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Issue 80 - Dogs Have a Family Tree Too

Scotland Magazine Issue 80
April 2015


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Dogs Have a Family Tree Too

Carol Byers explains how a 19th Century oil painting has revealed the 200 year old Scottish roots of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier

In February of this year, seventy eight dog lovers from eight different countries as well as fifty Dandie Dinmont Terriers, made a pilgrimage to The Haining in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders where the story of this delightful and endangered breed first originated.

It all began when Paul Keevil, a Surrey-based canine art dealer and breeder, collector and amateur historian of all things relating to the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, purchased a painting at auction entitled
Dandy Dinmonts by The Haining Loch by Scottish Royal Academy artist Robert Smellie (dated 1888).

Paul is always on the lookout for something unusual relating to the Dandie Dinmont breed and it was upon searching with a different spelling of the name Dandie that he came across this painting. Little did he realise at the time the painting's full significance or the hidden past it revealed, a past which linked it directly to Sir Walter Scott and his nearby Scottish home, Abbotsford.

The Haining is a proud 18th Century mansion in the town of Selkirk and was featured in
Scotland Magazine, and the painting features a gamekeeper from the Duke of Buccleuch’s Bowhill estate accompanied by a Dandie Dinmont Terrier.

The intrigue began, for it was almost exactly two hundred years ago that the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s second Waverley novel
Guy Mannering introduced the world to the flamboyant character of Dandie Dinmont, a fictitious hill farmer living in the Scottish Borders, and his six terriers, three of the pepper colour and three of the mustard colour.

The breed was originally known as the Mustard and Pepper Terrier, but through time, Dinmont's name came to be transferred to what is now known as Britain’s most ancient terrier, the Dandie Dinmont.

Guy Mannering was a massive success for Scott, selling out the first edition in just 24 hours. Although the work is fiction, as with many of his stories and characters they are said to be based on real circumstance. Further investigation has therefore discovered that the breed did indeed originate in the Border counties of Scotland, emerging around the time of ‘Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).’ The small dogs were bred for hunting badger, fox and otter, poaching and rough field work.

A number of resources exist showing illustrations of Dandie Dinmonts, the earliest of which is an image dated 1770 which hangs at the Duke of Buccleuch's nearby home of Bowhill. From this it would appear that the little terriers have not changed very much in almost 200 years. Indeed, UK breed clubs proudly boast that the physical appearance of the Dandie Dinmont has never been altered for the show ring.

Following the success of Sir Walter Scott’s writing, the little dogs’ charming appearance and endearing characteristics soon brought them to great prominence and they rapidly became special favourites among rich, titled families. Owners have included Sir Walter Scott himself, the artist Sir Edwin Landseer, Queen Victoria, in the earlier years, and more recently, authors Agatha Christie and John Galsworthy, and the distinguished actor Sir Alec Guinness.

On taking delivery of the painting, Paul immediately decided to research further. The scene painted was of six Dandie Dinmonts showing four males of the Pepper colour in the background with a bitch and her puppy in the front.

The questions jumped out at him. Could this depict four generations of males? And how important were they to the history of the breed? Could they be important studs, and what was their connection to the old house in the background of the painting?

A quick on-line search took him to, the website for ‘The Haining.’ This provided him with the relevant information about the owners at the time of the painting: Captain John Pringle and his younger brother Robert Pringle.

But there were no references to Dandie Dinmonts, or indeed to any breed of dog, only a tantalising reference to an old Ordnance Survey map from the 1850s which showed an area marked ‘kennels’ within the grounds.

Paul then started to do some pedigree searches from the mid 1800s and stumbled across a very famous dog indeed, ‘Old Ginger,’ the founding father of the one surviving breeding-line of Dandies, called ‘The Old Ginger Line’ in his honour.

It then transpired that the Pringles had been keen fanciers of the Dandie Dinmont. However, after Robert Pringle’s death, the kennel was dispersed and Old Ginger passed into the ownership of one Eaglesfield Bradshaw
-Smith of Blackwood House, Dumfriesshire, who is credited as the modern day saviour of the breed.

Fortunately, Bradshaw Smith kept impeccable records and on a very early pedigree for one of his most notable dogs ‘Podgy II,’ there was a black and white, whose grandfather on the male line was shown as one ‘Old Ginger.’ More importantly, he was listed as having been bred at The Haining in Selkirk.

Further compounding the information and adding to the intrigue, the father of Old Ginger was shown as ‘Old Pepper’ whose pedigree is unknown because he was caught in a trap by the gamekeeper on the Bowhill estate. It then came to light that Walter Montague Douglas Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch), his brother Lord John Scott, Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford (a relative of the Duke), and James Kerss, the Bowhill Gamekeeper, were all keen fanciers and breeders of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier.

Furthermore, Old Ginger’s mother, Vixen, was also bred by Robert Pringle at The Haining, and whilst going back another generation, Paul discovered that Vixen’s father was known as ‘The Mertoun Dandie’ (as he was owned by Lord Polwarth of Mertoun), a gift from Sir Walter Scott, the very man who started the ‘craze’ for the breed back in 1815.

At first Paul was puzzled by Vixen’s mother ‘Wasp,’ as the owner was shown as a Mrs V. Douglas of Melrose, but further research showed that this Mrs Douglas was none other than Robert Pringle's sister – confirming that the foundation of all of today’s Dandie Dinmont Terriers come from that single dog Old Ginger who was born at the Haining in Selkirk on 4 June 1842.

It is hard to imagine that such a fascinating breed, with such a rich history over 200 years, can now be endangered, but the fact remains that today, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier is one of the rarest and most endangered of all purebred dogs. So concerned are The Kennel Club in England, that they have classified Dandie Dinmonts as a ‘Vulnerable Native Breed’, amid fears that it might become extinct.

In the October 2014, issue of
Scotland Magazine, we told you the story of an impassioned mission by the Trustees of the Haining Charitable Trust to rescue and develop this 18th Century mansion which was bequeathed by its previous owner to benefit the people of Selkirkshire and beyond.

That mission has now been extended and The Haining is additionally seeking to play its part in creating awareness of this enchanting and endangered breed which has its roots firmly placed at The Haining in Selkirk.