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