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The Birmingham Sketch

THE BIRMINGHAM SKETCH

FIGTING DOG

By Hilary Millword

 

Hinks of Birmingham, Hinks of Brum,

Found the bull terrier, a tattered old bum,

Made him the right un, made him the white un,

Made him the dog for a gentlemans chum

 

Go back over a century, to the time when Birmingham was a masculine city of proud and rough men. When the sports enjoyed a bare knuckle fight when two men battered each other into bloody unconsciousness or blindness over unlimited rounds.; when a badger was tipped from the sack on to the floor of a backroom in a pub to be baited ;when a cock-fight drew the sporting crowds, and when if a dog was any good at all, he was game.

Those were not days for the squeamish. If the animals fared badly, men hardly fared better.

James Hinks was a Birmingham publican, a handsome man. Tall, well built with vivid blue eyes, and a reach which made any men think twice about getting within range of those thick fists. His pub was at the corner of Worcester street  and Bell street. Fishmongers dropped in there for their breakfast, but Hinks also drew the young bloods, the county, the sporting gentlemen who drove up from London to be allowed, by ticket only, to visit the famous kennels behind his pub.

He was famous for his dogs. He bred every type of dog from pugs, toy terriers Yorkshires and dandy dinmonts to bulldogs, Dalmatians and mastiffs. Above all he was noted for his fighting dogs.

The black Country was a stronghold of the dog pit champions, and even after dog fighting was abolished in 1835 the sport lingered more strongly in the midlands than anywhere else. They would not give it up.

The gentry invited to see James Hinks dogs could enjoy a drink and a sandwich while they watched the dogs in their runs. They regarded it as a privilege.

The ironmasters were good customers buying the toy dogs for their families. James Hinks could command, even then 20 for a good small terrier. He bred Yorkshire small enough to fit in a pint pot.

In those days such dogs were for the women. Any Midlander worth the name kept a fighting dog, one willing, at the slip of a leash to fly at the throat of another. Young men at the university, dandies sportsmen, all favoured a dog from witch the modern bulldog is descended. But these old fighting dogs were quicker, higher on the leg, more able manoeuvre in the dog pit.

James Hinks evolved a fighting dog of a different type. He went for a refined looks straight legs an iron jaw. a deep chest a dog feared nothing but which was mush better looking than the clumsy creature whish was so popular then. It was the white bull terrier to become know as the Birmingham Dog. It was not long before these dogs were causing a stir wherever they were shown .Hinks took two of his best dogs, the MADMAN and his famous bitch PUSS to London dogs shows.

In 1862 there was a dog show at the Holborn Horse Repository

James Hinks attended with his friend from Birmingham a sporting jeweller known as Gentleman Brown and puss went too milk white and worth the seeing.

One exhibitor was so rash as to remark that puss looked all right but the ultimate challenge was she game? You did not say such things about any dog belonging to James Hinks.

Immediately he arranged a mach for 5 and a case of champagne. The illegal fight took place at Bill Tuppers well known rendezvous Long Acre. Puss weighed 40 lbs .and she fought a coloured Staffordshire champion weighing 60lbs.and the winner of the 12 battles in the pit it took her half an hour to kill her opponent

In the sporting life of Birmingham Hinks was a king. Once a young blood from the country offered to buy rebel another famous Hinks dog. He said he would the dog if it could beat his own. The venue was the young mans stables at Lichfield. The dogs met in a loose box. After a short while it was obvious that rebel would make short work of his opponent the young man asked Hinks to call his dog of, he then showed sings of wanting to slide out of the bargain right said Hinks removing his coat what my dog wasnt allowed to finish I will

He got his money all right without another word

 It was Hinks who floored a Cockney bully in London when he saw him roughing up an old drunk fighter past his days The young Cockney heavy-weight told Hinks to mind his own  businesshe was

Just a B countryman. Hinks gave the young champion one slam on the jaw which sent him hurtling through the swing doors of the pub. He never gave trouble again.

He married a woman as game as her husband. Mr Hinks was so tiny she could wear the shoes shoe-makers made-up samples to decorate their shops .But when she drove her husbands famous trotters down New-street she was game to race anyone, and then a pair of good horses would inevitably  spark off a race which would last right through Birmingham to the open country beyond.

When the popular days of the dog pit were over, the white bull terrier, became a pet. It did well in India, where wealthy sportsmen found it would tackle and kill a wild boar, and where the climate did not affect its extraordinary strength and performance. Today , many of these dogs are taken into the show ring by woman. Loving pets from homes with young  children, proving how loyal and gentle they are . What James Hinks would have thought of that is another story.

When James Hinks was dying his sporting friends gathered round him

The Earl of Aylesford, his patron, asked what he could bring him .

James Hinks, said he fancied some salmon, not then in season. The next day a whole salmon , beautifully dressed, was delivered to his door.

Descendants of the courageous PUSS, of MADMAN, and of REBEL, and of his little toy dogs with names like BRUMMAGEM BUTTON

Are with us today, dogs bred at a time when they were not spared, when to be game was everything, and death was the climax to  many a sporting evening.

James Hinks had two sons who followed him in the dog world, both noted breeders and judges. His grandson Carleton Hinks, now retired, still keeps a few of the dogs he loves best, the white bull terrier , HE has sent them all over the world. Truly , made in Burmingham, game and proud of it .