Dog collars have a rich history, most of which is on display at the grand Leeds Castle. Located in Kent, England, the massive castle is England’s most-visited historic building, but it wasn’t always open to the public. It began its rich history as a Norman stronghold, but eventually the castle became the private grounds of kings and queens, including Henry VIII and his first wife Catherin of Aragon. It wasn’t until Lady Baillie took ownership of the castle that it was made public, and it has remained a public space ever since.
A Brief History of the Dog Collar Museum
Most people agree that the castle’s last owner, Lady Baillie, had the greatest impact on the historic castle. She gave her life to restorations and improvements, and her last act was to donate the castle to the Leeds Foundation. In doing so, she opened up the castle to the public, so its extensive grounds can be visited by more than just England’s elite.
In 1977, just a few years after Lady Baillie died, Mrs. Gertrude Hunt made the generous donation of her husband’s collection of historic dog collars. The collection included the earliest dog collar on record, a late 15th century Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar, which according to the official Leeds Castle website, “would have been worn for protection against wolves and bears roaming Europe at the time.”
It’s likely Lady Baillie would approve of the Dog Collars Museum, as she was a dog lover herself. A portrait of her massive Great Danes still hangs in the castle.
Since that initial donation by Mrs. Hunt, the museum has amassed more than 130 rare and valuable collars. This includes a number of collars that were discovered in storage and are now on public display for the first time. The museum is dedicated to amassing a valuable collection, so the Leeds Foundation continues to acquire collars by purchase and donation.
A Virtual Tour of the Dog Collar Museum
Members of the Dog Collars Boutique team were fortunate enough to make their way to England recently and visit the iconic Leeds Castle. So much was learned, and lots of pictures were taken.
Dog Collars in Tudor Times (1485-1603)
Made of iron plates or chains with spiked links, these collars were meant to intimidate but also to protect the dog’s throat from attack.
Dog Collars during the Renaissance (17th Century)
These collars are less brutal. Although still used for hunting, dogs were growing in popularity as domestic pets. It was a good time for some dogs who were treated to pampering by Europe’s aristocratic classes.
Dog Collars from the 18th Century Onwards
Although the plain brass circle remained the most common dog collar, it was during the 18th century that people started inscribing their collars to help ensure a lost dog could be returned. Sometimes these inscriptions would be silly. Here’s an example of that:
“I am lost return me to my master, I am to go without a log, I am Mr. Millard’s dog, my brother was Christn’d Prickly Dick and my name is Nimble Come Quick.”
Finally, for a look at today’s collars, browse what’s available on www.DogCollarsBoutique.com. We have a variety of 20th century collars available, and each showcases the unique styles of today’s collars.