Canine Vengeance in the 1800s

Newfoundland Dog by Edwin Henry Landseer, Courtesy of Wikipedia

One nineteenth-century owner of a dog related a tale about canine vengeance. Later, his story was published in an English newspaper in 1868. Here is the story almost verbatim.

I purchased “Watch,” the hero of my tale, when he was only six months old, from a farmer in the island of Foulness. He was then, as large as an ordinary Newfoundland dog, but particularly shy and sheepish in expression; indeed, he looked and acted more like a stupid and very young calf than a puppy of ordinary intelligence, and when taken from his native home to the house of my good friend the doctor, to wait my sending for him, he melted the heart of his pretty daughter Lucy by crying (as she declared) so uncommonly like a child, that she laid his huge head in her lap in which comfortable position he soon whined himself to sleep. However, foolish he looked he soon provided himself to be of the true breed, and not to be insulted with impunity, for quiet as these dogs are, good-tempered and gentle to those who treat them well, they are fierce and unforgiving to their enemies, and are sure, sooner or later, to revenge any injury offered to them, and, as the sequel will show, “Watch” could both plan and execute his own vendetta with almost human sagacity and intelligence.

He had been in my possession about a month or six weeks when I received a message from a farmer who lived about a mile from the Coastguard station of which I was then in command, to that effect that “he wished I would keep my dog at home as he (the dog) had killed a valuable terrier of his.” That such a stupid puppy as “Watch” should attack and kill a full-grown bull-terrier, appeared to me so exceedingly unlikely that I could not help laughing at the idea; and therefore merely sending a message “that I was sorry to hear of the gentleman’s loss, but that I thought there really must be some mistake,” took up my cap and went out to make inquiry amongst my men, with whom “Watch” had already become a very great favourite.

To my surprise I learnt from my chief boatman that the farmer’s complaint had sufficient foundation, and that “Watch,” if not the actual “dogicide” (or perhaps we ought to say “canecide!”), had planned and was decidedly an accomplice in the murder. I then ascertained the following facts:

It appears that a few days before, whilst quietly sitting at the watch-room door my dog had been set upon and bitten by the terrier now “gathered to his fathers,” that he had been much frightened and not a little hurt; that since this had happened he had been seen to go to a neighbouring farm where there lived an old dog of the same breed as himself, and was observed to remain without playing about, or having any apparent object, for some time in the company of this old dog, and that on the day of the death of the terrier these two dogs had gone away together to the farm of the slaughtered terrier’s master, although it was well known that the old dog seldom or never left his home. They had then both carefully abstained from entering the premises, thereby displaying great prudence and sagacity for many of these animals were kept on this farm, and some of them were larger than either of themselves; but they had been observed to sit watching in the road outside the farm-yard gates the whole morning, that several of the dogs had gone out to them, and they appeared quite friendly and playful, until the terrier that had bitten “Watch,” unluckily for himself, appeared on the scene. At that time, both the Foulness dogs at once pounced upon him and killed him almost instantly, and having thus cleverly accomplished their act of vengeance immediately afterwards left the place returned each to his own home.


  • “Canine Vengeance,” in Falkirk Herald, 09 July 1868

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