JAMES HINKS AND THE BULL
selection by breeders. However, some breeds owe
their existence to just one person
James Hinks (1829-1878) 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
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; they lived at Phillips Street, Coventry Street
and Balsall Street in 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 – second son of John
and Charlotte – 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, James Hinks was in a privileged position: he had a job
and an income.
In January 1851, James Hinks married Elizabeth
Moore in Saint Phillips Church, Birmingham, and their first son, James
II, was born in December. Daughter Mary was born in 1853, followed by
Frederick in 1854. During this period, James became a “higgler” (trader)
and poultry dealer. These professions were obviously a little higher up
the social ladder, 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 also 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; very convenient for the retention of stock.
Several times, he and his family moved to more spacious accommodations.
From: Vero Shaw, The Illustrated Book of the Dog, 1881
Bull Terrier and Dalmatian
There are many common characteristics in their outline.
From: Cassell, The Book of the Dog, 1881.
The Hinks family grew rapidly; their fourth
child, Alfred, was born in 1855, and their eighth and last, Louisa, in
Although 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, he was listed as
a ‘bird and dog dealer’ in a Birmingham street directory.
It is supposed that James became a dog dealer
after the birth of most of his children. It was always his wife who
registered the birth of their children. Maybe because of the high child
mortality rates, Elizabeth Hinks waited a couple of months before
registering her children. However, James and Elizabeth seemed to be very
lucky, because none of their eight children died as an infant.
Original Bull and Terrier Cross”
From: Vero Shaw,
The Illustrated Book of the Dog 1881
Trader In Birds and Dogs
Years before James was listed in the street
directory as a ‘bird and dog dealer’, he was breeding and selling dogs.
Didn’t he want to be listed as a dog breeder, trying to avoid tax?
In 1865, the Hinks family moved to 53 Worcester
Street, taking over the Sportsman Alehouse. We know this address from
the ‘Great Annual Exhibition of Sporting and Other Dogs’ show catalogue.
The Sportsman Alehouse, visited by traders and fishmongers, was not a
fancy beer house. There was a lot of competition between Hinks’ business
and the pubs in the vicinity. Although James applied for a publican’s
license, he never got one. Was this because of his earlier convictions
and small crashes with the law? We just don’t know.
In 1877, James Hinks contracted tuberculosis
and he died in May 1878, at 49 years old, leaving a widow and 8 children
aged 13 to 26. He died at Belgrave Road, an area for middle class
residents. Born in one of the poorest places in Ireland, he had lifted
his family from the slums and accumulated an estate worth £450.
According to his will, the house was inherited by his wife, Elizabeth.
There was very little attention for his death: only one line in the
‘Birmingham Daily Post’.
Amusement and Spectacle
In writing about the history of the Bull
Terrier, one must mention the early history of Bulldogs and Terriers.
From the 13th century, dogs had been used for bull-baiting, a kind of
public entertainment. Dogs of a Bulldog type were fighting with a bull
in a ring or a pit. It was an amusement and a spectacle appreciated and
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. Those Terriers were working Terriers,
in a range of types, sizes and coat colours.
Bull-, bear- and badger-baiting was banned in
Britain in 1835, but many illegal fights continued to be organized in
pubs or 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 James Hinks was never involved in
dog fighting – why should he risk his show dogs in a pit were they could
be killed or mutilated?
Bull Terrier in a landscape, English School
Hinks Bull Terrier “Clifton” 1901 - Firechief
James Hinks was certainly not the first to
cross Bulldogs and Terriers. When he began buying, breeding and selling
dogs, a lot of Bulldogs already possessed quite a lot of Terrier blood,
thanks to earlier crossings. It is possible that in the beginning there
was very little difference between Hinks’ dogs and other Bulldogs or
Bull-and-terriers in the show ring.
As a dog dealer, Hinks sold many breeds: Mastiffs, Pointers,
Blood-hounds, King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Black and Tan Terriers,
Dalmatians and Italian Greyhounds - but Bulldogs and Terriers were his
The Sportsman Ale-house became a well-known
pub, not only for young lads from the countryside, but also for the
gentry that came to visit Hinks’ kennels and dogs. It was even
considered a privilege to be invited. One day a young drunk pugilist was
intervened by Hinks and hhe told James to mind his own business. James
gave a blow to his jaw and the man hurtled through the swing doors of
the pub. Indeed, James Hinks was a bit of a roguish character if it was
only because of the harsh existence for traders in Victorian Birmingham.
Another incident Hinks was involved in was the
accusation of beating a Bull Terrier, owned by a fellow exhibitor. It
happened after the dog had bitten James. The owner stated that Hinks had
tried to eliminate his dog from the show ring. James Hinks’ position as
a respected exhibitor of winning dogs could be the reason that this case
An old-fashioned Bull Terrier by Maud Earl - 1909.
Old Madman and Puss
We know very little about James Hinks’ first
activities as a dog breeder and dealer–the years he laid the foundation
for the ‘modern’ Bull Terrier. John Henry Walsh (‘Stone-henge’) was one
of first writers who complimented Hinks on developing a new strain of
Bull Terriers. We don’t know which breeds Hinks used for his creation,
let alone in what order, although we do know that a Bulldog, a
smooth-coated Terrier, a 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, exhibited in Birmingham in 1860 and sire of
the famous Madman, played an important role. In 1864, Stonehenge
de-scribed Old Madman as not bred for the business; not bred for dog
fighting, but for competition in the show ring.
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.
Madman’s Dam, Bull Terrier 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. In 1862 or
1863, Puss possibly had a legendary battle during or after a show with
another Pit Bull or Bull Terrier (owned by Mr. Tupper). She is alleged
to have killed her opponent in half an hour and returned to her bench
with only a few marks on her muzzle. Most modern writers, however, state
that this story is part of Bull Terrier folklore, because it has many
factual errors. And so does Hinks’ biographer Kevin Kane.
Between 1855 and 1868, Hinks owned, for
example, Bull Terrier “Spring” (Jerry x Daisy), “Bulldog Nettle” (Grip x
Nettle), Bull Terrier, “Young Puss” (Old Madman x Old Puss), the
Terrier, “Lady” (Stormer x Daisy), Bull Terrier, “Kit” (pedigree
un-known), Dalmatian, “Spot” (Joss x Dinah) and a Greyhound called
“Dart” (Chap x Fly). He was also the owner of the parents of most of his
It has to be emphasized that the all-white Bull
Terrier was favoured by not only Hinks but those who bought his white
puppies. As a result, coloured Bull Terriers weren’t developed until
Toy Dogs of All Descriptions
In 1862, James entered “The Exhibition of Fancy
and Other Dogs at the Holborn Repository”. He won first prizes in
Bulldogs and Bull Terriers. Dog showing was still in its infancy and
usually birds and cattle were judged in the same venue.
By the 1860s, dog fanciers and writers were
noticing that James Hinks was breeding – inbreeding and line 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 the general appearance and the Greyhound for
To this day, there are four types in Bull
Terriers: a Terrier type, Dalmatian type, Bulldog type, and a
middle-of-the-road type that’s seen by experts as the ideal type,
possessing just enough of the three other types to be a good Bull
Slowly but surely the Bull Terrier entered the
show scene. The first show with classes for the breed was in Leeds in
In 1862, James Hinks took the chair at ‘The
Caledonian Hall Scotch Stores’ and a show of ‘toy dogs of all
descriptions’ was organized in this venue. An advertisement stated: Mr.
Hinks, of Birmingham, in the chair who will show his two bulldogs and
bull terrier that obtained the first prizes at the Holborn exhibition.
The public was tempted with the announcement that most of the best dogs
of their respective classes in London would be present.
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 Hinks entered, 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. (The birth certificates of his
children showed that he had not mastered writing in those years.) For
example, the dogs were listed as: Un-named Hinks Bull Terrier or
Godfrey’s Dick (Hinks strain) and quite often the results were not
accurate. 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,
James Hinks dominated the show ring and a year after his death, Vero
Shaw wrote: “To the late Mr. James Hinks of Worcester Street, Birming-ham
is due the credit for bringing the breed before the notice of the public
in its later and more desirable form, and with his wellknown Old Madman
and Puss he formed our leading shows for a long period.“
Between 1862 and 1870, Hinks attended 82 (!)
shows. Considering the way people had to travel 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 ‘Sportsman Beer and
Refreshment House’. It’s possible that he earned more money drawing beer
than breeding and showing dogs. After all, in 1870 his three youngest
children were only 11, 9 and 6 years old.
The old miners’ fighting breed of dog has
evolved into a top show dog:
Am. Ch. Rocky Tops Sundance Kid,
winner of 31 Best in Shows including Westinster.
Basically A Mongrel
James 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 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
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, in particular,
single-handedly 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 James Hinks was simply
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
James Hinks’ sons, James II and Frederick,
continued their father’s work. In 1933, 82 year-old James II visited the
Birmingham Dog Show for the 70th time, and it was mentioned in the
papers. Carleton Hinks, a son of James II, bred Bull Terriers until his
death in 1977.