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Philip Reinagle (1749-1833) was the son of a Hungarian musician. Reinagle's father had been living in Edinburgh at the time of his birth. As a young man, Philip left his homeland of Scotland and went to London in 1763, where he served as an assistant to another painter named Ramsey. He had his first exhibition in 1773. He was painting portraits until he began to diversify into animal paintings around 1785. It was during this period that he painted the sheepdog. But was the painting done long before 1803? For example, his original painting of the Bulldog was done in 1790. It also appeared in the book of 1803. Where is the original sheepdog painting today? It is not in the British Museum collection.

There are references in several publications that Reinagle "provided drawings for the illustrations to William Taplin's Sportsman's Cabinet (London, 1803)." What happened to the drawing of the "Old English Sheepdog" is unknown. What appeared in Taplin's book was an engraving. This engraving was done by John Scott "after Reinagle." John Scott was born in March of 1773. He used a tool called a "graver" to make many hundreds of plates, several of which ended up being in Taplin's book.

Taplin (c.1750-c.1830), a veterinary surgeon, wrote a book Sportsman's Cabinet (London, 1803), which was published under Taplin's pseudonym name of "A veteran sportsman." The first volume included a chapter entitled "Shepherd's Dog" starting on page 125. It was six pages in length and ended with a poem entitled "the Old Shepherd's Dog" by Peter Pindar. Peter Pindar was the pen name of John Wolcot (1738-1819) who was a medical doctor. Taplin, like many others, did not call a sheepdog by any breed name.

For those interested in exact titles, the book was actually entitled The Sportsman's Cabinet; Or, A Correct Delineation Of The Various Dogs Used In The Sports Of The Field: Including The Canine Race In General, Consisting Of A Series Of Engravings of Every Distinct Breed, From Original Paintings, Taken From Life.


There are many references in several writings to the Reinagle painting. It is purported to have been painted around the year 1803. In one book, the painting is called "The Shepherd's Dog." In another, it is referred to as the "Shepherd's Dog." In another, it is called "The Sheepdog." In another, it is identified as "Old English Sheep Dog."

Rawdon B. Lee commented on the Reinagle painting in A History and Description of The Collie or Sheep Dog in His British Varieties. London: Horace Cox "The Field" (1890).

"In the 'Sportsman's Cabinet' (1803-4), an excellent illustration is given by Reinagle, the dog being just such a one as would be met with at the present day, were he favoured by a pleasanter and less villainous expression, which is given him, perhaps unintentionally, by his two peculiarly yellow coloured eyes. It is still held that the eyes should be light in colour, not yellow, but of a pale blue approaching white, 'wall' or 'china' eyes indeed, which I have heard named 'pearl.' Unfortunately, the literary description in the 'Cabinet' does not in any way apply to the illustration, and so one has to turn elsewhere in search of special information on the subject. Nor does there appear to be anything more interesting to be gleaned from contemporary writers, who appear to have treated all varieties of the sheep dog as pretty much the same, it being quite the exception to make even a little difference between those of the highland and those of the lowlands."

Four years later, in his book, A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland (Non-Sporting Division (1894), Mr. Lee put forth the following words in the section entitled "The Old English (Bob-Tailed) Sheepdog":

"Possibly he is an older dog than the ordinary collie, nor has modern fashion yet changed him so much as it has other dogs. Reinagle's picture in the 'Sportsman's Cabinet,' published very early in the present century, is a capital example of what the dog is to-day, and such a one as there pourtrayed, would now, if alive and in the flesh, take the highest honour at any of our leading shows.

In Scotland there is an old-fashioned sheep dog of the same sort called the 'Highland or Bearded Collie,' and although he is by no means common, classes are sometimes provided for him at local shows, and they usually attract a considerable entry. I certainly agree with the author of the 'Dogs of Scotland,' when he says that the two varieties as found in Scotland and England are identical, and if the former is usually seen with a long tail, it is only because his owners have refused to amputate it in order that it might have a so-called 'bob-tail.'"

After Hugh Dalziel's death in the early 1900s, his book British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, and Exhibition (first published in 1879) was republished by authors Walter D. Drury and Others under the title of British Dogs: Their Points, Selection, and Show Preparation, London: L. Upcott Gill (1903). At the beginning of the book, Drury acknowledged several individuals who contributed to the book (regarding several listed breeds) with the words: "With the Collaboration of the following Specialists." The Old English Sheepdog was not one of the breeds listed, and therefore, it can be assumed this was Drury's own words.

"In the "Sportsman's Cabinet" there is a drawing by Reinagle, and engraved by J. Scott, which the author of the work—" A Veteran Sportsman"—declares to be "an admirable representation" of the breed, "taken from the life." No written description applicable to the dog engraved appears in the text; but we are told that "the breed is propagated and preserved with the greatest respect to purity in the Northern parts of the kingdom, as well as in the Highlands of Scotland." From this it would appear that "A Veteran Sportsman" did not write from personal knowledge, for assuredly in the North the Collie type of Sheepdog was the prevailing one; and there are reasons numerous and ample for believing the dog to be more a Southern than a Northern breed.

Shepherds and farmers are not classes of men who rapidly change their habits, opinions, or even fashions; and in a matter of such practical importance to them as the sort of Sheepdog they shall have to guide and guard their flocks, there would have to be strong reasons for the admission and adoption of innovation. Now, nothing is more certain than that in the South and South-western parts of England, Sheepdogs of the type represented in Reinagle's drawing are most plentiful; and although the breed is not unknown in the North, it is, and had been long before the last century began—at which date Reinagle painted and "A Veteran Sportsman" wrote—a very small fraction in the number of Sheepdogs, the large majority having been, as they still are, of the Collie type.

Reinagle's shepherd's dog appears to be a grey, with white on upper neck and shoulder, white on ridge of muzzle, and with a diminishing, white, uneven line up the forehead to centre of skull; measured—as a living specimen would be—with a rod from point line of chest to the line of back of thigh, and with an upright and crossbar at shoulder, his height and length are very nearly equal; he is not so deep in the chest as the Collie, and the skull is rounder and the muzzle shorter and broader—in face, at obtuse muzzle. There is far less difference in girth between chest and loin than in the Collie; the eyes, as in the Collie, are fairly close together; the coat looks rough and harsh, free from curl, long all over the body and on back of legs, but much shorter on hind legs from hock downwards; on the face the hair is shorter but still rough, apparently about half the length or less of that on the legs, but nothing like the short hair that gives comparative smoothness to the face of the Rough Collie; the ears drop like a Mastiff's, are almost smooth, and if drawn towards the nose would not reach more than two-thirds down the muzzle; the tail appears to have had about one-third of its natural length removed."

James Watson, The Dog Book (1905-1906), wrote:

"There is one thing about the Reinagle picture which does not appear to have attracted attention, and that is the Scottish scenery. The man sitting in the middle distance may not have kilts, but he has a Scotch bonnet and a crook. Of course it may have been a mere fancy of the artist to put an English sheep dog in a Scotch or Highland scene, but it might have been one of the strain from which we have the bearded collie in Scotland."

A colored plate of this painting appeared in British Dogs (1945) by A. Croxton Smith, on page 17. It is under "List of Illustrations: Plates in Colour." This colored image also appears in other publications. It is used here to show the brown, or red, coloring.

All we will likely ever know about the dog in the Reinagle's painting is that it was a "sheepdog."

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