The Dogs of Yesteryear

Our ancestors were deeply devoted to their dogs; Beatrice Johnston describes how a great French dog-lover declared that the greatest defect of the species was that they ‘lived not long enough’.

Book of the Hunt, Gaston III, Count of Foix, 1387–88.The later middle ages, and the years immediately following, were one of the most ‘doggy’ periods in history. Hunting and hawking were by far the most popular sports of the leisured classes, who also liked keeping dogs simply as pets; and the rest of the population used them for protection and herding. Performing dogs were much admired, and people loved to hear fabulous yarns of the extraordinary fidelity and intelligence of dogs.

Indeed, the great Duke of Berry went personally to see a dog that refused to leave its master’s grave, and gave a sum of money to a neighbour to keep the faithful beast in food for the rest of its days. True, rabies was unpleasantly common; but that was one of the ills that flesh is heir to, not to be held against the canine race - and for the bite of a mad dog you had a wide choice of remedies, ranging from goat’s liver to sea bathing.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week