It is believed that this was effected by a cross with a greyhound. With respect to this latter dog, Youatt (1/83. 'The Dog' 1845 pages 31, 35; with respect to King Charles' spaniel page 45; for the setter page 90.), who is generally cautious in his statements, says that the greyhound within the last fifty years, that is before the commencement of the present century, "assumed a somewhat different character from that which he once possessed. He is now distinguished by a beautiful symmetry of form, of which he could not once boast, and he has even superior speed to that which he formerly exhibited. He is no longer used to struggle with deer, but contends with his fellows over a shorter and speedier course." An able writer (1/84. In the 'Encyclop. of Rural Sports' page 557.) believes that our English greyhounds are the descendants, PROGRESSIVELY IMPROVED, of the large rough greyhounds which existed in Scotland so early as the third century. A cross at some former period with the Italian greyhound has been suspected; but this seems hardly probable, considering the feebleness of this latter breed. Lord Orford, as is well-known, crossed his famous greyhounds, which failed in courage, with a bulldog--this breed being chosen from being erroneously supposed to be deficient in the power of scent; "after the sixth or seventh generation," says Youatt, "there was not a vestige left of the form of the bulldog, but his courage and indomitable perseverance remained."

Youatt infers, from a comparison of an old picture of King Charles's spaniels with the living dog, that "the breed of the present day is materially altered for the worse:" the muzzle has become shorter, the forehead more prominent, and the eyes larger; the changes in this case have probably been due to simple selection. The setter, as this author remarks in another place, "is evidently the large spaniel improved to his present peculiar size and beauty, and taught another way of marking his game. If the form of the dog were not sufficiently satisfactory on this point, we might have recourse to history:" he then refers to a document dated 1685 bearing on this subject, and adds that the pure Irish setter shows no signs of a cross with the pointer, which some authors suspect has been the case with the English setter. The bulldog is an English breed, and as I hear from Mr. G.R. Jesse (1/85. Author of 'Researches into the History of the British Dog.), seems to have originated from the mastiff since the time of Shakspeare; but certainly existed in 1631, as shown by Prestwick Eaton's letters. There can be no doubt that the fancy bulldogs of the present day, now that they are not used for bull-baiting, have become greatly reduced in size, without any express intention on the part of the breeder. Our pointers are certainly descended from a Spanish breed, as even their present names, Don, Ponto, Carlos, etc., show; it is said that they were not known in England before the Revolution in 1688 (1/86. See Col. Hamilton Smith on the antiquity of the Pointer, in 'Nat. Lib.' volume 10 page 196.); but the breed since its introduction has been much modified, for Mr. Borrow, who is a sportsman and knows Spain intimately well, informs me that he has not seen in that country any breed "corresponding in figure with the English pointer; but there are genuine pointers near Xeres which have been imported by English gentlemen." A nearly parallel case is offered by the Newfoundland dog, which was certainly brought into England from that country, but which has since been so much modified that, as several writers have observed, it does not now closely resemble any existing native dog in Newfoundland. (1/87. The Newfoundland dog is believed to have originated from a cross between the Esquimaux dog and a large French hound. See Dr. Hodgkin 'British Assoc.' 1844; Bechstein 'Naturgesch. Deutschland' b. 1 s. 574; 'Nat. Lib.' volume 10 page 132; also Mr. Jukes 'Excursion in and about Newfoundland.')

These several cases of slow and gradual changes in our English dogs possess some interest; for though the changes have generally, but not invariably, been caused by one or two crosses with a distinct breed, yet we may feel sure, from the well-known extreme variability of crossed breeds, that rigorous and long-continued selection must have been practised, in order to improve them in a definite manner.

The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication V1 Page 30

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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