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The Dog Fancy at War: Breeds, Breeding, and Britishness, 1914-1918

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AbstractThis essay examines the impact of the Great War on the breeding and showing of pedigree dogs (the “dog fancy”) in Britain. Hostility toward Germany led first to a decline in the popularity of breeds such as the dachshund, with both human and canine “aliens” targeted by nationalist fervor. Second, the institutions of dog breeding and showing came under threat from accusations of inappropriate luxury, frivolity, and the wasting of food in wartime, amounting to the charge of a want of patriotism on the part of breeders. Third, the paper shows how the “dog fancy” responded to this “agitation against dogs,” turning on mongrels, stray dogs, and “useless” and unpatriotic humans, exposing deep divisions within the dog breeding community. By looking at the politics of the “dog fancy” in wartime, this paper extends the discussion of animals and national identity, arguing that while dogs could be used to articulate patriotic sentiments, their conditional citizenship meant that they were uniquely vulnerable at a time of national crisis.

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48. FN1 1. See Kennel Club General Committee Minutes, Kennel Club Library, London (hereafter KCM), Volume 18: 1915, January 27, pp. 250-251; 1915, March 10, p. 312; 1915, April 7, p. 368. For another case, see the treatment of the Austrian internee R. Kirchel: 1915, January 27, p. 254; 1915, February 17, p. 280. Hofsass was triply unlucky—not only to be a German national, but also a waiter, an occupation made equivalent with spying, in the Daily Mail’s “pogrom propaganda” (see Panayi, 1991, pp. 25, 157)—and the “owner” of a dachshund. I am particularly grateful to the Kennel Club for access to these documents.
49. FN2 2. On the British food crisis and the response of the state, Barnett (1985) remains the most substantial study; Olson (1963, p. 96) specifically refers to restrictions against feeding of dogs and horses. Overwhelmingly positive assessments of food policy (seen largely as a prelude to the establishment of rationing in 1918) have been challenged in recent years, but William Beveridge’s (1928) pithy summation of the post-1916 period as the “heroic age of food control in Britain” (p. 51) does need to be qualified in some measure by considering food security in terms of the strains on British society and its relationship with nonhuman animals.
50. FN3 3. It has been rightly pointed out how such language is reminiscent of the colonial experience; Gordon (2003) has an exceptional treatment of the cultural presence of dogs in the business of colonization, and their entanglement in colonial/racial hierarchies.
51. FN4 4. KCM, Volume 21: 1918, January 9, pp. 66, 68; 1918, July 10, p. 393.
52. FN5 5. For arguments on the status of the “illegitimates” and the “disloyal” and “irresponsible” breeders who had produced them, see KCM, 1918, December 4, Volume 22: p. 56; 1918, December 18, p. 92; 1919, February 5, p. 200; 1919, February 26, pp. 259-69.
53. FN6 6. An immediate parallel is with the culling of animal companions at the start of the Second World War. Given her own ongoing research on this topic, I would like to express my gratitude to Hilda Kean for her interest in this paper, and her helpful editorial advice, and for the comments from two thoughtful reviewers, as well as to the Kennel Club for access to archival material.

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