Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Dog Collars - a Short History

This week’s blog post looks at dog collars through history. Dog collars are used restraint, to control and training purposed but from ancient times owners also used the opportunity to make a statement about their wealth or power.

Medieval hunting dogs wore iron collars set with spikes which supposedly gave a measure of protection against a charging boar, and it did no harm that these aggressive looking collars reflected well on their master. Illustrations found in missals, Books of Hours and bestiaries suggest that dog collars were frequently made of precious metals and it was probably just as well that in medieval times dogs were a symbol of fidelity (you wouldn’t want your dog running off with a small fortune in gold round his neck.)
This pug wearing a bell collar dates from 1800
and reflects the European fashion for bells.
In the Far East a fashion for bells on collars dated back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). In the 1720’s a Japanese Emperor owned a dog, Mao Shih Tzu, that wore a gold and silver collar bearing bells and earrings also with bells attached. The collar alerted the imperial servants to the Emperor’s movements as he moved around the palace. As trade with the far east opened up with the west, these collars with bells also became fashionable in Europe.
A detail from a tapestry showing a beautiful embroidered collar.
Paintings serve as a rich source of information and since the wealthy mainly had their portraits painted, in this way we learn a lot about their dogs. Many paintings and tapestries show dogs in jewelled collars that boasted of their masters’ wealth.  King Louis XI of France, had a collar of scarlet velvet sewn with pearls and rubies made for his favourite greyhound, Cherami. Inventories of the personal effects of another famous monarch, King Henry VIII, list many precious collars.
“Two greyhound collars of crimson velvet and cloth of glod, lacking torrettes [spikes]”
“Two other collars with the king’s armes and at the end portcullis and rose.”
“A collar embroidered with pomegranates and roses with turrets of silver and gilt” [Catherine of Aragon’s symbol was a pomegranate]
“A collar of garnished …with one shell of silver and guilt, with torrettes and pendauntes of silver and guilt.”

The colour of a collar could be an important mark of ownership, in much the same way that football strips are today. King Charles VIII’s household owned 24 pets and each wore a black velvet collar with four ermine paws dangling from them – the white part symbolised the Brittany coat of arms. The French king Charles IX owned 36 miniature greyhounds and they wore red and green velvet collars, whilst the dogs belonging to his sister-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots, wore blue velvet collars.Marie Antoinette’s dogs wore diamond encrusted collars but such extravagance vanished with the French Revolution and the pugs owned by Empress Josephine wore relatively simple collars decorated with Chinese bells.
Four generations of the Dutch house of Orange-
showing their orange sashes.
Pug dogs introduced to Holland as a result of Dutch trade in the Far East, during the 16th century wore orange ribbons around their necks as a sign of the ascendancy of the House of Orange. Whilst in the early 1720’s a Russian ambassador gave the Chinese envoy a pair of greyhounds, each wearing a yellow silk cord drawn through a small piece of wood, as a sign of it belonging to the Romanov court.
Another fashion gained popularity in the late 17th century was for collars with inscriptions. In the English court the earliest engraving were fairly dull such as this one on a gilt copper collar line with red leather and blue velvet.
“This dog belongs to his Royal Highness George Augustus, Prince of Wales, 1715.”
A collar given by Alexander Pope to Frederick, Prince of Wales, for his Great Dane, was famously inscribed:
“I am His Highness’ dog at Kew
Pray, Tell me sir, whose dog are you.”
And a silver dog collar reportedly worn by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Italian Greyhound, was engraved with the Jacobite royal arms. 
An embroidered patch showing 'Jupiter' one of Mary Queen of Scots
favourite dogs.

And finally, from the leopard at the court of the Bavarian Duke, Albert, to Edward III’s kennel boys – it wasn’t just the dogs who wore dog collars…


  1. Fascinating! Thank you!

    1. Thank you for visiting, Gem and I'm glad you enjoyed the post.
      Grace x

  2. I like history of dog collars,Its good to know all about dog collars,now this is a age of science so the dog collar are also advanced.Squeaker is providing advanced technology LED light up collars.

  3. I like this short history and rare dog collar design.
    Your post is really providing helpful information for Mid 16th to 17th century pet accessories.


Due to the amount of SPAM I have been forced to moderate comments. If you are a spammer - please go away! You comment will not be posted and you are wasting your own time.