The Windsor Magazine (Ward, Lock, and Co. (Limited), London) Vol 14, Issue 4, September 1901, p429 - 434, had a chatty article on "A Connoisseur in Curious Pets," about MR. H. C BROOKE, of Welling, whose collection of curious foreign pets was unique. H. C. Brooke was involved in the cat fancy.


A SPECIAL interest always attaches to anything rare or uncommon in the way of a pet. Certain animals seem born with an innate antipathy to the human race, just as others apparently find their greatest pleasure in human society. Some animals, though fierce and even dangerous in their wild state, may be subdued and brought under perfect control with patient training ; while others appear to defy man to the last, and remain uncertain and treacherous, even though placed under careful supervision from their earliest days.

Occasionally one finds people possessing a distinct magnetism that enables them to subdue animals which are for the most part pronounced untamable. Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Brooke, of Welling, have attained considerable celebrity in this particular, their collection of curious foreign pets being, in its way, unique. Mr. Brooke has all an Englishman’s love of sport, combined with the Continental love of arms. For this his early training is responsible.

“I went from King’s College School to a school at Sutton-Valence,” he told me, when I was interviewing him for the purposes of this article. “ Here I first imbibed the joys of hunting and ferreting ; and I may say that even now, after all my varied experiences of pastimes at home and abroad, ferreting is still one of my favourite amusements. I next went to college in Germany, where I very soon joined one of the ‘corps’ which exist at most of the higher German educational institutions for convivial and duelling purposes. Since then I have been, and still am, a great believer in the duel. The majority of these college duels are of a comparatively light, character, such as the ‘ Schlager,’ which is extremely prevalent among students ; but even this may sometimes result in serious injuries. My own nose has been cut off and my skull splintered ; the loss of several teeth from a cut is common, but death is very rare. I have, however, seen death on the spot in the case of a sabre duel.

Fortunately, Mr. Brooke’s nose has been carefully repaired ; and now a severe scar is all that remains to remind one of the accident.

“ From my schoolboy days I have always had a number of pets,” Mr. Brooke continued, “ and when I went to Berlin to study at the Veterinary College I had a large artificial run, near the town, for training dachshunds to fox and badger. I also had foxes, jackals, polecats, martens, a hybrid between dog and wolf, a toy Pomeranian, long-haired dachshunds, a bloodhound, and a fighting boarhound related to Harras II. This dog was never beaten, though he fought over sixty battles. I had a number of snakes, too, both harmless and poisonous. One special pet was a nine feet boa-constrictor, a creature tame as a kitten, who used to sleep between my mattresses. It died in 1887. 1 also had Smooth, Leopard, Seven-banded, and AEsculap’s snakes, vipers, and many batrachians and saurians. I am extremely fond of the carnivorous section. The only animals I fear are horses and cattle. I always fancy that a horse does not play fair. One knows the business-end of a wolf or a dog, but a horse may injure one quite unexpectedly. I was once kept up a tree by a wretched buffalo for two hours, which I do not forget.”

“You believe in the fidelity of so-called wild animals, when treated as pets and yet with a firm kindness ? ”

“Absolutely ; though it seems that all people have not the power of taming these to any certain degree. Here is an instance of my own capacity. I bought an old female wolf from a German menagerie ; she had not been out of her cage for seven years. I intended she should come out, and a good many of the season ticket-holders were assembled round the cage to witness her exit, evidently expecting a sensation. However, they were disappointed, for ‘ Paula ’ took to me at once, and in a fortnight I took her walking in the streets with me. The poor thing was very gentle and affectionate ; she died from an abscess in the jaw, I never strike or threaten such animals when training them. I like the wolf very much ; I admire his exterior and like his character. All dogs feared my old wolf ; yet now and again she would be friendly.”

“ But what about the fighting instinct of the wolf ? Does it not survive even in the trained animal ? ”

“ Fight ! — yes. It is no joke parting a wolf and dog. The wolf snaps very sharply, and ten times as fast as a dog. Every snap means a terrible wound ; it is like getting caught in a big steel trap.”

“How about your celebrated wild cat, exhibited at the Palace — did you manage to tame that also ? ” I queried.

“Well, here I have to confess a failure, for the wildcat I have as yet found untamable. My wife and I both like cats, and our notable silver tabby (the only silver Manx shown) was a great pet with us. Then, again, the ‘Champion Bonhaki’ won five championships and five firsts, besides specials. Queen Alexandra honoured him with a Royal pat at the N.C.C. Show at the Botanic Gardens in 1898. We had also another cat rarity in the prize Abyssinian ‘Sedgemere Peaty.’ Her fur was just like that of a hare. The Abyssinian cat greatly resembles the wild cat of Egypt (Felis chaus) in type.

“But to pass to foreign dogs. I introduced that ancient and historic breed the Dogue de Bordeaux into this country with the help of Mr. G. R. Krehl. But as the breed has been killed by the anti-cropping regulations of the Kennel Club, I have given up benching these valuable specimens. I admire them immensely, as I consider, next to the Tibet mastiff, the dogue is the grandest breed of all. I tested them at baiting a bear, and I know what they can do. I have also tried the dogue at a bull with excellent results.”

“As secretary of the South London Bull-dog Club, I conclude you are a good authority on the typical scion of our country, Mr. Brooke ? ”

“I was secretary of the society from its foundation in 1891 until 1895, and I was the first to provide a class in 1893 for the French toy bulldog, at that time so satirised by fanciers, but now the fashionable pet. I was approached in 1897 to take up the secretaryship again, and I was again elected. I consider, however, that the old-fashioned glory of the, English bulldog has departed. He is ‘Ichabod ’ ; for the specimens now shown more often resemble the soft- minded gentleman’s lapdog than the embodiment of all that once was courageous and powerful in the old English breed. So my wife and I prefer foreign breeds. Of these, our Esquimaux, ‘Arctic King,’ and ‘Farthest North,’ the latter the sole surviving dog of the Peary Expedition, have been perhaps the most famous. They are typical specimens and great winners. The ‘Arctic King’ has over seventy wins to boast of. Our hair-less Mexican dog, ‘The Hairy King,’ a grand specimen, was another rarity ; likewise his son, ‘ Paderewski, junior.’ Then we have the dingo, ‘Myall,’ an Australian wild dog — the, house pet, and I have had a white specimen, which is very uncommon ; in addition there is our wolf, some toy bulls, a tame badger, besides some choice variegated field-rats from Egypt, and a pair of the almost extinct old English black rats; these are very rare.”

“ And they all agree ? ”

“Yes, very well, on the whole. Only the Esquimaux will agree with few of his fellows. Wolf and dogs, and dogs and cats, are all friends ; but the Esquimaux would kill everything else. We find them a most interesting group.”

Mrs. Brooke is an ardent member of the Ladies’ Kennel Association, and Mr. Brooke himself is on the list of judges for foreign dogs.

Questioned as to his duties in this connection, Mr. Brooke replied “ I do occasionally accept the post. I suppose my experience gives me a certain qualification ; but a propos of foreign dogs or kindred animals, I will say this — we both admire — and, in short, prefer — foreign dogs to any others.
The ordinary English breeds have ceased to interest us, simply because they are so plentiful. I have, at this present moment a Tibet mastiff, ‘Dsamu,’ who won first at the Crystal Palace last year. He is most rare. An excellent type, though rather small, he is the only one in the country. It is next to impossible to obtain really gigantic specimens of this breed, one of the oldest of all known varieties.”

“ And what are your latest acquisitions ? ” I queried.

“Well,” replied Mr. Brooke, “our very latest addition to our troupe is a male white Siberian wolf, kindly presented us by the Hon. Walter Rothschild. We have now a pair of these rare animals tamed, and hope to breed some more. Lady Alexander has one of our last cubs, and the last of the grey Siberian litter is in the house now as a pet.”

Mr. Brooke is frequently to be seen walking with his white wolf in Regent Street, and when my time came to bid him adieu at Welling, he accompanied me to the station escorted by a grey wolf and a dingo led together.


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