The Dog Blog: Pups in the Georgian Papers

By Marie Pellissier, Omohundro Institute Apprentice, William & Mary

Welcome back to our Georgian Goodies blog series, where we highlight interesting, timely, or just plain nifty documents from the Georgian Papers Programme!

English royals have always loved their dogs. Queen Elizabeth II’s corgis seem to be everywhere, from the 2012 Olympics to the silver screen. But the Queen is not the only member of the Royal Family to love her canine companions.

The Georgians loved their dogs as well, and a look at some of the digitized papers from the Georgian Papers Programme shows multiple generations of Georgians who loved their furry friends.

Frederick, Prince of Wales, had houses at Cliveden and Kew in the 1740s and 1750s. Frederick’s relationship with his parents, King George II and Queen Caroline, was strained for much of his adulthood, and his homes at Cliveden and Kew were retreats where he could get away from the family tension. He also kept dogs at both houses. At Cliveden, he paid Christopher Rowls, a carpenter, £20.5.11 for the construction of dog kennels in February, 1750. At the end of the same year, the Prince of Wales rented truffle-hunting dogs, from Christmas 1750 until Lady Day (March 25) 1741.

Bill from carpenter Christopher Rowls for construction of kennels at Cliveden House. GEO/MAIN/55318-55319

Who knew there were truffles to hunt in England? And who knew you could do it with dogs? When I think of truffle-hunting (which is not that often), I think of pigs rooting around in Italian forests, not dogs in the English countryside. Indeed, most of the recent literature on truffle-hunting dogs implies that the use of dogs to find truffles is a relatively recent development. Frederick, Prince of Wales’, rental of two truffle hunting dogs for three months in 1750-51 tells us that using dogs to find these valuable fungi is a much older idea than most modern truffle-hunters realize.

Frederick’s account books do not mention the breed of these rental pups. The Italian Lagatto Romagnolo, a curly-haired water retriever, is renowned for its truffle-hunting abilities, but Labrador retrievers, poodles, and even Chihuahuas can be truffle-hunters. Indeed, dogs are better for hunting truffles than pigs, because dogs are far less likely to eat the truffle once they’ve found it!

Frederick’s wife Augusta loved her dogs too; after Frederick’s death on March 31, 1751 (six days after the end of his truffle-hunting dog lease), she continued to keep dogs as pets. She purchased combs for her dogs from Ann Angell in 1768, and the next year, purchased new beds for her pups at Kew Palace.

Canine companions continued to be an important part of the Royal Family into the reign of George III. In December 1790, 22-year-old Princess Augusta Sophia wrote to her younger brother Augustus, who was away at the University of Gottingen. Augusta Sophia updated her brother on the news from home, telling him about the weather, the hunting, and the additions to Pomfret Lodge. These included a new kennel for the hunting hounds, “built in the little Park at what was Lord Pomfret’s Lodge… I have been to see it and it is as neatly kept as any Room.”

Excerpt from Princess Augusta Sophia’s December 20, 1790 letter to her brother Prince Augustus.

Queen Elizabeth’s corgis may be the most photogenic of the Royal pups, but they’re part of a long history of British royal canines, traceable through the Georgian Papers Programme.  


References

GEO/MAIN/55318-55319 (Bill for dog kennels for Frederick, Prince of Wales, at Cliveden House, c. 1749)

GEO/MAIN/55612 (Bills for new dog beds for Kew Palace for Augusta, Princess of Wales, c. 1750)

GEO/MAIN/55359 (Bill for truffle dogs for Frederick, Prince of Wales)

GEO/ADD/10/3 (Letter from Princess Augusta Sophia to Prince Augustus, December 20, 1790)

For more information on truffle-hunting dogs, visit:

Helen Carefoot, “Behind the Scenes at North America’s Only Truffle Dog Competition,” National Geographic February 11, 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/02/oregon-truffle-dog-championship-photos/

Jake Swearingen, “Truffle Hunting Has Gone to the Dogs,” Modern Farmer, August 30, 2013. https://modernfarmer.com/2013/08/truffle-smelling-dogs/

Becky Barnicoat, “Hunting for Truffles in British Woodland,” Thwe Guardian, December 13, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/13/hunting-truffles-british-woodland-fungi

Malia Wollan, “How to Find Truffles,” New York Times Magazine, October 16, 2015. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/magazine/how-to-find-truffles.html

 

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