Miscegenation and 19th Century Dog Breeders

This post has a good ending, I promise.

Stock photo via Pexels

Rich, white European and American men of the late 19th century had the controlling interest in purebred dogs. They were overwhelmingly the owners, breeders, judges and breed standard creators of purebred dogs and tragically, many were racists. Racial slurs were commonly used to name dogs and the canine literature of the era is full of racist writings. I would normally offer some examples to illustrate my assertions but in this case, I choose not to give space to bigotry. Instead, I simply suggest to anyone who doesn’t believe me to read the books and newspapers of the day to see for yourself.

One of the core beliefs held by racists is that miscegenation, or mixing of races, is evil and “ruins” a female for life. This carried through very strongly to dog breeding. If a purebred female was accidentally mated with a male of a different breed (or a mixed breed), she was often shot as it was believed she would never produce purebred puppies in future, even if she was bred to a male of her own breed. There were some who pushed back on this idea, based upon experience. That is, breeders who allowed their purebred females to whelp mixed breed litters after an unintended mating observed that future litters, sired by males of the same breed, were obviously purebred. But theirs were not the loudest voices.

The science of the day was not developed to the point of being definitive on the subject. To complicate matters, it was not known at the time that multiple sires could produce puppies within the same litter, each sire fertilizing one or more eggs which developed into puppies. So a female who had previously whelped a mixed breed litter but later was bred to a male of her own breed then, without the owner’s knowledge, mated with a mixed breed male and produced puppies sired by both was held as evidence of the influence of a previous sire. Again, we now know this is incorrect but bigoted beliefs were widespread and carried a lot of weight at the time.

Surprisingly, many scientifically minded individuals argued in favor of the ability of a previous sire to influence future litters. Numerous convoluted ideas were put forth about the mongrel’s sperm being able to go dormant inside the female or being able to partially fertilize an egg which would then go dormant until the female was bred again. We know today that all these beliefs are wrong but it was a hotly debated topic at the time and everyone had an opinion.

And so we arrive at this article, which offers a rather different view that I thought some here would enjoy. It appeared in The Fanciers’ Journal (March 1892) with a note that it was taken from an English paper, The Stock-Keeper. It was written by a mastiff breeder and includes references to “mental influence” and homemade mastiff pajamas.

Edited to add: I came across this bit in the July 19, 1888 issue of Forest and Stream and believe it falls under the category of mental influence:

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