This section is from the book "Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors", by Neville Lytton. Also available from Amazon: Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors: Including The History And Management Of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, And Pomeranians.
Why is it that some dogs command enormous prices and are constantly being run after, whereas others, perhaps bigger winners and possibly more obviously correct in points, fail to attract much notice? I think it will be found that the dogs which attract big offers from the public at large are ones with quality. Quality gives a certain brilliance; a dog with quality strikes the eye, though he may be doing nothing in particular. You may only catch a glimpse of him, or he may be lying fast asleep, yet you cannot help noticing him. In movement he has a certain pride of carriage, a certain exqui-siteness of colour, a certain beauty, in fact, which others, equally good in points, have not.
Quality cannot be defined in standards or divided into scales, but, like beauty and genius in the human race, it must remain forever independent of legislation.
I have, therefore, all the more at heart the importance of rousing our judges to the undoubted advance in popularity of a common, vulgar, coarse type. This popularity is strictly confined to fanciers; the outside public condemn it instinctively. The fancier's eye becomes vitiated by too close a pursuit of points, and he needs periodical lifting out of himself so that he may see the dogs for a moment with a normal vision. As it is the fanciers who make or mar a type by what they breed, it is to the fanciers I speak. This applies to all breeds, but especially to Toy Spaniels.
Pomeranians have not as yet suffered much in competition, but I must warn breeders in time not to do away with the stop. This has been disastrously done in other breeds. Let breeders look at Champion Offley Honey Dew and copy him as nearly as they can, and they cannot go far wrong. The carriage, body, and style of our best Pomeranians cannot be improved, but the heads are not often right, and I think the modern tendency is more towards a wrong type than the right one. There is no harm done yet, but breeders should look to their heads before it is too late.
To return to the proper modern Marlborough. The Marlborough is a very pretty little dog, quite unlike these "bottle-nosed whales." It should be cobby, compact, light in bone, with a small head and pointed nose; stop very deep, and skull broad, but not dome-shaped; ears set very high and carried forward; coat straight and well feathered; eyes large and black and very wide apart; muzzle tapering and nose slightly tilted and teeth level, but not undershot, and about two and a half inches long; back level, tail gaily carried. These dogs are most fascinating and pretty and keen ratters and rabbitters. I have known them to kill large, fierce old rats nearly as big as themselves, which neither bull terriers nor fox terriers would face. They work well with the gun, but they are too wild, and are apt to get right down rabbit holes, which involves their being dug out.
The old-fashioned Marlborough was a very ugly dog indeed. He had almost every fault that a dog can have.
The best type of modern Marlborough is now so rare that the variety has come into great disrepute, chiefly because, on account of its scarcity, people began to exhibit as Marlboroughs any long-nosed Blenheim that could not win in the short-faced classes and was neither one thing nor the other as to type.
In Vero Shaw's "Book of the Dog" there are the following notes on the points of the Blenheim, and, as they apply to all four varieties, I would exhort all breeders and judges of the modern type to pay special attention to them, as we are departing daily more and more from them. I consider that they err on the side of exaggeration, but, at any rate, they correct a few of our present errors:
"The under jaw should be wide between tusks and well turned up; undershot, but not to show the teeth. The stop is wide and deep, as in a fine Bulldog, but the nose should not recede as in that animal. The neck should be arched, tail carried gaily, but not over the back."
This does not mean, as commonly misunderstood, that the tail should not be carried above the level of the back, but that it should not be carried over the back, like a Pomeranian. A writer in 1759 says of the Toy Spaniel: "It should have the tail raised," and ten points were awarded for position and set of tail. Stonehenge says that the general appearance of the Toy Spaniel should be that of " an intelligent, nimble little dog which combines activity with a daintiness peculiar to good breeding and aristocratic connections." I ask my readers to look round the show benches at the present King Charles and Rubies and ask themselves whether the majority, or even the minority, exhibited answer to this description.
It seems impossible to convey to breeders the fact that a dog can be airy and dainty and nimble, and yet be, as Stonehenge again has it, "thickset and cobby, chest deep and wide, strong legs, short back, arched neck, well cut up from chest to loin; the latter should be strong and as sturdy as possible."
Every breeder knows that the large specimens are the most satisfactory to breed from, but they cannot be considered ideal in the show ring, while absence of quality should be considered a bar both for the show ring and for breeding, however excellent the dog may otherwise be. Toy Spaniels weigh heavily for their size. A dog which weighs ten pounds often looks the same as a Japanese dog weighing six pounds. Therefore it is a mistake to aim at great lightness in a Toy Spaniel. Height would be a far truer test of size. Besides this, the anxiety to keep the weight down leads breeders into the fatal error of underfeeding their puppies, with a view to keeping them small. The average weight of a two-year-old Toy Spaniel is something over one pound to the inch of height; they weigh more when older.
The tendency of exhibitions is, of course, to encourage exaggeration of special points, and this should be strenuously fought against by judges. A dog with nostrils actually sunk into the skull is just as far from the proper type as one with a nose three inches long.