April 29, 2011
What Royal Wedding? Bring on the Royal DOGS!
While the world watched with baited breath as Great Britain’s Prince William said his vows to long-time love Catherine Middleton today, we here at DogWatch Hidden Fences find we’re a bit more intrigued by the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel than all the Royal Wedding hoopla. While today will certainly go down in royal history, we’d like to bring the focus to some dog breeds that have made royal history of their own! Introducing . . . the Royal Dogs!
The Saluki: Perhaps the oldest pure dog breed still in existence, the sleek and elegant Saluki has been discovered in carvings in Sumerian tombs dating as far back as 7000 B.C., and Egyptian tombs dating back to 2100 B.C. Thought to be named after the ancient town of Suluk, Libya, the Saluki was considered the royal dog of Egypt. So beloved by the Egyptian royals, they were frequently mummified along with their owners, and several depictions exist of King Tutankhamen with his favorite Salukis. The Saluki is thought to have been brought to Europe during the Crusades in the 12th Century, and arrived in England in the mid-1800s, and America in the early 1900s.
The Lhasa Apso: One of the most ancient dog breeds, the lion-like, black-lipped Lhasa Apso is thought to have existed as far back as 800 B.C. Lhasas originated in the sacred city of Lhasa in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet, and were bred by holy men called Lamas. Referred to in Tibet as “Apso Seng Kyi,” or “Bearded Lion Dog,” the Lhasa was primarily used as a watchdog in temples and monasteries, as well as in religious ceremonies. It was believed that the souls of deceased Lamas could enter the bodies of Lhasa Apsos, where they remained as they awaited reincarnation. A highly-prized dog, Lhasas could neither be bought nor sold; they could only be given as a gift. Lhasa Apsos made their way to Great Britain and the United States in the early 1900s.
The Pekingese: The royal dog of China, these little dogs with a lion’s mane took their name from the ancient city of Peking (now Beijing) over 2,000 years ago. In ancient China, Pekingese were considered sacred and believed to drive away evil spirits. Bred and guarded in the Imperial Palace, so prized were these little “lion dogs” that only royalty was permitted to own them, and the theft of a Pekingese was punishable by death! In 1860, the British overtook the Imperial Palace of China; during the seizure, five Pekingese were captured and brought back to Great Britain. They were given to British royalty, including Queen Victoria, as spoils of war, and were then interbred, thus beginning the British line of Pekingese. In the early 1900s, the Chinese Dowager Empress Cixi began gifting the dogs to influential Americans, beginning the line of the modern American Pekingese.
The Pug: An old breed of Chinese descent, dating as far back as 400 B.C., the snub-nosed, smush-faced Pug is believed to be a relative of the Pekingese. Imported to Holland by the Dutch East India Company in the 16th century, the Pug rose to Dutch popularity under William, Prince of Orange, after one saved his life in 1572 by sounding the alarm that the Spanish were approaching, thus allowing him time to successfully flee their assassination attempt. So the intrepid little Pug became the official dog of the House of Orange, and one hundred years later, when William II ascended the throne in England, he brought his beloved Pugs with him, establishing their following in Great Britain. This following grew to include the likes of the ill-fated Queen Marie-Antoinette, as well as another less-than-fortunate Parisian, the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Skye Terrier: First documented on Scotland’s Isle of Skye in the 16th Century, the scrappy Skye Terrier is thought to be a cross between local Celtic terriers and the Swedish Vallhund brought over by the Vikings. Mary, Queen of Scots, the cousin to Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I, so loved her Skye Terrier that she smuggled it under her skirts to her own execution in 1587. After Mary was beheaded, the executioner noticed something moving under her skirts, and thus the dog was discovered; the dog, so attached to his owner, had to be forcibly removed, as he would not leave her otherwise. The Skye Terrier later rose to wide-spread popularity after it fell into the affection of England’s Queen Victoria in the late 1800s.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Another favorite of Queen Victoria, the silky-haired, regal-looking King Charles Spaniel was a hit in European courts long before reaching England in the 16th century. Used by ladies of the court as lap warmers in their carriages during the cold winter months, the spaniels were also commonly called upon as comforters due to their docile and affectionate natures. While loved by King Charles I and the Stuart dynasty, the dog reached its greatest popularity during the reign of King Charles II, from whom it got its name. In fact, Charles II so loved his royal pets that he issued an edict that no King Charles Spaniel could be denied entry to any public place! During the early- to mid-1900s, the breed underwent changes: some breeders chose to breed a dog with a smaller, dome-shaped head, lower ears, and a shorter muzzle (now known as the English Toy Spaniel); others endeavored to maintain the features popular in Charles II’s time, the result of which is now recognized as the modern Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The Bichon Frise: The snow-white, fluffy Bichon Frise as we know it today descended from a Mediterranean breed known as the Barbichon. One of four breeds of Bichon, the Frise was discovered on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands by Italian sailors in the 1300s, who brought it back to Italy with them. A favorite of Italian royalty and the aristocracy, the Frise later rose to popularity in France under the rule of King Francis I, who was a great patron of the French Renaissance. The Frise’s popularity in France grew even more under the like-minded King Henry III, who loved his Frise so much that he carried it in a basket with him wherever he went. It is also believed that the Queen Marie Antoinette owned several Frises. The Bichon Frise was also prominently featured in the work of renowned artists like Titian and Goya.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi: The adorable, short-legged Pembroke Welsh Corgi brings us back to the present-day British monarchy. Beloved by Queen Elizabeth II and the late Queen Mum before her (the Queen now has 7 Corgis and 3 Dachshund-Corgi mixes), the Pembroke Welsh Corgi has been a favorite of the British monarchy for over 70 years. Descending back nearly 2,000 years (unlike its older relative, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, which dates back nearly 3,000 years), the modern Pembroke Welsh Corgi was brought to Wales in 1107 by Flemish weavers under the rule of England’s Henry I. A herding dog that is happiest when it has something to do or chase, it has slowly gained favor with the general British population and ultimately the ruling class. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi, like the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, is an intelligent, agreeable, affectionate, loyal, and ever-vigilant dog; perfect for today’s modern monarch!
Saluki: Matej Pangerc via Flickr
Lhasa Apso: Asra Valorshon via Flickr
Pekingese: SD Dirk via Flickr
Skye Terrier: Morgan Johnston via Flickr
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Don DeBold via Flickr
Bichon Frise: mrRobot via Flickr
Pembroke Welsh Corgi: 50-phi via Flickr