All Good Dogs go to Manchester Museum

Last Wednesday Breed: The British and their Dogs finally opened. All those who attended, both canine and human, were captivated by the fascinating stories, wonderful objects and stunning graphics. Dog breeders from the Manchester Dog Show Society and beyond very kindly brought a selection of pedigree show dogs to meet visitors in the flesh. Rocky the bulldog was the star of the show winning the affection of the majority of visitors with his loveable personality.

Borzoi at the opening of Breed.

However, visitors were equally as intrigued and pleased to meet the other five breeds including Pekingese, borzoi, and the final three focus breeds I’ve yet to blog about, namely the Irish wolfhound, collie and bloodhound. These three breeds have enthralling histories associated with nationalism, colonialism, industrialisation and criminology! They typify and illuminate changes in British society over the past two centuries just as the Pekingese, borzoi and bulldog do.

Breed: The British and their Dogs. Manchester Museum. The University of Manchester. 2012.

If you missed the opening do come along to the Museum this Saturday as the dogs and their owners will be back. They’ll also be several other dog orientated events going on throughout the day so don’t miss out.

A Royal Love Affair

Today Buckingham Palace sadly announced the death of Monty, one of the Queen’s beloved corgis. It’s well known that the Queen has a particular affection for the Welsh corgi but her predecessors had a fondness for much more exotic breeds.

Both the Pekingese and borzoi are two of the focus breeds featured in our forthcoming exhibition Breed: The British and their Dogs, and their patronisation by the royal family is well documented. Queen Victoria’s Pekingese Looty was presented to her by Lieutenant Dunne in the late 19th century. Dunne, along with other British and French troops, had captured the dog following the defeat of China in the Second Opium War in 1860. Prior to this the Pekingese had belonged exclusively to the Chinese imperial household.

Pekingese figure made by Carl Fabergé. UK, 1907, precious stone. The Royal Collection © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The borzoi had equally impressive imperial connections. This breed, originally used for hunting wolves, was a favourite of the Russian imperial family, and the Tsar’s kennels were globally renowned. This imperial proximity and luxurious association made it the target of Russian revolutionaries in 1917. The Tsar’s kennels were closed and the dogs destroyed. In Britain breeders mobilised to prevent the borzoi’s extinction, this action was dominated by aristocratic women including Queen Alexandra.

Borzoi figure made by Carl Fabergé. UK, 1907, precious stone. The Royal Collection © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The Royal Collection have very kindly loaned us several objects which illustrate this royal love affair, two of which you can see above.

Over the next several weeks I will reveal the remaining three focus breeds and more of the wonderful objects we’ll have on display.