In 1920s colonial India, an enthusiastic group of expatriate British officials occupied themselves by breeding Bull Terriers. However, these breeders complained that many of the dogs they imported from ‘Home’ subsequently proved to be congenitally deaf, or to produce deaf puppies. They claimed that many British breeders were knowingly exhibiting, breeding and exporting deaf dogs, even though such dogs were supposedly banned from the show ring. Although breeders in both countries knew that pure white Bull Terriers, which they generally preferred, were more likely to be deaf, there was no consensus on how to tackle the problem. An impassioned debate between fanciers in Britain and India came to a head in 1921. While some fanciers in India wanted to stop breeding from deaf dogs altogether, others urged instead for scientific research into the cause of the deafness, suggesting that Adair Dighton, a medically qualified Bull Terrier breeder in Britain, would be ideally placed to lead the project.
Abstract of a presentation delivered at the 44th International Congress of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine held from the 27-29 of February 2020 at The Farm Inn Hotel and Conference Centre, Pretoria, South Africa