Hound Collectibles

What are your dog anitiques, art, and collectibles worth?

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A “collectible” is defined as something considered worth collecting (not necessarily valuable or antique). For those of us in the world of purebred dogs, almost anything bearing an image of “our” breed might therefore be considered worthy. For the Hound collector in particular, noteworthy books, bronzes, engravings, etchings, prints, portraits and pot-metal sculptures are plentiful.

Of the 25 Hound breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club through 2009, 12 ranked below 100 (of 164 breeds) in registrations. The rarity of these breeds makes it even more exciting that so many different collectibles can be acquired by their devotees. The Otterhound, American Foxhound, Harrier and English Foxhound rounded out the bottom four positions with the least AKC registrations through the end of 2009. Even as rare as those breeds are, their imagery plays a significant role in the field of Hound collectibles!

The Bottom Four Breeds
The majority of vintage collectible items hail from the United Kingdom, longtime home to many of the Hound breeds and birthplace of the Otterhound, Harrier and English Foxhound. The role that Hounds have historically played in every aspect of life, from companion to provider, has kept them squarely in the eye of the public, and consequently, many Hound collectibles have been produced from day one.

For many, the image of Hounds that first comes to mind is one of the English Foxhound in a hunt. That sport, now outlawed in most countries, is sometimes still practiced with the fox being allowed to escape, and the dogs trained not to kill. Arguably the greatest image of the fox hunt is the 1910 John Edwin Noble book plate, showing a red-coated rider with a hunting horn, on a magnificent gray horse, with seven Foxhounds in a wooded scene. The Foxhound featured by itself in the 1930s François Castellan illustration from Les Chiens de Chasse is particularly dynamic. The enduring power that this breed embodies is beautifully shown in this watercolor breed portrait. A number of cigarette cards also illustrate this magnificent breed. Three English Foxhound illustrated children’s books that bear mentioning are Dainty, A Story of a Foxhound (1948) by Ralph Greaves and illustrated by Sir Lionel Edwards, and Maxims of Marquis (1937) and Ten Little Foxhounds (1959), both written and illustrated by Christopher Gifford Ambler.

The most beautiful Otterhound image is also a 1910 John Edwin Noble book plate, though numerous others can easily be found. The Otterhound was well enough established in the UK to have a number of cigarette and trade cards produced, as well. The three finest Harrier images are a painting by Arthur Wardle reproduced in the 1897 edition of Modern Dogs by Rawdon Lee; a pen-and-ink line illustration from 1900 by R.H. Moore; and a watercolor illustration by François Castellan from 1938. A 1952 Austrian tobacco card and a postage stamp are among the very few other items available.

The American Foxhound collector has the fewest options available: notably two extremely rare volumes, The American Foxhound //ital// by Thurston J. Rostad from 1905, and The American Foxhound 1747-1967, by Alexander Mackay-Smith. Two postage stamps easily found are the 1976 Cuban-issued American Foxhound, and an American native-breeds issue from 1984, which pictures the American Foxhound and the Black and Tan Coonhound in a landscape. There is also a 1919 Fuertes illustration of an American and an English Foxhound from The Book of Dogs, but the American Foxhound depicted is so heavy in bone and body as to be confused with the English, which should never happen!

Fine Bindings, Breed and Story Book Illustrators and their Prints
The Whippet and Race Dog (1894) by Freeman Lloyd was the first book written on the breed, and is a stunning example of a fine binding. Five gold-leafed Whippets are shown racing across the cover, a jacketed Whippet graces the binding and additional dogs and other animals in halftone across the top and bottom of the cover make this book a true work of art. Dog racing was very popular at that time and all aspects of that sport are discussed, as well as breed specifics. Rarely seen, this book is highly desirable and will not typically be found for under $500 in excellent condition.

British Dogs (1888) by Hugh Dalziel was printed in three volumes, all finely bound with magnificent decorations and gold leaf. It is the largest and most extensive masterwork written on the canine in the 19th century. A monumental effort, Dalziel brought together information from the best sources and artwork from the greatest artists of the time. A Smooth Dachshund headstudy is included among other breeds on the covers. Stunning chromolithographs (in full color) for these Hound breeds include: Smooth Dachshund, Greyhound and Scottish Deerhound. There are beautiful line-art engravings of the rest of the Hounds. The complete three-volume set will not usually be found for under $750. This set was not to be outdone until the Hutchinson’s Encyclopedia of the Dog decades later and there are those who would debate that British Dogs is the better of the two.

The National Geographic published its original The Book of Dogs in 1919. Illustrated throughout by Louis Agassiz Fuertes (best known for volumes on birds), this encyclopedic volume provided brief descriptions and the most detailed artwork produced at that time. Every breed highlighted was also illustrated, typically with the dog in an appropriate landscape or interior. For many years, these images were the most common ones available in this country to illustrate those breeds for the American public. Brushwork is not evident, but great detail is present in the subject as well as the background. Very few of the breeds illustrated differ enough from the modern canines to be confused for a different breed — in some cases that could be the fault of the model used. Hounds pictured include: American Foxhound (poor), Beagle, Basset, Bloodhound, Borzoi, Smooth Dachshund, English Foxhound, Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, Norwegian Elkhound, Otterhound, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound and Whippet (all excellent).

In 1935, Hutchinson’s Encyclopedia of the Dog was published in three large volumes, with contributions by all of the best-known and most respected dog men of the time. This includes 58 color plates, 1,168 black-and-white photographs and 1,998 total pages. It remains the canine masterwork of the 20th century, with informative chapters on every breed recognized at that time, extensively illustrated with fine artwork from top artists and many additional photographs of the greatest specimens. These volumes can sometimes be found for under $500, and always for under $1,000.

The year 1938 saw the publication of Les Chiens de Chasse (France’s equivalent to the Fuertes and National Geographic’s The Book of Dogs) with multiple authors writing descriptions of 81 Sporting and Hound breeds and varieties. Each of these breeds is depicted in a landscape by watercolorist François Castellan. These iconic images, all exquisitely detailed to the current breed standards, are separated in this bound volume by vellum sheets with the specific breed standards and characteristics (in French) printed on them. The quality is excellent, the research and attention to detail unparalleled in France — a huge undertaking by Castellan to create so many exquisitely done works of art. Though watercolors possess less fine detail than oil paintings, these images withstand the test of time, and many of these illustrations feature the breeds as we see them today. All are worthy of individual framing and display, and they can be found for $15 to $20.

Unfortunately, Les Chiens de Chasse has never been printed or published in English, which is the only reason this artistic masterpiece has remained obscure. A number of native French breeds are featured in this magnificent volume, and the European Hounds and Spaniels of various varieties are fascinating! This book was republished and reprinted a number of times in France, and at least twice in each of the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. With the exception of the Greyhound illustration only, the artwork remained the same as the 1938 original printing plates.

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