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

In: Society & Animals
Author:
Philip Howell University of Cambridge philip.howell@geog.cam.ac.uk

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Abstract

This 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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