The beginning of the English Bull Terrier

A mish mash of various articles put together to tell the story of the English Bull Terrier and it’s creator…

Mr James Hinks (1829-1878) was born in the city of Mullingar, the county town of Westmeath, one of the poorest places in Ireland. His parents were John Hinks – a shoemaker – and Charlotte Callew. In those days, a shoemaker earned only enough to keep his family from starvation. Typhus, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases were widespread; contaminated water caused cholera outbreaks throughout the 19th century.

James’s father spent some time in the army and because the family lived at various locations in the vicinity of barracks, he may have been a military shoemaker. By around 1851, the Hinks family had moved; they lived at Phillips Street, Coventry Street and Balsall Street in Birmingham, an industrial town described as… an immense workshop, a huge forge, a vast shop. One hears nothing but the sound of hammers and the whistle of steam escaping from boilers.
Not surprisingly, James – second son of John and Charlotte – began his career as a brass founder. By 1840, more than 3,500 people were working in Birmingham’s foundries and living in small, dark workers’ houses with poor sanitation and shared by several large families. Still, James Hinks was in a privileged position: he had a job and an income.

Higgler and Poultry Dealer

In January 1851, James Hinks married Elizabeth Moore in Saint Phillips Church, Birmingham, and their first son, James II, was born in December. Daughter Mary was born in 1853, followed by Frederick in 1854. During this period, James became a “higgler” (trader) and poultry dealer. These professions were obviously a little higher up the social ladder, because Hinks became a registered trader in the Market Hall and was also breeding foreign and domestic birds and rabbits. His Bulldog ‘Old Madman’ was born in 1855; so apart from birds, rabbits and poultry, he also became a dog breeder and dealer.

James Hinks was no goody-goody; several times in his life he came into conflict with the law. We know that around 1855 he served a few months in prison for selling rabbits stolen from the vicar’s garden. Another conviction followed when a policeman asked him to remove a crate of chickens from a walkway and Hinks punched the man. Still, he was making progress in life and became the owner of premises close to the Market Hall; very convenient for the retention of stock. Several times, he and his family moved to more spacious accommodations.

The Hinks family grew rapidly; their fourth child, Alfred, was born in 1855, and their eighth and last, Louisa, in 1864.
Although Hinks had been selling dogs since the mid-1850s, he was never identified as a dog dealer on his children’s birth certificates.

Only later, in the mid-1860s, he was listed as a ‘bird and dog dealer’ in a Birmingham street directory.
It is supposed that James became a dog dealer after the birth of most of his children. It was always his wife who registered the birth of their children. Maybe because of the high child mortality rates, Elizabeth Hinks waited a couple of months before registering her children. However, James and Elizabeth seemed to be very lucky, because none of their eight children died as an infant.

Trader In Birds and Dogs
Years before James was listed in the street directory as a ‘bird and dog dealer’, he was breeding and selling dogs. Didn’t he want to be listed as a dog breeder, trying to avoid tax?

In 1865, the Hinks family moved to 53 Worcester Street, taking over the Sportsman Alehouse. We know this address from the ‘Great Annual Exhibition of Sporting and Other Dogs’ show catalogue. The Sportsman Alehouse, visited by traders and fishmongers, was not a fancy beer house. There was a lot of competition between Hinks’ business and the pubs in the vicinity. Although James applied for a publican’s license, he never got one. Was this because of his earlier convictions and small crashes with the law? We just don’t know.

In 1877, James Hinks contracted tuberculosis and he died in May 1878, at 49 years old, leaving a widow and 8 children aged 13 to 26. He died at Belgrave Road, an area for middle class residents. Born in one of the poorest places in Ireland, he had lifted his family from the slums and accumulated an estate worth £450. According to his will, the house was inherited by his wife, Elizabeth. There was very little attention for his death: only one line in the ‘Birmingham Daily Post’.

Amusement and Spectacle
In writing about the history of the Bull Terrier, one must mention the early history of Bulldogs and Terriers. From the 13th century, dogs had been used for bull-baiting, a kind of public entertainment. Dogs of a Bulldog type were fighting with a bull in a ring or a pit. It was an amusement and a spectacle appreciated and enjoyed even in the highest circles. To make the show more interesting, breeders began crossing Bulldogs for strength and Terriers for their speed, fierceness and versatility. Those Terriers were working Terriers, in a range of types, sizes and coat colours.
Bull-, bear- and badger-baiting was banned in Britain in 1835, but many illegal fights continued to be organized in pubs or secret pits. By the 1860s, vigilant police forces had eliminated the pits from the cities and the fights moved to remote areas. Kevin Kane, Hinks’ biographer, believes that James Hinks was never involved in dog fighting – why should he risk his show dogs in a pit were they could be killed or mutilated?

Terrier Blood

James Hinks was certainly not the first to cross Bulldogs and Terriers. When he began buying, breeding and selling dogs, a lot of Bulldogs already possessed quite a lot of Terrier blood, thanks to earlier crossings. It is possible that in the beginning there was very little difference between Hinks’ dogs and other Bulldogs or Bull-and-terriers in the show ring.

As a dog dealer, Hinks sold many breeds: Mastiffs, Pointers, Blood-hounds, King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Black and Tan Terriers, Dalmatians and Italian Greyhounds – but Bulldogs and Terriers were his favorites.

Roguish Character

The Sportsman Ale-house became a well-known pub, not only for young lads from the countryside, but also for the gentry that came to visit Hinks’ kennels and dogs. It was even considered a privilege to be invited. One day a young drunk pugilist was intervened by Hinks and hhe told James to mind his own business. James gave a blow to his jaw and the man hurtled through the swing doors of the pub. Indeed, James Hinks was a bit of a roguish character if it was only because of the harsh existence for traders in Victorian Birmingham.
Another incident Hinks was involved in was the accusation of beating a Bull Terrier, owned by a fellow exhibitor. It happened after the dog had bitten James. The owner stated that Hinks had tried to eliminate his dog from the show ring. James Hinks’ position as a respected exhibitor of winning dogs could be the reason that this case was dropped.

Old Madman and Puss

We know very little about James Hinks’ first activities as a dog breeder and dealer–the years he laid the foundation for the ‘modern’ Bull Terrier. John Henry Walsh (‘Stone-henge’) was one of first writers who complimented Hinks on developing a new strain of Bull Terriers. We don’t know which breeds Hinks used for his creation, let alone in what order, although we do know that a Bulldog, a smooth-coated Terrier, a Dalmatian and possibly a Greyhound were part of the mix. It is certain, however, that his white Bulldog “Old Madman” (Crib x Smit), born in 1855, exhibited in Birmingham in 1860 and sire of the famous Madman, played an important role. In 1864, Stonehenge de-scribed Old Madman as not bred for the business; not bred for dog fighting, but for competition in the show ring.
Idstone (Rev. Thomas Pearce) described Old Madman as: One of the first Bulldogs exhibited which was worthy of the name belonged to Mr. James Hinks of Birmingham. He was a white dog; and gained first prize in Mr. Hinks’ native town in 1860.

Madman’s Dam, Bull Terrier Puss, later “Old Puss” (Rebel x Wasp), born in 1861 and regarded as the first official white Bull Terrier, was exhibited in Cremorne Gardens (Chelsea, London) in 1863. In 1862 or 1863, Puss possibly had a legendary battle during or after a show with another Pit Bull or Bull Terrier (owned by Mr. Tupper). She is alleged to have killed her opponent in half an hour and returned to her bench with only a few marks on her muzzle. Most modern writers, however, state that this story is part of Bull Terrier folklore, because it has many factual errors. And so does Hinks’ biographer Kevin Kane.
Between 1855 and 1868, Hinks owned, for example, Bull Terrier “Spring” (Jerry x Daisy), “Bulldog Nettle” (Grip x Nettle), Bull Terrier, “Young Puss” (Old Madman x Old Puss), the Terrier, “Lady” (Stormer x Daisy), Bull Terrier, “Kit” (pedigree un-known), Dalmatian, “Spot” (Joss x Dinah) and a Greyhound called “Dart” (Chap x Fly). He was also the owner of the parents of most of his dogs.

It has to be emphasized that the all-white Bull Terrier was favoured by not only Hinks but those who bought his white puppies. As a result, coloured Bull Terriers weren’t developed until after 1900.

Toy Dogs of All Descriptions
In 1862, James entered “The Exhibition of Fancy and Other Dogs at the Holborn Repository”. He won first prizes in Bulldogs and Bull Terriers. Dog showing was still in its infancy and usually birds and cattle were judged in the same venue.
By the 1860s, dog fanciers and writers were noticing that James Hinks was breeding – inbreeding and line breeding – a new type of Bull Terrier, eliminating many of the Bulldog’s undesirable physical characteristics while preserving its courage. He added ‘nobility’ – a longer neck, head and legs. It’s said that he used the Dalmatian to strengthen the general appearance and the Greyhound for longer legs.

To this day, there are four types in Bull Terriers: a Terrier type, Dalmatian type, Bulldog type, and a middle-of-the-road type that’s seen by experts as the ideal type, possessing just enough of the three other types to be a good Bull Terrier.
Slowly but surely the Bull Terrier entered the show scene. The first show with classes for the breed was in Leeds in 1861.
In 1862, James Hinks took the chair at ‘The Caledonian Hall Scotch Stores’ and a show of ‘toy dogs of all descriptions’ was organized in this venue. An advertisement stated: Mr. Hinks, of Birmingham, in the chair who will show his two bulldogs and bull terrier that obtained the first prizes at the Holborn exhibition. The public was tempted with the announcement that most of the best dogs of their respective classes in London would be present.

Show-Ring Domination

Exhibiting a dog was almost always an indication that the dog was for sale. In 1864, Hinks valued Puss at £25 and Madman at £100. Old catalogues list the dogs Hinks entered, but unfortunately they aren’t a reliable source of information. There could be several dogs of the same breed with the same name and Hinks’ entries were almost certainly made verbally. (The birth certificates of his children showed that he had not mastered writing in those years.) For example, the dogs were listed as: Un-named Hinks Bull Terrier or Godfrey’s Dick (Hinks strain) and quite often the results were not accurate. However, it is correct that in a class of Bull Terriers over 10 pounds at the Cremorne Show in 1864, Hinks won a first prize with Madman (Old Madman x Old Puss), a second with Puss (Old Madman x Old Puss) and a third with Old Puss (Rebel x Wasp). In the years to come, James Hinks dominated the show ring and a year after his death, Vero Shaw wrote: “To the late Mr. James Hinks of Worcester Street, Birming-ham is due the credit for bringing the breed before the notice of the public in its later and more desirable form, and with his wellknown Old Madman and Puss he formed our leading shows for a long period.“

Between 1862 and 1870, Hinks attended 82 (!) shows. Considering the way people had to travel over a century ago, his trips must have been true undertakings. Around 1870, Hinks stepped back from breeding and exhibiting Bull Terriers, on the one hand because other breeders were successfully using his line, and on the other because he was paying more attention to his ‘Sportsman Beer and Refreshment House’. It’s possible that he earned more money drawing beer than breeding and showing dogs. After all, in 1870 his three youngest children were only 11, 9 and 6 years old.

Basically A Mongrel
James Hinks disappeared from the dog scene around 1870, but the mark he left on the breed is huge. His creation is familiar all over the world and his first dogs – Old Madman, Madman and Puss – are regarded as the start of the Bull Terrier. As for the breeds Hinks used for his creation, the mystery is only partly resolved. Even his sons didn’t know exactly the combinations he used, or the names on the pedigrees of his first dogs. Possibly Hinks himself didn’t know or remember.
In the 1930s, when he was over 80 years old, James Hinks II wrote an article for the American magazine ‘Dogdom’. In it he stated that his father had used a Dalmatian, a Bulldog and White English Terriers to create the breed. How he created a breed can be read in Kevin Kane’s book: “…in the fact that he created what was basically a mongrel and presented it to an unsuspecting world as The Bull Terrier. The judges of the day showed a preference for his strain of Bull Terrier.”

Idstone used the type from ‘Hinks strain’ as a blueprint for The Points of The Bull Terrier, the forerunner of the breed standard, first published in 1888, 10 years after Hinks’ death.
Can it be explained why James Hinks’ strain was so successful and how it happened that this man, in particular, single-handedly created the breed? The first crossings between Bulldogs and Terriers were made long before Hinks started doing it and they were not handsome at all! A simple explanation is that James Hinks was simply the right man, in the right place, at the right time. He formed the link between the old miners’ fighting dog in Staffordshire and the modern show and companion Bull Terrier. The dog from the pit became the ‘white cavalier’.
James Hinks’ sons, James II and Frederick, continued their father’s work. In 1933, 82 year-old James II visited the Birmingham Dog Show for the 70th time, and it was mentioned in the papers. Carleton Hinks, a son of James II, bred Bull Terriers until his death in 1977.

5 thoughts on “The beginning of the English Bull Terrier”

  1. bull-terrier rednose

    hinks did not create a breed but surely made his said line like others did before him which means that the Bull terrier dates well before the Civil War if not before 1700 years, otherwise there would be no said named Paul blue terrier said extinct

    1. Hinks created the English Bull Terrier from crosses between Bull and Terriers and other breeds. The Blue Paul Terrier was a type of Bull and Terrier fighting dog created in Scotland.

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