In ordinary business life we expect to find the cost of production and selling price of an article having some relationship one to the other, but in the dog world this wholesome rule is rarely observed. Were it so, Great Danes, mastiffs, St. Bernards, and Irish wolfhounds would be of far greater worth than any other variety, whereas we know that this is far from being the case. Twenty years ago St. Bernards shared with collies the honour of commanding the biggest figures, but to-day the commercial value of each has been sadly diminished, while none of the breeds mentioned can compare with fox terriers, Airedales, bulldogs, Pekinese or West Highland white terriers.
Logically, of course, they should make a good deal more, if we consider the expenses attached to a kennel of large dogs, each of which may be expected to consume at least 3 ½ lb. of good sound meat daily, apart from other things. When young they call for incessant attention if they are to stand on straight legs as maturity is reached, and unless they are fed with judgement sufficient size will not be attained.
Now and again, however, one hears of a breeder reaping a satisfactory return for his outlay, as in the case of Mr. I.W. Everett of Felixstowe, who recently sold his fine Irish wolfhound, Champion Felixstowe Gweebarra, to Mr. G.G. Moore of South Carolina for £300.
For the purpose of founding a strain with which to hunt bears one would have imagined that Mr. Moore might have been content with a cheaper dog; but presumably he wants only the best, and in choosing Gweebarra he proves himself to possess a good eye, for a sounder, more active and better-framed animal could not be met with throughout the land. Although not quite 36 in. high, the dog gives one the impression of being a giant and thoroughly well proportioned at that, his heavy bone and deep chest according well with his height. I forget his exact weight but my impression is that it was nearly as much as a 16 st. man.
By buying Felixstowe Erriss, a bitch, earlier in the year Mr. Moore again displayed his wisdom if he is intent upon breeding the right type, experience having shown us that by adhering closely to a successful family we are bound to achieve better results than if we mix up the strains anyhow. I understand that Mr. Moore has already turned down thirty bears in a wired off reservation ten miles in length, and with these and their progeny he should have rare sport in years to come. Irish wolfhounds, I believe, do not have as many in a litter as some of the large breeds, but there are usually quite sufficient for anyone to look after with comfort.
A transaction of this nature should give a fillip to a breed that at present is not in many hands. Perhaps it would be wrong to say that sentiment prompts a wish for the preservation and multiplication of the race, for the old breed practically became extinct many years ago, the modern one not dating back in any degree of purity for more than a few decades. Whether or not any of the genuine old blood was extant in 1841 seems to be a debatable point. Captain G.A. Graham, to whom we owe so much for resuscitating the dog, said that his strain traced back to those owned by Richardson in 1841-2, and he further wrote that he had good grounds for believing that those dogs were descended from Hamilton Rowan's so-called last of his race, Bran by name, a fine, dark grey, rough hound.
However much of the old blood, if any, may remain, we know that the modern dog has more of the Great Dane and deerhound in him than anything else. Some perhaps would say that in using the Dane we were not departing so far after all from the original family. What were the real Irish wolfhounds like? Contemporary chroniclers fail to furnish us with any satisfactory description, and in old prints we find animals much resembling Great Danes, and others, with broken hair, more after the present type. It does not really matter very much, as no one looks for any radical departure from the stamp now agreed upon. There it is, take it or leave it, as you please.
To my mind the result is a very handsome dog indeed, built on powerful, yet not ungainly, lines, and with a disposition that well befits him for companionship of man and woman. Practically all traces of the Dane have been bred out, until we have remaining a heavier and more massive deerhound.
I imagine that within the last twenty years the size has increased materially. Most of the dogs being exhibited about 1888 stood about 30 in. at the shoulder, and weighed from 100 lb. to 130 lb. In 1896 one appeared at the Kennel Club Show up to 34 in. in height. This was Mr. Trainor's Thiggum Thu. For some reason or other 36 in. seems to constitute the limit for all the taller breeds, and if an individual exceeds this by any chance, he is regarded as a curiosity, his formation being examined with a critical eye. In all probability his hind legs would be far too stilty, and he would have other defects which would make one hesitate about using him at stud.
On the whole, I should say the outlook for the future is promising. At a few of the principal shows there is a respectable entry, steadily on the up-grade, and in course of time, as the public becomes familiarised with the appearance and merit of the dog, he should be met with more frequently in private houses. There is, I am told, a ready demand for puppies, so someone must be buying them. The exportation of Gweebarra would be a matter for regret did we not know that he leaves behind him a twelve month old son who bids fair to be an improvement upon his sire. If distemper spares him, and American enterprise allows him to remain, he should have a victorious career in front of him. He is a most taking hound in every respect.
A. CROXTON SMITH
Published late 1912
To give some idea of how much £300 was in 1912, it would have the same purchasing power as £18,619.74 in the year 2002. Or somewhere around $30,000.