Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Dogs, PART II

Excerpted from “Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Dogs” by Captain Thomas Brown – 1829


Few instances can be adduced of the sagacity of dogs more striking than the following of the Shepherd’s Dog:—The owner himself having been hanged some years before for sheep-stealing, the following facts, among others respecting his dog, were authenticated by evidence on his trial. When the man intended to steal sheep, he did not do it himself, but detached his dog to perform the business. With this view, under pretence of looking at the sheep, with an intention to purchase them, he went over the grounds with the dog at his feet, to whom he secretly gave a signal, so as to let him know the individuals he wanted, to the number perhaps of ten or twenty, out of a flock of some hundreds; he then went away, and from a distance of several miles sent back the dog by himself in the night time, who picked out the individual sheep that had been pointed out to him, separated them from the rest, and drove them before him the distance of ten or twelve miles till he came up with his master, to whom he delivered his charge.


M. Huet, bishop of Avranches, records the following transaction :—In a village situated between Caen and Vire, on the borders of a district called the Grove, there dwelt a peasant of a surly untoward temper, who frequently beat and abused his wife, insomuch that the neighbours were sometimes obliged by her outcries to interpose, in order to prevent the most dreadful calamity. Being at length weary of living with one to whom he had long entertained an unconquerable aversion, he determined upon getting completely rid of her by taking away her life. The better to carry this design into effect without creating suspicion of the intent he had formed, he affected the most perfect reconciliation; changed his behaviour from a system of habitual brutality to the most unremitting attention and tenderness, and thereby induced a belief in both wife and friends that his reformation was confirmed.

Having for some little time accustomed himself on the Sabbath, or a holiday, to take a walk with her in the fields by way of recreation, he proposed, on the evening of a sultry summer’s day, that she should go with him and repose upon the borders of a spring which was alike shady and retired. When seated there, he pretended to be very thirsty, and laying himself down upon his belly swilled large draughts of water, commending its sweetness, and prevailed upon her to refresh herself in like manner. She believing him, followed his example, but was no sooner in the position to obtain it, than he threw himself upon her, and endeavoured to force her head under the water with an intent to drown her,—to prevent which her struggles would have been ineffectual, but for the assistance of the dog, which had accidentally followed them, and who, perceiving the danger, immediately flew at the husband, seized him by the throat, and saved the intended victim from impending destruction.

The Editor has, at this time, a dog of a mongrel breed, who will not allow one of his family to lay hands on another, and he will actually bite his master if he persists in it. To amuse strangers, a pretence of striking each other is sometimes made in the presence of Carlo, who immediately interposes, first by grinning at the assailant, and then by sitting up and supplicating with his fore-paws to desist; and should they not yield to his remonstrance, he is sure to lay hold of the offending party.


About the year 1796, a Mr Henry Hawkes, farmer at Hailing in Kent, was late one evening at Maidstone market; and returning at night with his dog, which was usually at his heels, he again stopped at Aylesford, and, as is too frequently the case upon such occasions, he drank immoderately, and left that place in a state of intoxication. Having passed the village of Newhead in safety, he took his way over Snodland Brook, which, at the best season of the year, is a very dangerous road for a drunken man; and now the whole face of the country was covered with a deep snow, and the frost was intense. He had, however, proceeded in safety till he came to the Willow Walk, within half a mile of the church, when, by a sudden stagger, he quitted the path, and passed over a ditch on his right hand. Not apprehensive that he was going astray, he turned towards the river; but having a high bank to mount, and being nearly exhausted with wandering and the effect of the liquor, he was most fortunately unable to proceed, for, if he had, he must certainly have precipitated himself (as it was nearly high water) into the Medway.

At this moment, completely overcome, he fell among the snow, in one of the coldest nights ever known; turning upon his back, he was soon overpowered by sleep, the usual concomitant of cold, when his faithful attendant, who had closely followed him every step, scratched away the snow, so as to throw up a kind of protecting wall around his person ; then mounting upon the exposed body, he rolled himself round, and lay down on his master’s bosom, for which his shaggy coat proved a seasonable covering during the inclemency of the night, as the snow continued to fall all the time. The following morning, a Mr Finch, who was out with his gun in expectation of falling in with some wildfowl, perceiving an appearance rather uncommon, ventured to approach the spot; upon his coming up, the dog got off the body, and, after repeatedly shaking himself to get disentangled from the accumulated snow, encouraged the sportsman, by actions of the most significant nature, to come near the side of his master. Upon wiping away the icy incrustations from his face he recognized the farmer, who appeared quite lifeless; assistance was however procured to convey the body to the first house upon the skirts of the village, after which a slight pulsation being observed, every possible means were instantly adopted to restore animation.

In the course of a short time, the farmer was sufficiently recovered to be able to relate his own story, as above recited; and, in gratitude for his miraculous escape, ordered a silver collar to be made for his friendly protector, as a perpetual remembrance of the transaction. A gentleman of the faculty in the neighbourhood hearing of the circumstance, and finding it so well authenticated, immediately made him an offer of ten guineas for the dog, which the grateful farmer refused, exultingly adding, “That so long as he had a bone of meat, or a crust of bread, he would divide it with the faithful friend who had preserved his life;” and this he did in perfect conviction that the warmth of the dog in covering the most vital part, had continued the circulation, and prevented a total stagnation of the blood.

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