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Concerning a Dog-Fight
by [?]

Nearly everyone has seen dogs fight — “it is their nature to”, as Dr. Watts put it. But an ordinary worry between (say) a retriever and a collie, terminating as soon as one or other gets his ear bitten, gives a very faint idea of a real dog-fight. But bull-terriers are the gladiators of the canine race. Bred and trained to fight, carefully exercised and dieted for weeks beforehand, they come to the fray exulting in their strength and determined to win. Each is trained to fight for certain holds, a grip of the ear or the back of the neck being of very slight importance. The foot is a favourite hold, the throat is, of course, fashionable — if they can get it.

The white and the brindle sparred and wrestled and gripped and threw each other, fighting grimly, and disdaining to utter a sound. Their seconds dodged round them unceasingly, giving them encouragement and advice — “That’s the style, Boxer — fight for his foot” — “Draw your foot back, old man,” and so on. Now and again one dog got a grip of the other’s foot and chewed savagely, and the spectators danced with excitement. The moment the dogs let each other go they were snatched up by their seconds and carried to their corners, and a minute’s time was allowed, in which their mouths were washed out and a cloth rubbed over their bodies.

Then came the ceremony of “coming to scratch”. When time was called for the second round the brindled dog was let loose in his own corner, and was required by the rules to go across the ring of his own free will and attack the other dog. If he failed to do this he would lose the fight. The white dog, meanwhile, was held in his corner waiting the attack. After the next round it was the white dog’s turn to make the attack, and so on alternately. The animals need not fight a moment longer than they chose, as either dog could abandon the fight by failing to attack his enemy.

While their condition lasted they used to dash across the ring at full run; but, after a while, when the punishment got severe and their “fitness” began to fail, it became a very exciting question whether or not a dog would “come to scratch”. The brindled dog’s condition was not so good as the other’s. He used to lie on his stomach between the rounds to rest himself, and several times it looked as if he would not cross the ring when his turn came. But as soon as time was called he would start to his feet and limp slowly across glaring steadily at his adversary; then, as he got nearer, he would quicken his pace, make a savage rush, and in a moment they would be locked in combat. So they battled on for fifty-six minutes, till the white dog (who was apparently having all the best of it), on being called to cross the ring, only went half-way across and stood there for a minute growling savagely. So he lost the fight.

No doubt it was a brutal exhibition. But it was not cruel to the animals in the same sense that pigeon-shooting or hare-hunting is cruel. The dogs are born fighters, anxious and eager to fight, desiring nothing better. Whatever limited intelligence they have is all directed to this one consuming passion. They could stop when they liked, but anyone looking on could see that they gloried in the combat. Fighting is like breath to them — they must have it. Nature has implanted in all animals a fighting instinct for the weeding out of the physically unfit, and these dogs have an extra share of that fighting instinct.

Of course, now that militarism is going to be abolished, and the world is going to be so good and teetotal, and only fight in debating societies, these nasty savage animals will be out of date. We will not be allowed to keep anything more quarrelsome than a poodle — and a man of the future, the New Man, whose fighting instincts have not been quite bred out of him, will, perhaps, be found at grey dawn of a Sunday morning with a crowd of other unregenerates in some backyard frantically cheering two of them to mortal combat.