Sunday, 28 June 2020

Project Puppers

Just as you rarely see a stable of horses without a resident barn cat or two, so too you rarely see a rider who does not also have a doggy companion.

In general, dogs make better companions for people than for horses.  The reason that so many of them can work well around horses is that their pack mentality makes it important to them to please their people, and if their people clearly want them to play nicely with horses, they're quite willing to do so.

Of course, like all generalities there are exceptions to this rule -- dogs who seem to automatically  bond with horses and horses who claim dogs as buddies of their own.  Some dogs also naturally seem to like tagging along with working horses.  Trotting along beside of or in front of a horse and rider offers the same thrill as a walk -- new sights, new smells, and the simple release of energy through action.  Many dogs are also highly task-motivated, so when called upon to accompany a rider or group of riders hunting or herding or pursuing some other purposeful activity, these dogs are very happy to lend a helping paw.
"Ballyhoo's Brigadoon Belle Reve"
Just as with their line of cattle, Breyer's initial canine offerings were meant to stand on their own as models admired in their own right, and were not viewed as potential companions to the Traditional line of model horses.  Many of the early dog sculptures actually stand as tall as or taller than the horse figurines released at the same time.  From the first Boxer to the huge "Jolly Cholly" blood/basset hound to the smaller 70's film stars Benji and Tiffany, Breyer's earliest doggies came in a variety of scales, but none really worked as equine companions.  Only Benji, as a mutt, could conceivably be re-imagined as some sort of lurcher or wolfhound cross who could sort of stand in scale with a Traditional Breyer horse.

All that changed with what I'm calling "Project Puppers" -- the introduction of the Companion Animal series to the Breyer line-up in 1999.  While the Companion Animal line also included some cats, a goat, and a miniature donkey, the emphasis was clearly on providing in-scale canine chums for Breyer horses.  Unlike Breyer's first in-scale cattle, which were conceived to go with Breyer Classic scale horses, Companion Animal dogs were designed to pair with Traditional size models.
"Ballyhoo's Bitsy"
Initially, the packaging and promotion of the Companion Animals explained how these dogs could be seen working with horses in real life.  The Jack Russell, for instance, was promoted as an excellent barn keeper, the Golden Retriever as a trustworthy buddy for young equestrians pursuing outdoor activities, the Labrador as a good all-around farm dog, and the Welsh Corgi as the riding companion favoured by the British royal family.

With later additions to the Companion Animals line, the link to horse-keeping was not always as obvious.  The Australian Shepherd, the Border Collie, and to some extent the Shetland Sheepdog were all obvious herding helpers, the Dalmatian a well-known carriage companion, and the Foxhound and Beagle both hunting companions.  But when it came to such animals as the Great Dane, the Irish Setter, and the Rottweiler you had to put your imagination to work to figure out how to pair them with performance horses.
"Ballyhoo's Bingo Dali"
Just as with their cats and cattle, Breyer eventually added Stablemate scale dogs and Pocket Box dogs to their in-scale canine offerings.  But the Companion Animal dogs remain among the best that Breyer has to choose from when it comes to finding furry friends for your horses.  
"Ballyhoo's Barkie" (a Pocket Box dog)
As with the Classic cattle, the Breyer Companion Animal series as a stand-alone line has been discontinued, but Companion animals continue to appear in all kinds of gift sets -- most recently the Camping Adventure Set which features a gold and white Shetland Sheepdog.  So we definitely have not seen the last of the Companion Animals and, as Martha Stewart would say, that's "a good thing." 

Martha Stewart GIF - MarthaStewart Toast GoodThing GIFs

No comments:

Post a comment