Barnaby, Burgho and Jack the Ripper

Barnaby and Burgho became famous in history as the two bloodhounds that were almost used by the police to track the notorious killer Jack the Ripper.

Barnaby and Burgho

In a one month period, between August 31 and September 30, 1888, four women were brutally murdered in the largely impoverished areas in and around the Whitechapel district of London by the elusive killer Jack the Ripper. The public was panicked and the London Metropolitan Police were becoming desperate to find the killer. Numerous suggestions were made to use bloodhounds because of their extraordinary sense of smell and ability to follow a trail.

In early October, Police Commissioner Sir Charles Warren sought the assistance of Edwin Brough, a famous breeder of hounds for tracking competitions. Although Brough felt the hounds were of limited use in a crowded city environment, he brought two of his best dogs from his kennel in Wyndyate to London to have their capabilities tested in following the scent of a man. If the hounds proved worthy, Sir Charles planned to buy the dogs. The two bloodhounds were Barnaby, four years old, and Burgho, two years old.

On October 8, 1888, Brough brought the dogs to Regent's Park in London to perform the first of several trials for the police. Barnaby and Burgho successfully tracked a young man, who was given a 15 minute start, for nearly a mile over ground covered by frost. That evening they were taken to Hyde Park. This time they were on the leash, as would be the case if they were used by the police to track the killer. They were again successful in performing their task, this time in the dark. The following day, six separate runs were made and in two of them Sir Charles acted the part of the hunted man. In every instance, Barnaby and Brough captured the persons who were being hunted.

Sir Charles seemed to be pleased with the results of the trials but wanted more trials to be carried out before making the final decision to purchase them. Critics were mocking Sir Charles over his bloodhound venture. Some felt the dogs were unsuitable for the job, and may even inadvertently cause an innocent man to be accused. Near the end of October, the police had not made any assurances to Brough that they would buy the dogs. Money seemed to be an issue. Brough took Burgho to a dog show, and hearing nothing from the police, he never returned him. A few days later he took Barnaby back.

On November 9, 1888, another brutal murder occurred. Jack the Ripper was never caught, but some wonder if the killer would have been brought to justice if the dogs had been used.

In a 1901 interview, Brough mentioned "Our experiments in London showed that the hounds will hunt a man who is a complete stranger to them, and will not change, although the line may be crossed by quite a number of other people. They were not put to the test so far as the Whitechapel Murders were concerned, for no murder was committed during the time the hounds were in London. This I consider some evidence of the deterrent effect which the employment of bloodhounds would have on crime, for another of the ghastly Jack the Ripper tragedies was committed shortly after it was known that the hounds had been sent back to Wyndyate."