First published in 2015 as Dogs: A Miscellany
This revised and updated edition copyright © Summersdale Publishers Ltd, 2017

With research by Vicky Edwards

Illustrations © Shutterstock

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Title Page



History: From Wolf to Man’s Best Friend

Showing Off and Record Breakers

Work Like a Dog

Dogs in Sport

Dogs in Art

Dogs in Literature

Dogs in Music

Dogs in Entertainment

Brave, Intelligent and Loyal





Intelligent, loyal, affectionate, great fun and brilliant walking buddies – there’s a lot to love about dogs. From those that sniff out disease and bombs to those four-legged superstars who support the blind, deaf and disabled by acting as their eyes, ears and mobility, dogs are far more than pets to those who depend on them.

As long-standing inspiration for artists and writers, dogs are also celebrated in literature, art, film, television and song. Their cute factor also makes them a marketeer’s dream, which is why some of the world’s most memorable advertising campaigns feature dogs.

And for many, dogs truly are man’s or woman’s best friend. Always willing to cock an ear and listen to your woes, or let you cuddle up to them for comfort, they are our confidantes as well as our companions, truly a part of our family.

Whether you are a dog owner or just a dog lover, this book is a salute to pups, pedigrees and mutts the world over. I hope that it will cheer, inform and entertain in equal measure.


For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.




There has been much debate over the years about the precise origins of our modern-day pooches. Scientists agree that dogs are directly descended from Canis lupus – or, as it is more commonly known, the grey wolf – but until recently the timing and exact whereabouts of their evolution was as woolly as an Old English Sheepdog’s winter coat.

Early DNA studies on samples dating back some 18,000 years suggested that the modern-day dog evolved from wolves that were integrated into human societies in the Middle East, or possibly in East Asia, as recently as 15,000 years ago. However, in 2013, new research unveiled in Science magazine gave us a clearer insight. Genetic analysis of dog and wolf samples, both ancient and modern, suggested that modern dogs are actually more closely related to ancient European canines than to any of the farther flung wolf groups.




The latest data suggests that dogs were domesticated far earlier than previously thought. Research undertaken by Dr Olaf Thalmann at Finland’s University of Turku concluded that dogs started to evolve from wolves at a time when humankind had yet to form settlements and was still sourcing food by hunting.

Because dog populations have become very mixed over time, evolving into numerous different breeds and crossbreeds and settling all over the world, it is difficult for scientists to reach a definite conclusion. To do this, further sampling, analysis and research is needed.


Researchers and scientists have turned their focus to the question of how dogs came to be domesticated. One credible possibility is that wolves would follow hunters, probably at a distance, feasting on the scraps and carcasses left over after big kills. From here, perhaps the wolves grew braver and came closer, possibly with hunters encouraging them with titbits, thinking to use the wolves’ acute hearing to warn them when bigger predators such as bears were near, and perhaps also to use their furry bodies as prehistoric duvets.


Wolves may also have been encouraged into settlements when humans realised that wolves ate rats and other pests, as well as waste. No waste meant fewer flies and fewer flies meant less sickness, making groups that ‘embraced’ the wolves healthier and hardier than those that chased them away. Another theory is that wolf cubs proved easy to tame and that orphaned wolf pups may have been adopted into human groups. Either way, the fearsome pack animal slowly but surely became a submissive servant to its hunter master.


The dog family (Canidae) contains all fox, wolf, coyote, jackal and dog-like mammals. Wild canids are found on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica.


The expression ‘three-dog night’ was first coined by the Inuit to describe a particularly cold night, when only the body heat of three dogs could keep you warm.



Recollect that the Almighty, who gave the dog to be companion of our pleasures and our toils, hath invested him with a nature noble and incapable of deceit.





Researchers believe that the domestication of dogs happened over a period of many hundreds of years, as they were gradually bred for specific roles.

Hunting was obviously the principal role for which dogs were used, leading to breeding that accentuated particular traits such as sense of smell, speed and agility, size (small enough to follow quarry into its habitat, for instance), stamina and herding instinct.

But in ancient times, up to and including the Middle Ages, very few people were wealthy enough to feed a dog as we do today. Instead, dogs had to scavenge for their own food, often living on a diet of rats. Only working dogs – sled-pullers or herding dogs – would have been given food. Hunting dogs were often given scraps from their conquests, but most others were entirely self-sufficient. As a result of such a diet they were often undernourished and prone to disease and infestation.


It is probable that, once adopted into a human group, dogs lost their canine pack instinct and instead integrated themselves into the family groups of hunters. Perhaps this is how humans began to interact with dogs on a one-to-one basis, and thus how the close relationships we have with our pet dogs today began.

One of the earliest indications that humans and dogs enjoyed a shared affection can be traced to the burial site of a woman in Israel. Dating back to approximately 11,000 BP (before present), the woman’s hand is placed on a dog which has been buried with her. Similarly, at the earliest cemetery in Skateholm, Sweden (dating back to 5,000 BCE – before current era), there is evidence that dogs were sometimes buried with people. It is likely that these dogs were sacrificed to accompany their masters or mistresses on their journey to the afterlife. The excavation of Egyptian tombs has also revealed that dogs were mummified and buried with their masters. Some dogs were even given their own grave. Buried also with hunting tools, it suggests they were highly valued as hunting dogs.


From the latter part of the Middle Ages, hunting and hawking became favourite sports of the upper echelons of society. Wealthy and keen for their dogs to do better than those belonging to their fellow sportsmen, it was around this time that dogs started to be treated more as pets.

Performing dogs became a much-loved source of entertainment, with jesters and fools including them in their routines. From hunting to herding, over time this increased integration with human beings taught dogs a great deal about what was expected and wanted of them. And, as more civilised times came to pass, our canine friends continued to evolve.


One breed that has survived, albeit only just, since earliest times is the Vizsla, or Hungarian Pointer. Originally the dog of the Magyar tribes that invaded Central Europe during the Dark Ages, etchings depicting a Magyar warrior and a dog resembling a Vizsla date back to the early tenth century. Later adopted by Hungarian nobility, the breed all but became extinct after World War One, only surviving thanks to the efforts of Vizsla fanciers. During World War Two, many Hungarians fled the Russian occupation, taking their Vizslas with them. Vizslas reappeared in the 1950s, and the breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1960.



If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.





75 million Number of European households owning at least one pet animal
45 per cent Estimated percentage of European households owning at least one cat or dog
80,002,940 Number of pet dogs living in Europe
15,894,000 Russia has the biggest pet dog population in Europe
8,500,000 The UK has the second biggest pet dog population in Europe


The Dobermann Pinscher was first bred by Louis Dobermann, a tax collector. Evidently he bred the dog specifically to frighten people into paying their dues.


Also known as ‘Aussiepoo’, the Aussiedoodle is a Poodle–Australian Shepherd cross.


The Chinese Crested breed comes in two varieties: the Hairless and the Powderpuff.