Billie Holiday - Proof of dog breed?
April 7, 2020 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Today I learned that there's an illustrated book about Billie Holiday and her dog, Mister. Seeing pictures from it I immediately thought, "Why did they draw the dog as a Boxer when it famously was a Pit Bull?!" And then I learned that in the book, they ID'd the dog as a Boxer. WTF?

I've seen dozens of pictures of the dog--this is probably the most famous -- and another -- and as an owner of two Pit Bulls and knowing countless Boxers, the breed is clear to me.

We can argue breeds 'til we're blue in the face (the dog was probably a mix of some kind) -- but I'm wondering if there's documented proof of breed prior to Holday's death. Is it mentioned in an interview or an article? Looking for something pre-80s (before the Pit Bull scare) and I suck at Googling.
posted by dobbs to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
The dog is referred to as a Boxer puppy in this 1945 newspaper article

I'll look to see if I can find anything else.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:03 AM on April 7, 2020

Here's a a 1949 article that says Mister is a fawn colored boxer. She also has a "Brendell Boxer" called Lady.

Is that a brindle boxer? I don't know much about boxers.

So far I have not found an article that calls the dog anything but a boxer. I did find one other article that mentions the dog, but just describes him as big.
posted by interplanetjanet at 7:28 AM on April 7, 2020

It might be that the kind of pitbull that Mister most likely is, the American Pit Bull Terrier - is still to this day not a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club - AKC.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:42 AM on April 7, 2020

Since we're talking 1940s, it seems relevant that (at least according to Alexandra Horowitz's Our Dogs, Ourselves), breed appearances have changed a lot over the years. I hate to link to pinterest but here's one compilation of pictures showing this in boxers.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:49 AM on April 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

Billie Holiday seems to have liked dogs. I found articles mentioning 2 others, a chihuahua (note Herbie Fields' boxer in the photo) and a wire-hired terrier named Besame Mucho
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:09 AM on April 7, 2020

posted by dobbs at 8:16 AM on April 7, 2020

That dog looks like a boxer from 75 years ago to me, and not particularly like a modern pit bull. The black muzzle, the facial wrinkles, and the upside down U mouth shape don't really resemble pit bulls.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 12:16 PM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Just butting in to add that "pedigree" dog breeds have been bred to extremes, unfortunately and the the detriment of their doggy natures. English bull terriers now are almost unrecognizable to those I knew sixty years ago; they've all become caricatures and breeders should be ashamed. Go for a mutt if you want a dog, not a "pedigree" one.
posted by anadem at 1:19 PM on April 7, 2020

I have a 1957 photo of Billie Holiday's Chihuahua Peppe on my wall. It was an exhibition poster for an exhibit of photos at the University of Rochester in 2002 of photographs of jazz musicians Paul Hoeffler took in Rochester, NY between 1955-1962.
posted by Jahaza at 11:07 PM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

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