First the steam engine, next the bicycle, and finally the internal combustion engine emancipated the horse--and also dogs, including large Poodles, used as draft animals to draw carts (holding, for example, milk cans) particularly in Flanders. The gradual elimination of this practice involved strenuous efforts on the part of animal welfare advocates, and is described in an article by Mary E. Thurston, "Canine Emancipation", Dog World, March, 1996, pp. 36-42.
Youatt provides a mid-19th century perspective: "As an animal of draught the dog is highly useful in some countries. What would become of the inhabitants of the northern regions, if the dog were not harnessed to the sledge, and the Laplander, and the Greenlander, and the Kamtschatkan drawn, and not infrequently at the rate of nearly a hundred miles a day, over the snowy wastes? In Newfoundland, the timber, one of the most important articles of commerce, is drawn to the water-side by the docile but ill-used dog; and we need only to cross the British Channel in order to see how useful, and, generally speaking, how happy a beast of draught the dog can be. [Note by the editor of the American (1848) edition, E.J. Lewis, re extensive use of large dogs on the Continent in pulling small vehicles; and an eye-witness account of draught dogs in Paris.]
"Though, in our country, and to its great disgrace, this employment of the dog has been accompanied by such wanton and shameful cruelty, that the Legislature--somewhat hastily confounding the abuse of a thing with its legitimate purpose--forbade the appearance of the dog-cart in the metropolitan districts, and were inclined to extend this prohibition through the whole kingdom, it is much to be desired that a kindlier and better feeling may gradually prevail, and that this animal, humanely treated, may return to the discharge of the services of which nature has rendered him capable, and which prove the greatest source of happiness to him while discharging them to the best of his power." William Youatt, The Dog (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1848; American edition, first published: London, 1845), p. 15.
"Dog-Carts...were, and still are, in the country, connected with many an act of atrocious cruelty. We do not object to the dog as a beast of draught. He is so in the northern regions, and he is as happy as any other animal in those cold and inhospitable countries. He is so in Holland, and he is as comfortable there as any other beast that wears the collar. He is not so in Newfoundland: there he is shamefully treated. It is to the abuse of the thing, the poor and half-starved condition of the animal, the scandalous weight that he is made to draw, and the infamous usage to which he is explosed, that we object. We would put him precisely on the same footing with the horse, and then we should be able, perhaps, to afford him, not all the protection we could wish, but nearly as much as we have obtained for the horse. We would have every cart licensed, not for the sake of adding to the revenue, but of getting at the owner; and therefore the taxing need not be any great sum. We would have the cart licensed for the carrying of goods only; or a separate license taken out if it carried or drew a human being.
"It is here that the cruelty principally exists. Before the dog-carts were put down in the metropolis [London], we then saw a man and a woman in one of these carts, drawn by a single dog, and going at full trot. Every passenger [passer-by] execrated them, and the trot was increased to a gallop, in order more speedily to excape the just reproaches that proceeded from every mouth. We would have the name and address of the owner, and the number of the cart, painted on some conspicious part of the vehicle, and in letters and figures as large as on the common carts. Every passenger who witnessed any flagrant act of cruelty would then be enabled to take the number of the cart, and summon the owner; the the police should have the same power of interference which they have with regard to other vehicles." Ibid., p. 167.
Dog-carts are now uneconomical. However, draft-work is an honourable part of the background of the breed, and Poodles still enjoy pulling for charity (for example, a light cart carrying a penny-bank in a charity parade).
They also enjoy pulling for sport. John Suter, an Alaskan and all-round athlete, bought three Standard Poodles in 1976; he and the Poodles together began to learn about "dog mushing. During the next 20 years, Suter and the Poodles ran 280 races (including sprint, middle-distance, and long distance), finishing in first, second and third place in 90 of those races." In 1988, with a part-Poodle team, Suter placed 38th out of 52 starters in the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He subsequently ran the Iditarod with an all-Poodle team; his team entered and finished the race in 1989, 1990, and 1991. John Suter, "Poodle Sled Dogs in Alaska", Poodle Variety, August-September 1998, p. 34. See also:
Donna McLaughlin, of Whitehorse, Yukon, skijours drawn by Standard Poodles. For a photograph of McLaughlin, #59 sponsored by Mutual Life of Canada, racing in 1995's Whitehorse Ski Jour Race, drawn enthusiastically at top speed by her SPs Caper and McCoy, on Saturday, 21 January 1995, at the Annie Lake Recreation Centre, see (Whitehorse) Star Daily, vol. 95, no. 15, Monday, 23 January 1995, p. 1.
Go back to Ships' dogs...