot avoid believing that it is the universality of the fact which prevents the greater part of mankind from duly reflecting on the subject. While almost every other quadruped fears man as its most formidable enemy, here is one which regards him as a friend.
"We must not mistake the nature of the case, it is not because we train him to our use and have made choice of him in preference to other animals, but because this particular species feels a natural desire to be useful to man and from spontaneous impulse attaches itself to him. Were it not so we should see in various countries an equal familiarity with various other quadrupeds according to the habits, tastes, or caprices of different nations. But, everywhere, it is the dog only takes delight in associating with us, in sharing our abodes, and is even jealous that our attention should be bestowed on him alone, it is he who knows us personally, watches for us, and warns us of danger.
"It is impossible for the naturalist, when taking a survey of the whole animal creation not to feel a conviction that this friendship between two creatures so different from each other, must be the result of the laws of nature; nor can the humane and feeling mind avoid the belief that kindness to those animals, from which he derives continued and essential assistance is part of his moral duty." These words of such an experienced naturalist as Mr. Burchell, are as true to-day as when they were written by him more than fifty years ago, but I am bound to say I think dogs are more valuable, and more thought of now, than ever they were since the world began.
Mr. Bell tells a short story of the intelligence displayed by a Bloodhound belonging to a friend of his, a Mr. Boyle. He says, "To make trial whether a young hound was well instructed, Mr. Boyle desired one of his servants to walk to a town four miles off, and then to a market town three miles from thence. The dog, without seeing the man he was to pursue, followed him by the scent to the above mentioned places, notwithstanding the multitude of market people that went along the same road and of travellers that had occasion to come, and when the Bloodhound came to the market town he passed through the streets, without taking notice of any of the people there, and ceased not till he had gone to the house, where the man he sought rested himself and where he found him in an upper room to the wonder of those who had accompanied him in this pursuit." In the face of the Bloodhound trials last year, and again this spring, in which my friend Mr. Brough has been so much interested, I thought some of my readers might like to see this short account of the doings of a young hound, more than half a century ago.
To illustrate the occasional trials of exhibitors, I recollect starting off early with a team of dogs for one of the first general shows held at Oxford, I think all my dogs were in boxes or baskets but one, a tricolour Collie, whose name I forget, and he was on the chain, and put by the railway people into one of those vile receptacles they call dog boxes, narrow, dark, low and often dirty. On arrival at Did-cot (which I had before connected in my mind with Banbury cakes, and was quite surprised to find a "one-eyed" sort of straggling village of contemptible size,) a porter opened one end of the dog den and called the Collie, he, however, showed no intention of responding to the call, and retreated to the other end of the den and growled at the porter, and one of the other porters went around to the further side of the coach and opened the other door of the den, and the dog, taking advantage of this chance of freedom, bolted out, crossed the line, went through a hedge and found himself at once in the open country. I had taken no part in the affair, and declined all responsibility, but told the officials I should sue the company for the value of the dog, lost through their carelessness.