Tag Archives: World War I

Pelorus Jack – remembering World War I

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and commemorations are being held across the Globe.

It’s a fitting time to remember the animals that served during the conflict.

Pelorus Jack, a Bulldog, was the mascot of the HMS New Zealand.  In fact, there were two Pelorus Jacks because the first mascot was killed and subsequently replaced.

A model of Pelorus Jack with his collar and leads (photo courtesy of NZ History)

A model of Pelorus Jack with his collars and leads (photo courtesy of NZ History)

The first dog was a gift to the ship from a New Zealander living in England. He was named after the famous dolphin that accompanied ships traveling in the outer Marlborough Sounds between 1888 and 1912.  He was killed when he fell down the forward funnel of the ship and was officially ‘discharged dead’ from the Navy on 24 April 1916.

In his will he had requested that his successor be a ‘bull pup of honest parentage, clean habits, and moral tendencies’.

The second Pelorus Jack, also a bulldog,  was terrified of the noise of the ship’s guns.  He achieved the rank of leading sea dog before his final discharge in October 1919.   On his return to New Zealand, he was gifted to the City of Auckland along with his silver collar, a brass studded collar and leading reins.

The Auckland War Memorial Museum holds these items in its collection, along with the collar of Caesar the Anzac Dog.  Read my blog about Caesar here.  Another Pelorus Jack collar is kept in the Royal New Zealand Navy Museum in Devonport.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  New Zealand History

German Shepherd vs Alsatian

German Shepherd

I find it really interesting that some people refer to this dog as a German Shepherd (sometimes GSD – standing for ‘German Shepherd Dog’) and others as the Alsatian.

Strictly speaking, the name Alsatian is no longer valid.  It was officially removed as an identifier in 2010 by the American Kennel Club.

The change in name from German Shepherd dates back to the years after World War I, when it as felt that the name ‘German’ in the dog’s breed would affect its acceptability in society.  So, the UK Kennel Club decided to call the dog the ‘Alsatian Wolf Dog.’  The name caught on with other kennel clubs.

Over time, ‘wolf dog’ was dropped and the breed was simply referred to as the ‘Alsatian.’  (Alsace is the region of France in the north-east corner, bordering Germany.)

In the 1970s, there was a successful campaign to again have the dogs referred to as German Shepherd Dogs and the word (Alsatian) in parentheses followed.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Re-thinking dog domestication

A research team led by the University of Durham has published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).  This study shows that today’s modern breeds of dog have little in common genetically with their ancient ancestors. 

Dog domestication occurred over 15,000 years ago – and there is still much to learn!

Years of cross-breeding are the major influence on the genetic differences, although the researchers are quick to add that other effects on genetic diversity will include patterns of human movement and the impact on dog population sizes caused by major events such as World War I and World War II.

The research team analysed genetic data from 1,375 dogs representing 35 breeds. They also looked at data showing genetic samples of wolves because other research studies have concluded that the dog descended directly from the gray wolf.

Lead author Dr Greger Larson, an evolutionary biologist, says the study demonstrated just how much there is still to understand about the early history of dog domestication.  “We really love our dogs and they have accompanied us across every continent.  Ironically, the ubiquity of dogs combined with their deep history has obscured their origins and made it difficult for us to know how dogs became man’s best friend.”

The study also refutes claims of previous researchers that genetic differences in breeds such as the Basenji, Saluki and Dingo were evidence of an ancient heritage.  The Durham team’s study shows that these dogs are genetically different because they were geographically isolated and were not part of the 19th Century Victorian-initiated kennel clubs that blended lineages to create most of today’s breeds.

A Saluki (copyright Keith Dobney)

Source:  University of Durham press release

Caesar the Anzac Dog

Today around New Zealand, people have stopped their daily activities to commemorate another Anzac Day.

Did you know that New Zealand has its own special dog hero from World War I?  His name was Caesar.

A Bulldog, Caesar led the grand parade down Auckland’s Queen Street as the NZ Rifle Brigade left for the war.  Caesar was trained as a Red Cross dog and worked at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  Dogs were particularly valuable to rescuers in No Man’s Land, as they helped to locate wounded men at night.

Caesar was killed in action.  His collar (which has his name spelled incorrectly) is on display at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Caesar's collar, with his name spelled incorrectly

Author Patricia Stroud has written about Caesar in her book, Caesar the Anzac Dog.  Illustrated by Bruce Potter and published by Harper Collins, the book is useful for teaching schoolchildren about the war.  The publisher also offers a study guide for teachers.