Max’s Dogs – Top dog or Underdog

Dog JacketTop dog or underdog

Dogs in any grouping – a wild pack or even just a domestic group – have an ‘alpha’ who is dominant.  The term shifted to the popular sport of  dog-fighting – with two references, one actual and one predicted.  During the fight the superior dog  could be seen on top.  If a particular dog had a track record of achieving this supremacy, those taking bets on a forthcoming fight would refer to that participant as a ‘top dog’ while a newcomer, or fighter with an unimpressive track record, would be the ‘under-dog’.  Both terms moved away from dog-fighting and into  wide  metaphorical  use following the publication in 1859 of a poem by the American poet David Barker.

The Under Dog in the Fight

I know that the world, the great big world, from the peasant up to the king,

Has a different tale from the tale I tell,

And a different song to sing.

But for me,  and I care not a single fig

If they say I am wrong or right,

I shall always go for the weaker dog,

For the underdog in the fight.


I know that the world, that the great big world,

Will never a moment  stop –

To see which dog may be in the fault,

But will shout for the dog on top.

But for me I shall never pause to ask

Which dog may be in the right.

For my heart will beat,

While it beats at all,

For the underdog in the fight.

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Max Cryer

Max Cryer is well known for his books on language and other subjects. In a long career, he has been a teacher, television host and m.c. as well as a performer on the opera stage in London and in cabaret in Las Vegas and Hollywood. He is now a full-time writer.