Rhodesian Lion Dog

We first heard of the Rhodesian Lion dogs some three or four years ago, when a correspondence about them appeared in several papers, followed by the announcement that two Alsatian breeders had imported one. As far as I am aware, this pioneer was never shown, and nothing more was said about him. Now we are soon to have the opportunity of seeing them, as Mrs. Foljambe, the big game hunter, of Osberton, Worksop, Notts, has a brace that will be released from quarantine on October 10. She was thinking of entering them for the Kennel Club show, but I do not know if that will be possible, since the show opens on the day they come out. Whenever they do appear they will be an attraction, for they have a peculiarity that makes them different from all others. That is the ridge of hair that runs along the back in the reverse direction to the rest of the coat. It has been said that they have some resem blance to the mastiff, but I cannot trace it either in size or appearance, and my readers will be able to judge for themselves from the accom panying photographs. The colour, it is true, is similar to that of the bigger dog, being tawny, fawn or brindle. Sable is also recognised in Kenya. The coats are short and harsh, the head rather broad, having the cheek muscles well developed and the tail is longish and thick, without feather, and carried low. The height is about 24 in. at shoulder, and the weight 60 lb., both of which are considerably below those of the English dog, nor have they the great girth, the sturdy frames, or the massive heads. The yellow eyes have a bold, savage expression, which seems to be somewhat in keeping with the nature. Being one-man dogs, they are not demonstrative with strangers, I believe. Mrs. Foljambe tells me that the ridge of reverse hair begins at the shoulders in a whorl, finishing at a point between the hips. I am surprised that no British sportsman has taken the trouble hitherto to get some specimens, for Selous made frequent reference to them in his books, in one of which is an illustration of four holding a lion at bay. They deserve the respect that is always given to courageous, hardy dogs that do their job in an efficient manner, and may be depended upon in an emergency. It is unnecessary to explain that they do not tackle a lion. No dog can do that and live, but they will annoy him by their guerilla tactics until he comes to bay, and the hunter is expected to do the rest. They have excellent noses, and when they come up to the game, be it one of the big cats or a buck, they apprise one of its where abouts by giving tongue. Mrs. Foljambe says “I have personally tried these dogs with game, and have found them far superior to my expectations. During my last safari I was never without a couple, sometimes more, and both when stalking wounded game or at night in camp I have always found them most reliable, fearless, most companionable, and will certainly always have them with me on future expeditions.” They have spread from Rhodesia to Kenya, where one of the most prominent breeders is Mr. Sidney Waller, of Nairobi, who has a reputation as a daring and skilful hunter. The brace now in England were bought from him, one of them named Khami, after the Rhodesian temple, having won a silver cup at the Nairobi show last year. Rhodesia has a club formed in their interests, the headquarters of which are at Bulawayo. As there are a few hundred dogs in the district it should be possible to revive the breed. Mrs. Foljambe has allowed me to see the data that she has collected about their history, and I cannot do better than summarise it briefly. Rhodesia first made their acquaintance in the 1880’s through the enterprise of the late Rev. C. F. Helm, of Hope Fountain Mission, near Bulawayo. He brought some up from the Oudtshoorn district of Cape Colony, and their progeny passed into the hands of the late Cornelis Van Rooyen, of Plumtree, who did more to increase their reputation than anyone else. Nominally a farmer, Mr. Van Rooyen spent most of his life in Rhodesia in the more congenial occu pation of hunting, either on his own account, or in con ducting parties from Great Britain. In later years he passed his time in capturing wild animals for collections. Naturally enough, dogs bred and trained by one who was so expert soon acquired fame. It is said that most of those now in Rhodesia are descended from his, though refreshed by the blood of others imported from the Cape. The breed is believed to be identical with that called by the Dutch “maanhaar,” which means mane hair.” At times they were also designated steekbaard,” or stiff beard.” How did they get into South Africa, however Here we seem to have room for the speculations of the pundits, who delight in reconstructing the past from slender material. These clever gentlemen may start if they wish with Theal’s History and Ethnography of South Africa,” in which, speaking of the domesticated animals brought by the Hottentots, he says The only other domestic animal was the dog. He was an ugly creature, his body being shaped like that of the jackal, and the hair on his spine being turned forward.” I do not know a deal about these primitive people, except that they are supposed to be, next to the Bushmen, the oldest race in South Africa, and possibly to have come from Asia. We may cling to the Asiatic connection, for that theory links up the dogs with those of the island of Phy-Quoc in the Indo-China sea, which have a curious growth of hair along the back, this hair pointing forwards. A further guess is that the dogs may have been brought in ships of the Dutch East India Company by Malays or other earlier settlers from the East. Other dogs in Malaya also exhibit the peculiarity. It only remains for me to add that at last year’s British Association meeting Professor J. L. Myers aroused interest by his references to the Lion dogs. Many a good dog would have languished in obscurity but for a happy chance. A recent instance may be mentioned. At the Brighton show the other week Mrs. Humphrys, of the Orchard Kennels, Eynsham, Oxon, was third in open and second in novice with her bull terrier Late Starter. This is his story. Late in 1925 an Oxford professor bought a bull terrier puppy as a companion, which in time became boisterous and out of control. Last August he put an end to the earthly prospects of another dog, and was condemned to death for the transgression. As he was on his way to destruction he was seen by Mr. Herbert, the Alsatian breeder, who informed Captain Humphrys. The Captain set out for Oxford at once, was pleased with the dog, and saved his life. In less than three weeks he was winning at Brighton. Although entered without a pedigree, his appearance so pleased several breeders that they booked services to him. Fortunately, it was known that he had come from Tunbridge Wells, and enquiries have traced him back to the kennels of Mr. G. Pratt, breeder of Ch. Dolly Dimple and other good ones, who was able to supply his pedigree. DUE OUT OF QUARANTINE ON OCTOBER 10TH: A LION BITCH BELONGING TO MRS. FOLJAMBE, THE BIG-GAME HUNTER.

Written by A. Croxton Smith

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