Dog Bells


19th – 20th c.

According to Dr. William H. Sheppard in his reports about the dog that could not bark, the Besenji, he noted that the dog owners when hunting would tie wooden bells with wooden clappers around their necks because each bell sounded different than the others allowing the owners to identify their own dog by the sound of the bells.

These bells were first noted in the early 1900’s by Dr. William Henry Sheppard (1865 ? 1927) who was one of the earliest African-Americans to become a missionary for the Presbyterian Church. He spent from 1890 until 1910 in Africa, primarily in and around the Congo Free State, and is best known for his efforts in publicizing the atrocities committed against the Kuba and other Congolese peoples by King Leopold II’s Force Publique. Although Dr. Sheppard’s efforts contributed to the contemporary debate on European colonialism and imperialism in the region, particularly amongst those of the African American community, he received little attention in literature on the subject.

By the 1870s Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia had established an African studies program, and in 1911 the school acquired the William H. Sheppard Collection of African Art ? several hundred superb pieces gathered by William Sheppard, a Hampton alumnus. Not only was Sheppard the first westerner to enter the Kuba Kingdom, he was first African American to collect African art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His contribution to Hampton University Museum?s collections gives it the oldest collection of Kuba-related material in the world.