London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Present Street-Sellers of Dogs.
IT will have been noticed that in the accounts I have given of the former street-transactions in dogs, there is no mention of the The information I have adduced is a condensation of the evidence given before the Select Committee of the , and the inquiry related only to the stealing, finding, and restoring of dogs, the selling being but an incidental part of the evidence. Then, however, as now, the street-sellers were not implicated in the thefts or restitution of dogs, "just except," man told me, "as there was a black sheep or in every flock." The black sheep, however, of this street-calling more frequently meddled with restoring, than with "finding."
Another street dog-seller, an intelligent man,— who, however did not know so much as my informant of the state of the trade in the olden time,—expressed a positive opinion, that no dogstealer was now a street-hawker ("hawker" was the word I found these men use). His reasons for this opinion, in addition to his own judgment from personal knowledge, are cogent enough: "It isn't possible, sir," he said, "and this is the reason why. We are not a large body of men. We stick pretty closely, when we are out, to the same places. We are as well-known to the police, as any men whom they most know, by sight at any rate, from meeting them every day. Now, if a lady or gentleman has lost a dog, or it's been stolen or strayed—and the most petted will sometimes stray unaccountably and follow some stranger or other—why where does she, and he, and all the family, and all the servants, look for the lost animal? Why, where, but at the dogs we are hawking? No, sir, it can't be done now, and it isn't done in my knowledge, and it oughtn't to be done. I'd rather make on an honest dog than on that wasn't, if there was no risk about it either." Other information convinces me that this statement is correct.
Of these street-sellers or hawkers there are now about . There may be, however, but , if so many, on any given day in the streets, as there are always some detained at home by other avocations connected with their line of life. The places they chiefly frequent are the Quadrant and generally, but the Quadrant far the most. Indeed before the removal of the colonnade, -half at least of all the dog-sellers of London would resort there on a very wet day, as they had the advantage of shelter, and generally of finding a crowd assembled, either lounging to pass the time, or waiting "for a fair fit," and so with leisure to look at dogs. The other places are the West-end squares, the banks of the Serpentine, Charing-cross, the , and the , and the Parks generally. They visit, too, any public place to which there may be a temporary attraction of the classes likely to be purchasers — a mere crowd of people, I was told, was no good to the dog-hawkers, it must be a crowd of people that had money—such as the assemblage of ladies and gentlemen who crowd the windows of and , when the Queen opens or prorogues the houses. These spectators fill the street and the Horseguards' portion of the park as soon as the street mass has dispersed, and they often afford the means of a good day's work to the dog people.
dogs, carefully cleaned and combed, or brushed, are carried in a man's arms for streetvending. A fine chain is generally attached to a neat collar, so that the dog can be relieved from the cramped feel he will experience if kept off his feet too long. In carrying these little animals for sale—for it is the smaller dogs which are carried —the men certainly display them to the best advantage. Their longer silken ears, their prominent dark eyes and black noses, and the delicacy of their fore-paws, are made as prominent as possible, and present what the masses very well call "quite a pictur." I have alluded to the display of the , as they constitute considerably more than half of the street trade in dogs, the "King Charleses" and the "Blenheims" being disposed of in nearly equal quantities. They are sold for lapdogs, pets, carriage companions or companions in a walk, and are often intelligent and affectionate. Their colours are black, black and tan, white and liver-colour, chestnut, black and white, and entirely
|white, with many shades of these hues, and interblendings of them, with another, and with gray.|
The small are, however, coming more into fashion, or, as the hawkers call it, into "vogue." They are usually black, with tanned muzzles and feet, and with a keen look, their hair being short and smooth. Some, however, are preferred with long and somewhat wiry hair, and the colour is often strongly mixed with gray. A small Isle of Skye terrier—but few, I was informed know a "real Skye"—is sometimes carried in the streets, as well as the little rough dogs known as Scotch terriers. When a streetseller has a litter of terrier pups, he invariably selects the handsomest for the streets, for it happens—my informant did not know why, but he and others were positive that so it was—that the handsomest is the worst; "the worst," it must be understood as regards the possession of choice sporting qualities, more especially of pluck. The terrier's education, as regards his prowess in a rat-pit, is accordingly neglected; and if a gentleman ask, "Will he kill rats?" the answer is in the negative; but this is no disparagement to the sale, because the dog is sold, perhaps, for a lady's pet, and is not wanted to kill rats, or to "fight any dog of his weight."
The , for which, to years ago, and, in a diminished degree, years back, there was, in the phrase of the day, "quite a rage," provided only the pug was hideous, are now never offered in the streets, or so rarely, that a wellknown dealer assured me he had only sold in the streets for years. A Leadenhall tradesman, fond of dogs, but in no way connected with the trade, told me that it came to be looked upon, that a pug was a fit companion for only snappish old maids, and "so the women wouldn't have them any longer, least of all the old maids."
are also of rare street-sale. man had a white poodle or years ago, so fat and so round, that a lady, who priced it, was told by a gentleman with her, that if the head and the short legs were removed, and the inside scooped out, the animal would make a capital muff; yet even poodle was difficult of sale at
Occasionally also an , seeming cold and shivery on the warmest days, is borne in a hawker's arms, or if following on foot, trembling and looking sad, as if mentally murmuring at the climate.
In such places as the banks of the Serpentine, or in the Regent's-park, the hawker does not carry his dogs in his arms, so much as let them trot along with him in a body, and they are sure to attract attention; or he sits down, and they play or sleep about him. dealer told me that children often took such a fancy for a pretty spaniel, that it was difficult for either mother, governess, or nurse, to drag them away until the man was requested to call in the evening, bringing with him the dog, which was very often bought, or the hawker recompensed for his loss of time. But sometimes the dog-dealers, I heard from several, meet with great shabbiness among rich people, who recklessly give them no small trouble, and sometimes put them to expense without the slightest return, or even an acknowledgment or a word of apology. "There's advantage in my trade," said a dealer in live animals, "we always has to do with principals. There's never a lady would let her most favouritest maid choose her dog for her. So no parkisits."
The species which I have enumerated are all that are now sold in the streets, with the exception of an odd "plum-pudding," or coach-dog (the white dog with dark spots which runs after carriages), or an odd bull-dog, or bull-terrier, or indeed with the exception of "odd dogs" of every kind. The hawkers are, however, connected with the trade in sporting dogs, and often through the medium of their street traffic, as I shall show under the next head of my subject.
There is peculiarity in the hawking of fancy dogs, which distinguishes it from all other branches of street-commerce. The purchasers are all of the wealthier class. This has had its influence on the manners of the dog-sellers. They will be found, in the majority of cases, quiet and deferential men, but without servility, and with little of the quality of speech; and I speak only of speech which among English people is known as "gammon," and among Irish people as "blarney." This manner is common to many; to the established trainer of race-horses for instance, who is in constant communication with persons in a very superior position in life to his own, and to whom he is exceedingly deferential. But the trainer feels that in all points connected with his not very easy business, as well, perhaps, as in general turf knowingness, his royal highness (as was the case once), or his grace, or my lord, or Sir John, was inferior to himself; and so with all his deference there mingles a strain of quiet contempt, or rather, perhaps, of conscious superiority, which is ingredient in the formation of the manners I have hastily sketched.
The customers of the street-hawkers of dogs are ladies and gentlemen, who buy what may have attracted their admiration. The kept mistresses of the wealthier classes are often excellent customers. "Many of 'em, I know," was said to me, "dotes on a nice spaniel. Yes, and I've known gentlemen buy dogs for their misses; I couldn't be mistaken when I might be sent on with them, which was part of the bargain. If it was a -guinea dog or so, I was told never to give a hint of the price to the servant, or to anybody. know why. It's easy for a gentleman that wants to please a lady, and not to lay out any great matter of tin, to say that what had really cost him guineas, cost him ." If of the working classes, or a small tradesman, buy a dog in the streets, it is generally because he is "of a fancy turn," and breeds a few dogs, and traffics in them in hopes of profit.
The homes of the dog-hawkers, as far as I had means of ascertaining—and all I saw were of the same character—are comfortable and very cleanly. The small spaniels, terriers, &c.,—I do not now
|allude to sporting dogs—are generally kept in kennels, or in small wooden houses erected for the purpose in a back garden or yard. These abodes are generally in some open court, or little square or "grove," where there is a free access of air. An old man who was sitting at his door in the summer evening, when I called upon a dog-seller, and had to wait a short time, told me that so quiet were his next-door neighbour's (the streethawker's) dogs, that for some weeks, he did not know his newly-come neighbour was a dog-man; although he was an old nervous man himself, and couldn't bear any unpleasant noise or smell. The scrupulous observance of cleanliness is necessary in the rearing or keeping of small fancy dogs, for without such observance the dog would have a disagreeable odour about it, enough to repel any lady-buyer. It is a not uncommon declaration among dog-sellers that the animals are "as sweet as nuts." Let it be remembered that I have been describing the class of regular dog-sellers, making, by an open and established trade, a tolerable livelihood.|
The spaniels, terriers, &c., the stock of these hawkers, are either bred by them—and they all breed a few or a good many dogs—or they are purchased of dog-dealers (not street-sellers), or of people who having a good fancy breed of "King Charleses," or "Blenheims," rear dogs, and sell them by the litter to the hawkers. The hawkers also buy dogs brought to them, "in the way of business," but they are wary how they buy any animal suspected to be stolen, or they may get into "trouble." man, a carver and gilder, I was informed, some years back, made a good deal of money by his "black-patched" spaniels. These dogs had a remarkable black patch over their eyes, and so fond was the dog-fancier, or breeder of them, that when he disposed of them to street-sellers or others, he usually gave a portrait of the animals, of his own rude painting, into the bargain. These paintings he also sold, slightly framed, and I have seen them—but not so much lately—offered in the streets, and hung up in poor persons' rooms. This man lived in Yorksquare, behind the , then a not very reputable quarter. It is now , and of a reformed character, but the seller of dogs and the donor of their portraits has for some time been lost sight of.
The prices at which fancy-dogs are sold in the streets are about the same for all kinds. They run from to , but are very rarely so low as , as "it's only a very scrubby thing for that." and guineas are frequent street prices for a spaniel or small terrier. Of the dogs sold, as I have before stated, more than -half are spaniels. Of the remainder, more than -half are terriers; and the surplusage, after this reckoning, is composed in about equal numbers of the other dogs I have mentioned. The exportation of dogs is not above a of what it was before the appointment of the Select Committee, but a French or Belgium dealer sometimes comes to London to buy dogs.
It is not easy to fix upon any per-centage as to the profit of the street dog-sellers. There is the keep and the rearing of the animal to consider; and there is the same uncertainty in the traffic as in all traffics which depend, not upon a demand for use, but on the caprices of fashion, or—to use the more appropriate word, when writing on such a subject—of "fancy." A hawker may sell dogs in day, without any extraordinary effort, or, in the same manner of trading, and frequenting the very same places, may sell only in days. In the winter, the dogs are sometimes offered in public houses, but seldom as regards the higher-priced animals.
From the best data I can command, it appears that each hawker sells " dogs and a half, if you take it that way, splitting a dog like, every week the year through; that is, sir, or week in the summer, when trade's brisk and days are long, and only or the next week, when trade may be flat, and in winter when there isn't the same chance." Calculating, then, that dogs are sold by each hawker in a fortnight, at an average price of each, which is not a high average, and supposing that but men are trading in this line the year through, we find that no less a sum than is yearly expended in this street-trade. The weekly profit of the hawker is from to More than -eighths of these dogs are bred in this country, Italian greyhounds included.
A hawker of dogs gave me a statement of his life, but it presented so little of incident or of change, that I need not report it. He had assisted and then succeeded his father in the business; was a pains-taking, temperate, and industrious man, seldom taking even a glass of ale, so that the tenour of his way had been even, and he was prosperous enough.
I will next give an account of the connection of the hawkers of dogs with the "sporting" or "fancy" part of the business; and of the present state of dog "finding," to show the change since the parliamentary investigation.
I may observe that in this traffic the word "fancy" has significations. A dog recommended by its beauty, or any peculiarity, so that it be suitable for a pet-dog, is a "fancy" animal; so is he if he be a fighter, or a killer of rats, however ugly or common-looking; but the term "sporting dog" seems to become more and more used in this case: nor is the -mentioned use of the word "fancy," at all strained or very original, for it is lexicographically defined as "an opinion bred rather by the imagination than the reason, inclination, liking, caprice, humour, whim, frolick, idle scheme, vagary."