Workplace Violence or Terrierism?

Their faces might be cute, but Dandie Dinmonts have murder in their hearts.

Their faces might be cute, but Dandie Dinmonts have murder in their hearts.

That Dandie Dinmont isn’t a particularly popular dog in the UK anymore, if it ever was very popular at all.  Probably because they’re nasty little terrierists.

Take this passage from The American Book of the Dog from over a century ago:

The Dandie Dinmont is a very game dog. Some few specimens that have been spoiled in their puppy hood may show the white feather, and this may be true of any other breed; but this is far from being the rule with the Dandie. He is not a quarrelsome dog, but once aroused, he goes in to win, and is sure to give a good account of himself.

Many instances of Dandies worrying each other in their kennels have been noted. I have suffered myself from this. My Border Clinker killed Bonnie Briton in midday, and neither made the least noise. That old breeder, Mr. Somner, owned the famous Shem, whose father and brother are said to have been found dead in a drain in which the Hounds had run a fox. The drain had three entrances; the father was put in at one hole, the son at another, and speedily the fox bolted out at the third, but no appearance of the little Terriers, and on digging they were found dead, locked in each other’s jaws. They had met, and it being dark, and there being no time for explanations, they had throttled each other.

In closing, I must say that anyone wishing a hardy Terrier, one fit for all kinds of work, a companion for himself or children, can not find anything better than a Dandie Dinmont. The more they become known, the more their merits will be appreciated. I speak from years of experience with this breed, having imported some of the finest blood known; and more Dandies have passed through my hands, and more prizes have been won by my dogs, than by those of all other breeders in America combined.

– John H. Naylor The American Book of the Dog, 1891

I suspect Mr. Naylor was an idiot.  I mean, not only did he predict that the Dandie Dinmont would become a popular American dog — and by any measure it has never been a popular American dog and has dwindled among the least popular AKC breeds having fewer registrations in the USA than all of the UK despite 5 times the population — he did so on the recommendation that these dogs routinely kill each-other!  When a terrier kills another while on a dig, is it workplace violence or terrierism?

A Dandie Dinmont Terrierist Cell

A Dandie Dinmont Terrierist Cell

In the entire decade between 2001 and 2010, only 1144 Dandie Dinmonts were registered with the KC with a high of 151 and a low of 78 per year.  Amazingly, that’s still more than a number of other dead-terrier-breeds-walking.  The Australian Terrier, Cesky Terrier, Glen of Imaal Terrier, Sealyham Terrier, and Skye Terriers failed to accumulate even 100 puppies in any of those years.  Some might blame agricultural obsolescence or the rise of designer dogs of small size, but what if the turn against these Terriers is really due to the revelation that they’re stone-cold killers at heart?

United Kingdom Kennel Club Terrier Registrations 2001-2010

United Kingdom Kennel Club Terrier Registrations 2001-2010

Hugh Dalziel’s 1897 work British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition suggests that these terrier owners are just as pugilistic as their dogs:

There is no class of fanciers so quick to take up a quarrel, or who would fight it out with such tenacity, as those who affect the Dandie; they seem to partake strongly of the pugnacious character of their pets, and, being mostly Scotchmen or Border men, are always ready to “argue the point.”

I know a great number of men, that I am very pleased to call my friends, whose enthusiasm on Dandie Dinmont subjects is so intense that were it not that they are so cool headed, reasonable, and shrewd in dealing with all other topics, lunatico inquirendo would naturally occur to the mind; with many it is only necessary to whisper Harry or Sir Douglas in their ear to produce a similar effect to shaking a red rag before a mad bull; not being quite free from the taint myself, I can speak the more freely of a weakness that has characterised in a special manner a large proportion of Dandie Dinmont fanciers.

Maybe it’s for the rest that they are rare and becoming rarer. Who needs such caustic dogs and their caustic owners?

A Dinmont Terrierist kills a rat within the organization to prevent their evil plots from leaking.

A Dinmont Terrierist kills a rat within the organization to prevent their evil plots from leaking.

Naylor’s naive American enthusiasm for the breed (clearly fueled by his own ribbon-winning escapades) is likewise called into question by Dalziel’s analysis of the Dandie’s physique and breed history.  Besides being shaped like a Liberace bobble-head with a swayback, the Dinmont is reputed by breed legend (which we know are mostly fiction) to have been started by as few as two dogs:

[T]he Dandie Dinmonts north of the Tweed are long-backed to strange deformity, legs shorter than any other breed (not excepting the dachshund of Germany), faces as long as crocodiles and jaws as strong, small pig-like eyes, ears small and erect (one may fall over at the tip), coat not very long, but hard and erect as bristles from top to toe.

In the case of Dinmonts, the breed history literally IS FICTION.  Their name, accepted colors, and general physique come from a description of a fictitious character named Mr. Dandie Dinmont and his fictitious dogs mentioned in a book called Guy Mannering written by Sir Walter Scott, the famed author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy among others.

“I have six terriers at home, forbye other dogs. There’s auld Pepper and auld Mustard, and young Pepper and young Mustard, and little Pepper and little Mustard. I had them a’regularly entered, first wi’the tods and brocks–and now they fear naething that ever cam wi’ a hairy skin on’t.”

“I have no doubt, sir, they are thorough-bred–but, to have so many dogs, you seem to have a very limited variety of names for them.”

“O, that’s a fancy of my ain to mark the breed, sir–The Deuke himself has sent as far as Charlies-hope to get ane o’ Dandy Dinmont’s Pepper and Mustard terriers…”

Although Dalziel ventures that the rise in popularity of the dog following the popularity of the book could not sensically be filled by just a single mating pair, he later points out that the breed suffers from the clear effects of a depleted gene pool: high puppy mortality:

Mr. James Scott, of Newstead, who contributed much useful information respecting the breed in the correspondence on the subject in the “Field” some years back, speaking from a personal knowledge of “Dandie Dinmont” and his dogs, says he had two varieties of terriers, one large and leggy, the other short on the fore leg and small, and that it was only the latter that Davidson would allow to be called Dandie Dinmonts, and it has been assumed that these smaller terriers were the produce of the two dogs, Pepper and Tarr, given to him by Dr. Brown, of Bonjedward.

When Sir Walter Scott made Davidson’s Pepper and Mustard terriers famous there was at once, we may fairly assume, a pretty general desire to possess the breed, and it is hardly likely the demand would or could be supplied from this single pair, and as Pepper and Tarr must have had relations more or less close in consanguinity, these would probably be used to swell the family circle of the Dandies, and in support of the supposition that we have living specimens directly descended from Pepper and Tarr without admixture of blood more or less foreign, even if we could be quite sure Dandie Dinmont himself stuck rigidly to the Pepper and Tarr blood (and after they became so public he would probably do his best to breed to one standard or type) I know of the existence of no proof that dogs distributed by him throughout the country were by their several owners bred to others of the same blood.

I will go further, and say – although I know I shall be considered a schismatic for venturing to express such a heterodox opinion – a judicious infusion of foreign blood would be a good thing for the breed, if of no other use than to check the tremendous mortality among puppies of which nearly all breeders complain

I mean, really, why didn’t these dogs become more popular? They’re malformed and psychotic, inbred and unhealthy. Well, I guess that hasn’t stopped any number of other breeds from rising to immense popularity. While Pekingese are certainly a fringe breed, Pugs and Bulldogs are hardly going out of style.  At least they’re so decrepit from their several forms of dwarfism and collapsed nasal cavities that it’s unlikely they can even muster the effort to kill each other.


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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.