The guilty party? John Henry Walsh.
The team, researching the history of pedigree dogs, has unearthed an article by John Henry Walsh published in the Field Magazine in 1865 which, according to a press release from the University of Manchester, details the first attempt to define a breed standard based on physical form - a description of a Pointer called Major.
This, says the release, is "one of the most important milestones in the six-thousand-year-old relationship between canines and man."
Detailed descriptions of individual breeds were in existence some years before 1865. John Henry Walsh, writing under the pseudonym Stonehenge, wrote "The Dog: In Health and In Disease" in 1859 and it contained a detailed description of the English Pointer and many other breeds. Before him, William Youatt described different breeds of dog in "The Dog" and of course distinct types of dogs have been been in existence and described or illustrated in various forms for thousands of years.
But it is certainly true that Walsh helped formalise the whole process. He was one of three judges at the first formal dog show in Newcastle in 1859, and he developing a points system as a means to judge various physical attributes (nicked from Plato, as it happens - and also pigeon-fancying where presumably a pigeon chest is not a fault).
Here's an example from Walsh's description of the Bloodhound (yep... that's what a bloodhound looked like 150 years ago...).
As you can see, Stonehenge marks a dog out of a 100 based entirely on physical points whereas the whole point of a bloodhound - and why it was developed - is what it does, not what it looks like. Of course, 160 years on, too many breeders still labour under the conceit that function follows form, not the other way round. It is entirely possible for a bloodhound with no tracking/scenting ability to win Best of Breed at Crufts. It's a nonsense. Was then and it remains so today.
The Field is a rich source for the early criticism of dog shows. In an article called "Breeding up to Defects" published in 1862, "Old Towler" complains that bloodhounds now had ‘long pendulous ears and lips – the drooping eye, the shambling gait, and the slovenly way to dropping and eating its food – all defects which judges deem beauties’. And yet as you can see, the illustration above from just a few years earlier, shows a much more moderate animal than you'll see today. Old Tower also wrote that Bulldogs had been bred with ‘a ridiculously short nose, and a great projection of the under jaw’. He urged breeders to ‘get rid of that absurd “stop” between the eyes; it is a very great defect, and injures the scent. We might as well breed a dog with one eye as with no nose’.
‘Old Towler’ was also uncompromising about the short, flat faces in toy dogs, arguing that ‘Dogs of no sort should be subjected to such freaks, nor should judges countenance the abortions with mere fashion in breeding produces’.
Lessons from history. Mostly ignored.