Most dog breeds were developed after hundreds of years
of evolution and lengthy selection by breeders.
However,some breeds owe their existence to just one person.
James Hinks (1829-78) was born in the city of Mullingar,
the county town of Westmeath, one of the poorest places
in Ireland. His parents were John Hinks – a shoemaker
– and Charlotte Callew. In those days, a shoemaker earned
only enough to keep his family from starvation.
Typhus, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases were
widespread; contaminated water caused cholera
outbreaks throughout the 19th century.
James’s father spent some time in the army and because
the family lived at various locations in the vicinity of barracks,
he may have been a military shoemaker.
By around 1851, the Hinks family had moved to Birmingham,
an industrial town described as “an immense workshop,
a huge forge, a vast shop. One hears nothing but the sound
of hammers and the whistle of steam escaping from boilers.”
Not surprisingly James began his career as a brass founder
– by 1840, more than 3,500 people were working
in Birmingham’s foundries and living in small,
dark workers’ houses with poor sanitation and shared by several
large families. Still, Hinks was in a privileged position:
he had a job and an income.
HIGGLER AND POULTRY DEALER
In January 1851, James Hinks married Elizabeth Moore
in Birmingham. Their first son, James II, was born in
December; daughter Mary was born in 1853, followed
by Frederick in 1854. During this period, Hinks
became a “higgler” (trader) and poultry dealer. These
professions were obviously a little higher up the social
lader, because Hinks became a registered trader in the
Market Hall and was also breeding foreign and
domestic birds and rabbits. His Bulldog, ‘Old Madman,’ was
born in 1855, so apart from birds, rabbits and poultry,
he became a dog breeder and dealer.
James Hinks was no goody-goody; several times in
his life he came into conflict with the law. We know that
around 1855 he served a few months in prison for
selling rabbits stolen from the vicar’s garden. Another
conviction followed when a policeman asked him to remove
a crate of chickens from a walkway and Hinks punched
the man. Still, he was making progress in life and became the
owner of premises close to the Market Hall.
Several times, he and his family moved to more
The Hinks family grew rapidly – their fourth child
was born in 1855, and their eighth and last in 1864. Al-
though Hinks had been selling dogs since the mid-
1850s, he was never identified as a dog dealer on his
children’s birth certificates. Only later, in the mid-1860s,
was he listed as a “bird and dog dealer”
in a Birmingham street directory.
In 1865, the Hinks family moved to 53 Worcester St.,
taking over the Sportsman Alehouse. We know this
address from the “Great Annual Exhibition of Sporting
and Other Dogs” show catalogue.
In 1877, Hinks contracted tuberculosis and died in
May 1878, only 49 years old and leaving a widow and
eight children, aged 13 to 26. In his lifetime, he had
lifted his family from the slums and accumulated an
estate worth £450.
In writing about Bull Terrier history, one must
mention the early history of Bulldogs and terriers. From the
13th century, dogs had been used for bullbaiting,
a spectacle enjoyed even in the highest circles. To make
the show more interesting, breeders began crossing
Bulldogs for strength, and terriers for their speed,
fierceness and versatility.
Bull-, bear- and badger-baiting was banned in Britain
in 1835, but illegal fights continued in pubs and secret pits.
By the 1860s, vigilant police forces had eliminated the pits
from the cities and the fights moved to
remote areas. Kevin Kane, Hinks’ biographer,
believes that Hinks was never involved in dog fighting –
why should he risk his show dogs in a pit where they could
be killed or mutilated?
As a dog dealer, Hinks sold many breeds – Mastiffs,
Pointers, Bloodhounds, King Charles Spaniels, Pugs,
Black and Tan Terriers, Dalmatians and Italian Greyhounds
– but Bulldogs and terriers were his favourites.
We know little about his activities as a breeder when
he laid the foundation for a ‘modern’ Bull Terrier. Hinks
was certainly not the first to cross Bulldogs and terri-
ers and it’s possible that in the beginning there was lit-
tle difference between Hinks’ dogs and other Bulldogs
or Bull-and-terriers in the show ring.
We don’t know which breeds Hinks used for his
creation, let alone in what order, although we do know that
a Bulldog, smooth-coated terrier, Dalmatian and
possibly a Greyhound were part of the mix.
It is certain, however, that his white Bulldog
Old Madman (Crib x Smit) ,born in 1855 and exhibited
in 1860, in Birmingham played an important role.
“Idstone” (Rev. Thomas Pearce) described Old Madman
as “One of the first Bulldogs exhibited which was worthy
of the name belonged to Mr. James Hinks of Birmingham.
He was a white dog; and gained first prize in Mr. Hinks’
native town in 1860.” Puss, later Old Puss (Rebel x Wasp) ,
born in 1861 and regarded as the first official white
Bull Terrier, was exhibited in Cremorne Gardens
(Chelsea, London) in 1863.
It has to be emphasized that the all-white
Bull Terrier was favoured by not only Hinks but those
who bought his “white cavaliers.” As a result, coloured
Bull Terriers weren’t developed until after 1900.
By the 1860s, dog fanciers and writers were noticing
that Hinks was breeding a new type of Bull Terrier,
eliminating many of the Bulldog’s undesirable physical
characteristics while preserving its courage. He
added ‘nobility’ – a longer neck, head and legs. It’s said
that he used the Dalmatian to strengthen general
appearance and the Greyhound for longer legs. To this
day there are four types in Bull Terriers: a terrier type,
Dalmatian type and Bulldog type,
and a middle-of-the-road type that’s considered
the ideal type by experts, having just enough
of the three other types to be a good Bull Terrier.
Slowly but surely the Bull Terrier entered the show
scene. The first show with classes for the breed was in
Leeds, in 1861.
SHOW RING DOMINATION
Exhibiting a dog was almost always an indication that
the dog was for sale. In 1864, Hinks valued Puss at £25
and Madman at £100. Old catalogues list the dogs
entered by Hinks, but unfortunately they aren’t a
reliable source of information. There could be several dogs
of the same breed with the same name and Hinks’
entries were almost certainly made verbally. However,
it is correct that in a class of Bull Terriers over 10 pounds
at the Cremorne show in 1864, Hinks won a first prize
with Madman (Old Madman x Old Puss) , a second with
Puss (Old Madman x Old Puss) and a third with
Old Puss (Rebel x Wasp).
In the years to come, Hinks dominated the show ring
and a year after his death, Vero Shaw wrote:
“To the late Mr. James Hinks of Worcester Street,
Birmingham is due the credit for bringing
the breed before the notice of the public in its later and
more desirable form, and with his well known Old
Madman and Puss he farmed our leading shows for
a long period.”
Between 1862 and 1870, Hinks attended 82 shows.
Considering the way people travelled over a century
ago, his trips must have been true undertakings. Around
1870, Hinks stepped back from breeding and
exhibiting Bull Terriers, on the one hand because other
breeders were successfully using his line, and on the other
because he was paying more attention to his alehouse.
It’s possible that he earned more money drawing beer
than breeding and showing dogs.
Hinks disappeared from the dog scene around 1870,
but the mark he left on the breed is huge. His creation
is familiar all over the world and his first dogs – Old
Madman, Madman and Puss – are regarded as the start
of the Bull Terrier. As for all the breeds Hinks used for
his creation, the mystery is only partly resolved. Even
his sons didn’t know exactly the combinations he used,
or the names on the pedigrees of his first dogs.
Possibly, Hinks himself didn’t know or remember.
In the 1930s, when he was over 80 years old,
James Hinks II wrote an article for the American magazine
Dogdom. In it he stated that his father had used
a Dalmatian, a Bulldog and White English Terriers
to create the breed. How he created a breed, can be read in
Kevin Kane’s book: “… in the fact that he created, what
was basically a mongrel and presented it to an unsuspecting
world as The Bull Terrier. The judges of the
day showed a preference for his strain of Bull Terrier.”
Idstone used the type from “Hinks strain” as
a blueprint for ‘The Points of The Bull Terrier,’
the forerunner of the breed standard, first published in 1888,
10 years after Hinks’ death.
Can it be explained why James Hinks’ strain was so
successful and how it happened that this man
singlehandedly created the breed? The first crossings between
Bulldogs and terriers were made long before Hinks
started doing it and they were not handsome at all!
A simple explanation is that Hinks was the right man,
in the right place, at the right time. He formed the link
between the old miners’ fighting dog in Staffordshire
and the modern show and companion Bull Terrier. The
dog from the pit became the “white cavalier.”
James Hinks’ sons, James II and Frederick,
continued their father’s work. In 1933, 82-year-old James II
visited the Birmingham show for the 70th time.
Carleton Hinks, a son of James II, bred Bull Terriers
until his death in 1977.
by Ria Hörter
• MarilynDrewes.All About the Bull Terrier and Miniature
Bull Terrier, Alpine, 2005.
• Kevin Kane. James Hinks, Master Craftsman, Scotland, 2001.
• Alice van Kempen. Bull Terriers in Nederland, Holland, 2005.
• V.K.Shaw. The Illustrated Book of the Dog, London,1881.
A breeder/exhibitor/judge and retired bookseller and publisher,
Ria Hörter is a contributing editor of De Hondenwereld,
the national dog magazine of Holland.
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