J.C. Jeremy Hobson's Working Terriers is an intriguing, if not particularly relevant, handbook about maintaining terriers for hunting purposes.
Authored 16 years ago by a British gamekeeper, it is admittedly difficult for a contemporary, metro New Yorker to relate to the content. The target reader appears to be an Englishman with a working knowledge of terrier-related forms of hunting (fox-digging, rabbiting with ferrets, etc.). Those not well-versed in the related concepts and jargon may be puzzled by references to such things as "beating on the local shoot," for example. Even the concept of a gamekeeper or Master of Hounds is something that the average American reader might find amusingly arcane.
That being said, some of the information is interesting anyway as an overview of the British working terrier's role and lifestyle. Moreover, I suppose there could be practical tidbits for the target audience. Determining the difference between a badger sett and a fox earth is discussed at length, as is attempting to put oneself in the good graces of a landowner, gamekeeper, or hunt master in order to secure access to terrier hunting opportunities. Much of this information may be irrelevant, however; didn't Britain outlaw foxhunting?
The author has hunted with terriers his entire life, so he comes across as credible when discussing hunting, per se. He dicusses what to wear when hunting, issues useful warnings about the risk of leptospirosis and residual poisons, and stresses the importance of training and control. His observations on terrier structure are noteworthy as he stresses the value of long, straight legs and disdains overly short, squat terriers.
On the other hand, some of his misinformed assertions undermine his credibility. He suggests that Cesky terriers have herding instincts and were developed as all-around farm dogs. Not true. The breed was created by crossing Scottish and Sealyham terriers with the specific intention of creating a hunting terrier. The breed history is recent and well-documented, although the author is obviously not familiar with it.
Similarly, Hobson states that in the USA, "Not only does a terrier have to look good and show well but it also has to prove its 'gameness' through specially designed working tests." While earthdog events are available in this country, they are certainly not a requirement for show dogs, as he suggests.
The book is perhaps most valuable from a slice of life perspective, giving the reader insight into the lifestyle of a hunting terrier in Britain. The author describes basic managemeent, primarily focusing on outdoor kenneling. Much of the husbandry advice feels more folksy and dated than authoritative in any modern sense. On feeding, for example, Hobson offers, "Green tripe and paunch... should ideally be mixed with cereals such as flaked maize, rolled oats and rolled wheat... the way in which raw meat is given varies from hunt to hunt, some merely skinning a carcass and letting the hounds rip the meat from the bones."
The author dimisses show dogs for working applications and warns that shows for working terriers should not be taken too seriously. He asserts that the "only three breeds considered to be true workers" are the Fell (Lakeland and Patterdale), Border, and Jack Russell terriers, as bred with a mind towards working ability and not necessarily from registered or "pedigreed" lineage.
In the end, this is sort of an interesting book but hardly indispensible. It doesn't really offer enough depth to be useful as a training guide, for example. Much of the content is dated and overly British, and some of the content is of questionable validity. Nonetheless, it helps to give the reader a feel for the life of a working terrier in the relatively recent past.
Note: This book is out of print. You'll have to buy it used or find it at your local library.
Kate Connick |
Contact | E-cards | Links | Awards | Webrings | SITE MAP
©2005 Kate Connick