Late 19th Century Fox Terrier Gossip

Warning: Descriptions of animal harm in this post.

Fox terrier image via Pexels

Forest and Stream (1873 – 1930), the weekly publication devoted to hunting, fishing, conservation, dogs, etc., had an arch enemy: the American Kennel Club. In a nutshell, the two organizations had competing registries for purebred dogs and Forest and Stream objected to the monopoly the AKC was creating on dog shows. The journal devoted a lot of space to dogging (my apologies) the AKC and was quick to side with anyone who had a complaint against the organization.

August Belmont Jr was an extremely wealthy fox terrier breeder, president of the AKC and numerous other Things Rich Guys Do for Fun. He was reportedly a participant in the “sporting” events described below.

That background, I think, is important in seeing how the following story developed. To be clear, I am not accusing the editors of Forest and Stream of feigning outrage or being disingenuous in their criticism though I note how quickly things escalated.

This story, about rabbit “coursing” by fox terriers, spread over many issues of the publication. This was not uncommon as some event was reported or opinion expressed and then the parties involved responded, hurling sometimes veiled, sometimes not, insults back and forth. You know how men are.

I thought some might be interested in seeing how these controversies played out prior to social media – heck, prior to tv and radio even. It begins with this mention in the December 6, 1888 issue of Forest and Stream:

One week later, “a small sized rumpus” has morphed into “The Hempstead Rabbit Killers”:

The week after that (December 20, 1888), there is a report of censure and a resignation:

In that same issue, Mr. Peshall has a lengthy piece reviewing the history of hare coursing in which he goes back to Moses (I did say lengthy) and cites specific NY penal codes as evidence for the practice being illegal.

Numerous letters appear in the next couple of issues decrying the Hempstead rabbit “coursing” as cruel and uncivilized.

In the January 10, 1889 issue, the ASPCA weighs in:

[Note: Henry Bergh had been dead nearly a year by this time and most certainly did not supply any report to anyone. The editors presumably cited his name out of habit.]

The two exclamation points after the quote being the editorial comment here:

January 17 issue: Mr. Peshall tries again to discourage rabbit baiting:

January 24 issue: AKC president and rabbit “courser” August Belmont Jr. gets his doctor friend to write to Forest and Stream to explain it really is a sport and the club is considering numerous “improvements” for next season:

The story sort of peters out after that. I hope you enjoyed this installment of Rich White Men Be Mad. If so, let me know because I can certainly post another saga in future. There is PLENTY of material.

3 thoughts on “Late 19th Century Fox Terrier Gossip

  1. This is definitely news we can use!

    Okay, not current news by any means, and by “use” I mean read with horrified fascination…

    Two comments.

    Hare coursing is indeed an ancient sport.

    What’s described? That ain’t hare coursing.

  2. “Manly sport”? Actually sounds more like a canned hunt. Guess that idea has been around for a while.

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