Talbot (dog)

The talbot was a white hunting dog which is now extinct because of its lack of purpose and need for constant care, but it has been credited with being an ancestor of the modern beagle and bloodhound. The term talbot is used in heraldry to refer to a good-mannered hunting dog.

History

The breed has been said to have originated in Normandy, perhaps to have been the white St Hubert Hound, and to have been brought to England by William the Conqueror, but this is not supported by evidence. There are no known references to the talbot as a breed of hound in Medieval French, and none have been found in English before the mid-16th century. In Medieval times, "Talbot" was a common name for an individual hound, so used before 1400 in Chaucer's Nun's Priests Tale (l 3383), and used as an example of a hound name in a 16th-century book of hunting. By the 17th century it clearly existed as a breed or type. Large, heavy, slow hounds were 'talbot-like', whatever their colour, though the 'milk white' was 'the true talbot'. William Somervile in his poem "The Chase", published 1735, describes the former use of "lime-hounds" (leashed hounds) on the Scottish Borders to catch thieves, obviously referring to the bloodhound and the sleuth hound, but adding that the (white) talbot was the "prime" example of this type of hound. The origin of both the name and the animal is uncertain. The Earls of Shrewsbury, whose family name is Talbot, have as their family crest a white, short-legged hound. In a quotation from about 1449, the king referred to John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury as "Talbott, oure good dogge", perhaps as a play on his name, or in allusion to the family badge. In a MS in the British Library John Talbot is shown presenting a Book of Romances to Queen Margaret, with a white dog standing behind him, which serves, symbolically, to identify him. It is obviously a small hound, and it seems unlikely that it could have been used in this way if "Talbot" had been associated in the mind of the people of the time with a large animal. The talbot and the greyhound were, apparently, the only hounds used in heraldry, and it could be that the talbot originated as an emblematic or heraldic hound.


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