Breed: The British and Their Dogs scampers through The Manchester Museum

By Ben Miller | 09 October 2012
A photo of the face of a stuffed dog with loads of blonde fur, dark eyes and a black nose
A Welsh red collie, on loan from Rhayader Museum in Powys, stands at the centre of The Manchester Museum's new canine caper© Paul Cliff
Exhibition Review: Breed: The British and Their Dogs, The Manchester Museum, Manchester, until April 14 2013

Bardolph the 19th century bloodhound champion, the victorious bulldog Silent Duchess, Carlyle the windswept collie and Nagrajdai, Oudar, Golub and Ooslad – all owned by the Duchess of Newcastle, a prolific breeder of borzois more than 150 years ago – have a new home.

They’re part of an abundance of redoubtable characters visiting The Manchester Museum for six months, including a line of taxidermy specimens featuring Chatley the (droopy-eared) Brilliant, Litzu the Pekingese, Erian Mil-Chu the Irish wolfhound, bulldog Alozed Frederick the Great and, in the only departed dog not borrowed from the Natural History Museum, a Welsh red collie on loan from Rhayader Museum.

A photo of a small brown dog crossing a pink ribbon in front of a crowd of people
The show opened in suitable style© Paul Cliff
Collies represented the Victorian values many wanted to protect during the Industrial Revolution. They loved the countryside and were loyal, family-minded, friendly and innocent. Queen Victoria adored and owned several of them, although Winston Churchill was famously more in favour of the bulldog spirit, recalled in posters of his face atop their rugged little frames here.

Russian rulers preferred the borzois. More associated with posh couture in England, their thick coats and speed made them the dogs to deal with bitter Soviet winters. One of their skulls is on display, and their plight during the Russian Revolution, when they were often executed with the Tzars who owned them, was a cruel one.

Contrastingly cute, the Pekingese arrived when British soldiers looted the Chinese Emperor’s Summer Palace during the late 1860s, and the Queen promptly named the one she was presented with Looty. Craniums, toy dog books, stone jade carvings and an exquisite 17th century dish pay homage to them among cases teeming with cufflinks, sculptures, souvenirs, trophies, collars and publications charting decorated furries.

The show’s thoroughness impresses. And the opening paintings – a litter of dogs cheerfully angling for affection from Prince Albert and his family, an early pub canine meeting of top-hatted gents, bull terriors and bemused-looking toy spaniels – could make even the grumpiest old hound laugh.

  • Open 10am-5pm (11am-4pm Monday, Sunday, Bank Holidays, December 27-31, closed December 24-26 and January 1). Admission free. Follow The Manchester Museum on Twitter @McrMuseum.

More pictures:

A photo of people milling around a well-lit exhibition space with wooden flooring
© Paul Cliff
A photo of a dark brown hound dog wearing a grey hat, overcoat and smoking a pipe
© Paul Cliff
A photo of various card carrying illustrations of different breeds of dog
© Paul Cliff
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
Related listings (373)
See all related listings »