Hertfordshire Police Dogs A Brief History

The Early Years

Paul Watts

Major (later temporary Lieutenant Colonel) Edwin Hautenville Richardson was born in 1863 at Antrim, Ireland. He came from a farming family and grew up with a lot of pets. Whilst at school in Cheltenham he learned, during Natural History lessons, about the historical use of trained dogs by continental armies. Later whilst in Germany and Switzerland, learning to speak German and French, he continued to research the use of dogs in warfare. He went on to attend Sandhurst and later joined the Sherwood Foresters.

After retiring from the Army, Richardson married and started farming on the east coast of Scotland. His shared a mutual interest in dog training with his wife. This interest grew when in 1895 he saw a “foreigner” buying a Collie dog from a local shepherd. He learnt that the dog was one of many being bought for use by the German Army.

Subsequently in 1900 he began training dogs for military purposes. He persuaded the officers at nearby Army camps to let their men train with his ambulance dogs. Some of the officers were impressed enough to submit reports about the use of dogs to the War Office but no further action was taken at that time.

Richardson persevered with his training of dogs and relocated to Harrow. He started advertising the sale of trained dogs in newspapers across the country.

A Growing National Interest In Police Dogs.

During the period from 1900 to 1910 there was a growing national interest in the use and exploits of Police dogs with dozens of articles appearing in newspapers across the country. The following are just a few transcripts of articles which appeared in Hertfordshire newspapers.

Published in the Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow on Friday 6th December 1907 was a story from  France: When a Paris Policeman, who was chasing a burglar, was attacked by six ruffians, Polo, a Police dog, came to the rescue and mauled two of the men, with the result that the others fled, and the burglar was caught.

Again, published in the Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow on Friday 17th January 1908: Major Richardson, the well-known ambulance and Police dog trainer, who supplied dogs for the Russo-Japanese war, to the Sultan of Turkey and to other Powers, left for Paris by special invitation of the French to attend the French ambulance dog trials. Germany is to be represented. While England neglects the use of dogs for Military and Police purposes foreign countries come to us for the dogs they use.

Yet again from the Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow published on the same day: Dog Proof Armour. A Police dog competition was held at Rouen recently and the manner in which the animals attack a criminal was illustrated, a man taking the part of a law breaker. The dogs were unmuzzled and the man was protected from bites by a suit of thick leather, top boots, a strong mask and gauntlets lined with steel rings.

A First For The Hertford County Constabulary.

It is abundantly clear that the forward thinking Lieutenant Colonel Henry Daniell, Chief Constable of the Hertford County Constabulary, was very much aware of the possible use of dogs in Police work, and he was not afraid to try new ideas, as his recommendation to his Standing Joint Committee, reported in several newspapers, shows. Published on the 21st October 1908 in the Globe was the following brief article: At the annual Standing Committee meeting of the Hertfordshire Police, on the proposal of Colonel Daniell, Chief Constable, it was decided to retain the services of Major Richardson’s Police blood-hounds, should occasion arise. Major Richardson is receiving intimation that other counties are likely to follow suit. This is the first official adoption of Police dogs in this country, although they have been for long in use in foreign countries. Major Richardson also introduced the ambulance dogs with which the various Volunteer Medical Staff Corps are supplied.

Instructions For The Use Of Dogs.

The Chief Constable published General Order 16 of the 31st October 1908. In it he said: The use of Major Richardson’s Blood Hounds for the detection of offenders in important cases of felony, such as murder, burglary or arson, having been sanctioned as an experimental measure, all members of the Force are to be especially enjoined in such cases.

1st Carefully to cover up any foot prints supposed to be those of the offender and 2nd not to touch or handle any article either left behind or probably or apparently touched or handled by the offender but to leave it where it is found and to keep all persons away from it.

A message is at once to be sent to the nearest telephone station, by special messenger on bicycle or horseback for transmission to the Superintendents for the Chief Constable, giving such particulars as may be necessary to allow the Chief Constable to decide if it is a case for the Blood Hounds to be sent for. Everything depends first on no time being lost in communicating with the Chief Constable and secondly in everything that may afford a clue through scent being left untouched.

Police Start To Obtain Their Own Dogs.

Not unsurprisingly the use of dogs quickly progressed with Police Forces deciding to obtain their own dogs. An example of this was published in the Globe on Wednesday 15th February 1911 under the headline Police Dogs For Liverpool: The Chief Constable of Liverpool has ordered a number of trained Police dogs from Major Richardson’s kennels at Harrow, to accompany the Police in six outlying districts of Liverpool on night duty. The dogs are to act as scouts, give warning of anything unusual on the beat, and to defend the Constable if attacked. Reports from other towns where these dogs are in use have induced the Liverpool authorities to take this step.

Rather than buying trained dogs it appears that the Hertford County Constabulary decided to see if it was possible to train their own, as shown in General Order 7 of the 22nd February 1911 which announced the following: The Chief Constable offers prizes of £3, £2 and £1 for dogs which in the opinion of a duly appointed judge are the most suitable and best trained for the purposes of Police protection. The trials will take place in about a years’ time. The following breeds are considered the most suitable Sheepdogs, Airedales, Collies, Retrievers, large Irish Terriers. The hard and fast rules are laid down where as regards the breed of the dog, or the nature of its training, marks will be allocated for both, but a prize will on no account be given where a dog shows a tendency of savageness. The Chief Constable reserves the right of reducing the number of prizes and amounts, should there be very few entries, or the dogs be only slightly trained.

Unfortunately, there is no record of how successful this initiative was.

Support For Police Dogs By The Home Office.

Individual Police Forces were encouraged to have Police dogs as can be seen in this article published in the Diss Express on Friday 24th March 1911 under the headline Dogs Help The Police: From an official return just issued it appears that the Police force of England and Wales at the end of last year numbered 49,660, an increase of 1,758 in 12 months. In the City of London there are 1,181 Police, in  the Metropolitan police district the total works out at 17,400.

Captain Terry, Inspector of Constabulary for the Southern District, insists in his report on the importance of more trained mounted police, for “passaging” crowds, especially in mining districts. He records that bloodhounds and Police dogs have been a considerable success in Berkshire and Wiltshire and he adds: “It is becoming quite customary for constables on their beats at night to be accompanied by their dogs, which are very useful for detecting offences such as sleeping out and for giving timely notice of persons loitering or hiding in premises for an unlawful object. Apart from this there is no doubt that the presence of a bloodhound or trained Police dog in the neighbourhood has a good moral effect.”

Stories, from all over the world, about the exploits of Police dogs continued to make the news.

Published in the Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow on Friday 5th April 1912 under the headline Police Dog’s Cleverness: A story of a Police dog’s cleverness comes from Singapore. A Chinese prisoner who was serving a life sentence escaped from the prison by climbing over a wall by means of a roughly constructed ladder. Two hours were lost in searching the prison before Jack was sent for. The dog immediately took up the trail, tracked the man across the Sepoy lines golf course and ran him down in a piece of jungle. Jack is on patrol three or four nights a week and it is said that there has been a notable falling off in the number of robberies.

Again, published in the Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow this time on Friday 16th August 1912: A Police dog in Batavia, New York State, was successfully used in tracking James Gatto, who it is alleged, fatally stabbed Arthur J. Kearney at a picnic in a trivial quarrel over a baseball game.

Importantly the Hertford Mercury and Reformer published, on Saturday 1st March 1913, the following article under the headline Tracked By Bloodhounds: A conviction has just been obtained from bloodhound tracking at Northamptonshire Assizes. This is the first conviction made on the evidence of bloodhounds in England. One of Lord Lilford’s gamekeepers was shot at by poachers and twenty hours after the affair bloodhounds belonging to Major Richardson, the well-known Police dog expert, were laid on the trail. Along the route taken by the dogs the barrel of a gun was picked up. The was identified and through it the poachers were arrested, and each got twelve years’ penal servitude.

With this conviction the initial potential seen by Richardson had finally come to full fruition with regard to the use of dogs by the Police. On the outbreak of World War 1 Richardson was to expand his dog training for the Military enormously to the point that he struggled to find sufficient dogs.

A Permanent Dog Section.

After such an initial surge of interest in Police dogs their use within the Hertford County Constabulary appears to have progressed much more slowly. It was not until 1951, according to Neil Osborn in his book “The Story of Hertfordshire Police”, that the Constabulary felt the need for a permanent Dog Section. In that year, a unit was  established with three dogs and their handlers who were stationed in country areas and patrolled a rural beat in addition to looking after their dogs.

This page was added on 24/11/2020.

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