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Masterminds – The Hamilton Hound

218 – May, 2013

text and illustrations by Ria Hörter

Most dog breeds were developed after hundreds of years of evolution and lengthy selection by breeders. However, some breeds owe their existence to just one person. 


A prime example is the man who laid the foundation of the present Hamiltonstövare and gave the breed his name, Count Adolf Patrik Hamilton (1852-1910), a Swedish cavalry officer from a noble family, and the first president of the Swedish Kennel Club.

The combination of a noble ancestry and military career was not uncommon among creators of dog breeds. Other examples are Col. Edward Donald Malcolm, 16th Laird of Poltalloch (West Highland White Terrier); Capt. John Owen Tucker-Edwardes (Sealyham Terrier); Capt. Max von Stephanitz (German Shepherd), the Dukes of Gordon (Gordon Setter), and Sigismund Freiherr von Zedlitz-Neukirch (Pudelpointer). 


Count Hamilton, photographed in uniform. (Courtesy Svenska Kennel Klubben.)

The Hamiltonstövare (or Hamilton Hound) is hardly known outside Sweden. In dog literature, there is scant information about the breed, let alone its creator.

The Swedish hound’s country of origin is not Sweden; they were imported from western and middle Europe, reaching Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland via Schleswig-Holstein – a German province in northern Germany. (From 1480-1860, Schleswig-Holstein was part of the Danish Kingdom.)

The ancestors of the German hounds that went to Scandinavia were the so-called Leithunde, a centuries-old type of hound – short on legs, hanging ears – that was depicted as early as the 14th century in the manuscript Le Livre de Chasse (The Book of Hunting) by French nobleman Gaston Phoebus. In Germany, this type of hound was called a Leithund (dog that leads) because it led the hunter to the game – always on a long leash.

Most crossings among these hounds from western and middle Europe took place in Sweden. Often, new types were named after their breeder – for example, the Schillerstövare and the Hygenhund. Only an expert can see the differences between the various Scandinavian hound breeds.



Leithund Engraving by Johann Elias Riedinger - (1698-1767)


A well-known dog assumed to be an old swedish hound – Pompe – belonged to King Karl XII (1682-1718). In fact, the king owned three dogs named Pompe. One of them is buried in the park of Castle Karlsberg in Solna; the marker, dating from 1699, is still there.

Until 1789, only the royal family, nobility and wealthy citizens were allowed to hunt with hounds. At the end of the 18th century when farmers were given permission to hunt, hounds – called stövar in Sweden – gained in popularity.


445 dogs are listed in the catalog of Sweden’s first dog show held in Stockholm in 1886. Among the entries were 189 stövares: Smålandstövare, Harrier-Augustenburger, Norrlansk breed, Lappland Stövare, Greifsk-Småland, English breed, Korsad breed, French-Greiffsk breed and many others, all different types of hounds from various countries and regions. None was bred according to a breed standard, and I wonder how the judges coped with so many different types and names.

The type of English Foxhound Hamilton used in his breeding. (From Ludwig Beckmann, Die Rasse des Hundes, 1894.)

A black-and-yellow dog of the “Smålands-engelske breed” won a second prize; third prize went to a black dog with brown markings, a “Schweizer [Swiss]-half-bracke.”

Because the situation was so confusing, a breed standard was written for the Svenske Stövare – the Swedish Hound – that had been developed from crossings of German hounds, English Foxhounds, Harriers and Swiss hounds. In 1887, 15 dogs that fit this description were entered at a show in Copenhagen.


In 1936, the author F. Jungklaus wrote in Die Bracken (The Hounds) that Hofjägermeister (Royal Gamekeeper) Baron von Greiff was the first to take German hounds to Sweden; unfortunately, Jungklaus didn’t say when this happened. After von Greiff’s death, two of his hounds – Panter and Diana – were acquired by Baron De Geer af Leufsta. However, the man who was to deliver the dogs to Baron De Geer – a certain Mr. Berglin from Uppsala, Sweden – kept the dogs for a while and bred a litter. From this combination, several bloodlines were developed; the Filholmer and Säby-Ängsö lines were the best known.

And then Count Hamilton came on the screen. It is assumed that from about 1880, he built his bloodline by using Baron von Greiff’s Svenske Stövare and an English Foxhound bitch. However, Bonnie Wilcox and Chris Walkowicz state in their Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (1989) that Hamilton’s hounds – among which were the male Pang and two bitches, Stella and Klinga – were not Swedish hounds but English Foxhounds or Harriers.

There is a case for this theory; Count Hamilton was of English and Scottish ancestry and most likely had family ties in Britain. According to Wilcox and Walkowicz, Hamilton cross-bred his Foxhounds or Harriers to hounds from Småland and Gotland, both regions in southern Sweden.

This is about all we know about the start of Hamilton’s breeding and the origin of the Hamiltonstövare.



Karo, owned by Count Hamilton, as depicted in the Swedish studbook. Drawing (1897) by Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939)

The Hamiltons descended from a 13th-century English-Scottish noble family with a branch in Sweden. The first Hamilton in Sweden was Malcolm Hamilton of Monea, who arrived in 1654. The letters of nobility were issued in 1664. Adolf Patrik was a descendant of Malcolm’s third son, Hamilton of Hagby, governor-general of northern Sweden. (Hagby was a rural estate in Töreboda, Westgötland.) The Hamiltons are one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Sweden.

Adolf Patrik Hamilton was born on August 27, 1852, in Skaraborg, Bäck, Ymsjöholm, to a family of four sons. His father was Count Gustave Ludvig Hamilton (1817-63), a Ryttmästare (cavalry officer); his mother was Amalia Lewenhaupt (1828-1902). The Hamiltons and Lewenhaupts had many high-ranked officers in their families.

Count Adolf Patrik married Clara Bolinder (1858-88) on October 28, 1878. She died in 1888, only 30 years old, leaving her husband with four children: two sons (9 and 8 years) and two daughters (7 and 2 years old).

On November 10, 1891, Hamilton married Eugenia Matilda Augusta Boy (1871-1949). She was 19 years younger than her husband and bore him four more children, two sons and two daughters.

A Hamiltonstövare at Crufts in 2008

Hamilton was a cavalry officer as his father had been, but he is also referred to as captain, lieutenant and Royal Huntsman. Until 1909, he was the director of the Remontdep? in Strömsholm, a military facility that supplied young horses to the army.

He died on January 30, 1910; he was only 58 years old.

Hamilton’s sons from his first marriage – Johan Gustaf Patrik and Gustaf Henning Adolf – had careers in the army as military attaché and major; his daughters were married to men in the military. The sons from his second marriage – Harry Patrik and Patrik Gillis – had their father’s interest in hunting, and held various positions in this field.

The Svenska Kennelklubben (Swedish Kennel Club; SKK) sent me a beautiful portrait of Count A.P. Hamilton photographed in uniform, wearing his medals, and a moustache and monocle, according to the latest fashion.


In 1909, Swedish artist Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939) made this beautiful painting of a male stövare, Kling, with a fox.


Junklaus wrote that Count Hamilton bought various Finnentroper-Olper hounds in Germany and that they improved his line of dogs. Although sources are inconsistent, it is possible that after the Finnentroper-Olper hounds, Hamilton bought hounds from the Hanover region, Kurland (now Latvia) and Holstein, and crossed them with Foxhounds and Harriers.

In any article about the Hamiltonstövare, one must mention O.B. Rydholm, another Swedish hound breeder. His English Foxhound-Swiss hound crosses – called Anglo-Schweizer – were entered in the studbook as “Hounds from a crossbred line with predominantly Swedish ancestry.” Later, they were called Hamilton Stoväre B Class and after that, Kopparberg’s stövare. The difference between Rydholm’s stövare and the dogs bred by Count Hamilton, was that Hamilton’s dogs were lighter boned and more squarely built. It’s not easy to see the differences between these two tri-colored hounds.

Typical for the Hamiltonstövare is a longish head with a slightly arched skull and well-defined stop.

From 1921, the dogs from Hamilton’s stock – old Svenske Stövare crossed with Foxhounds and Harriers – were called Hamiltonstövare A Class. Crossings between the Kopparberg and the Hamilton happened regularly and over the years; it became more and more difficult to see the differences between the two types. Therefore it was decided in 1933 that both types should be classified as one breed: the Hamiltonstövare. Crossbreds continued to be entered in the studbook until 1952, when the studbook was closed.

Today, the Hamiltonstövare is one of the most popular of Swedish hounds, with about 2,000 entered every year in the studbook.



A Hamiltonstövare won the Hound Group at a show in the Netherlands in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Ria Hörter)

During the first half of the 19th century, dog fanciers, hunters and breeders deliberated over the possibility of classifying the various types of hounds into separate breeds and establishing their working ability. Prince Gustav – the future King Gustav V (1858-1950) – was very interested in this project and participated in the preparations. In 1888, Count Hamilton made an appeal in the Sporting Journal trying to interest Swedish dog fanciers in founding a national kennel club. The Svenska Kennelklubben was founded in December 1889, and held its first exhibition the same year. Not surprisingly, Count Hamilton was appointed chairman, a position he held until 1909.

When he established the Swedish Kennel Club, whose founding members belonged to noble families for the most part and owned working dogs, Hamilton was the secretary of the Svenska Jägareförbundet (Swedish Hunting Club) established in 1830. After Hamilton’s death in 1910, the Hamiltonplakette (Hamilton Medal) was instituted by the SKK to be awarded for “successful work benefitting dog breeding and thereby promoting the Swedish Kennel Club’s objectives in an obvious way.”


The Hamiltonstövare is above all a working dog, bred for hunting fox and hare, working singly or in pairs rather than in a pack. The combination of working ability and a lovely temperament makes the Hamiltonstövare a pleasant shooting dog. Standing 19 to 24 inches (49 to 61 centimetres) at the withers, makes him one of the larger stövare.

The permitted colors are described in the breed standard: The upper side of the neck and tail; the back; and the sides of the trunk are black. The head, ears and legs, as well as the sides of the neck, trunk and tail are tan, which can range from golden to a rich, deep reddish-brown. A blaze on the upper part of the muzzle; the under- and upper sides of the neck; the breast, tail tip, feet and lower part of the legs are white.

The combination of working ability and a lovely temperament makes the Hamiltonstövare a pleasant shooting dog.

The breed is present in most European countries, as well as in Canada and the United States. The goal of the American breed club – www.hamiltonstovareusa.com – is to “promote the health and well-being of the Hamiltonstövare in America… [and] to preserve their natural hunting instincts on the game they were bred to hunt.” Furthermore, “to have examples of the breed adhere to the acknowledged breed standard from its native country, Sweden.”


More information about the Hamiltonstövare:

Svenska Stövarklubben: stovare.se 

Hamiltonstövare Club of America: hamiltonstovareusa.com/  

Hamiltonstövare Club of Sweden: stovare.se/rasklubbar/hamilton/start.asp

FCI Breed Standard: fci.be/nomenclature.aspx 

Short URL: http://caninechronicle.com/?p=22059

Posted by on May 17 2013. Filed under Current Articles, Remembering Our Past?, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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