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Going to the Dogs: Historian to Talk on How Gambling Affected Dog Breeding

(Posted March 26, 2007)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- By explaining how the British working class and the English aristocracy developed different types of dog breeds to gain advantages in gambling, a University of Virginia historian will demonstrate how social divisions among humans affected animal species in a lecture at Juniata College at 7:30 p.m., Monday, April 2 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science.
Edmund Russell, associate professor of science, technology and society at the University of Virginia, will give the talk, "The Fierce, the Fleet, and the Fancy: How Gambling Shaped the Evolution of Dogs in Nineteenth-century Britain."
The lecture, which is part of the Delbert McQuaide Lectureship in History Series, is free and open to the public.
Russell will show how gambling -- specifically, betting on dog fights, baiting of bulls and other animals, and racing -- affected how many of today's dog breeds were developed. The title of Russell's talk refers to two types of dogs and how various English "fanciers" used and developed these breeds.

The greyhound was bred to chase and hunt hares on the immense estates of the British aristocracy. The whippet breed, on the other hand, was bred by working class people for racing on short, straight tracks.

The Fierce dogs (bulldogs and related species) were used to bait bulls and other animals. English breeders designed the dogs to suit the rules for these baits and dog fights. Both working class and aristocrats attended these "blood sports." The Fancy was the name of an informal group of bloodsport fans whose numbers spanned different social classes. The Fleet refers to racing dogs, which came to prominence when Parliament banned blood sports in 1835
Russell also will detail the development of two racing breeds. The greyhound was bred to chase and hunt hares on the immense estates of the British aristocracy. The whippet breed, on the other hand, was bred by working class people for racing on short, straight tracks.
Russell earned a bachelor's degree in English from Stanford University and went on to earn a doctoral degree in biology from the University of Michigan. He is the author of "War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring," which received the "best book" prize from the Society for the History of Technology.
Russell also has been recognized for his teaching, winning the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia, and the University of Virginia Alumni Board of Trustees Teaching Award.
The Delbert McQuaide Lectureship in History Series was established by Delbert McQuaide, a 1958 Juniata College graduate. He was a senior partner at McQuaide Blasko Law Offices in State College and served as general counsel for Penn State University and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He was president of the Centre County Bar Association, and a member of the Pennsylvania, and American Bar Associations and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Mr. McQuaide was a member of the Juniata board of trustees from 1994 and served as chairman from 1996 until his death in 1997.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.