Here is the fourth weekly digest for Animal History Daily, which I'm running on Twitter (@hannahvelten) every day for 2014. Using the #AHD tag, I find random titbits of animal history from the newspapers on the appropriate day, from any year (generally the 1800s).
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Orwell’s Political Satire as the First British Full-Length Animated Cartoon: Scenes from ‘Animal Farm’
Illustrated London News 22 January 1955
‘The cartoon film based on George Orwell’s political satire had its London premiere at the Ritz, Leicester Square… Apart from the ending of the film, which allows a glimmer of hope where Orwell saw none, the cartoon keeps to the story of how the pigs established a dictatorship after all the farm animals had revolted against the drunken cruelty and inefficiency of Farmer Jones. The film of ‘Animal Farm’ took three years to produce in London and Gloucestershire, and consists of 750 scenes and about 300,000 colour drawings.’
This week's #AHD offerings: a herring harvest, a dog bite, an unusual horse dealing, a bull in a bedroom, a lion tamer killed by a tiger, farm animal medicine and RSPCA concerns.
Helford, Cornwall, 1811: poor pilchard fishery of last year, compensated by extraordinary shoals of herring - 5,000 barrels at 42s. each
1830, Greenwich: beggar asked for alms at gentleman's house and large mastiff dog flew at him, and lacerated his leg so dreadfully
Glos, 1853: novel horse dealing = price based on its weight. After sale, horse taken up house steps and into smoking room for exhibition
1865, Scotland: Massive, shaggy Galloway bull coolly walked into open house and up stairs, into bedroom. Had to be reversed back down
1881: lion tamer slipped and fell at performance end and tiger 'threw itself upon him with a roar, & in 5 mins had torn body to pieces'
Farming Notes, 1894: Farm animals hurt more by medicine than by lack of it. When animal needs medicine, it needs a competent physician
Exeter RSPCA meeting, 1928: discussed use of humane killer, keeping dogs on chains w/o exercise, free vet treatment for animals of poor
The stories behind the 140-character titbits:
1) Cornwall’s fishing heritage was based upon the herring in cooler years, and pilchards in warmer years – reproduction and behaviour changed with climate fluctuations - the great autumn inshore shoals of pilchard were pressed, salted and barrelled locally either for use later in the year or/and thousands of tonnes were shipped south to Portugal and Italy. (info from The Helford River fishing http://www.helfordmarineconservation.co.uk/ws/wp-content/pdf/helford-fishing-leaflet.pdf
2) The English Mastiff was known and revered for its ferocity – that poor beggar had not a chance against the gentleman’s guard dog: ‘it was with extreme difficulty that the ferocious animal was made to let go his hold.’ The mastiff’s reputation was sealed way back when Caesar’s Procurator Pugnacium would find and ship back mastiffs (and scenting hounds and greyhounds) from England to Rome. They remained popular for 1500 years - in 1614 the East India Company was still shipping mastiffs as presents to India’s royal courts.
As for the beggar – William Davis, aged 22 – he was admitted into St Thomas’s Hospital suffering from ‘mortification of the left leg, brought on by exposure to the inclemency of the weather’ and, one would think, also the dog bite… his leg was amputated.
3) The landlord of the Albion Hotel in Gloucester had ‘a nag’ called Foigh-a-Ballagh (possibly named after the winner of the St Leger, 1844) which a passing horse-dealer wished to buy. The horse had ‘done his late master good service’ and so the landlord demanded a ‘considerable sum’. An agreement couldn’t be made, so it was suggested the horse be sold by weight - the horse was put on the scale and its price deemed to be 17l. 12s. 11d. which was less than the landlord’s intended 20 guineas. FAB’s walk up the steps and into the inn’s smoking room was presumably the idea of a drunkenly happy horse-dealer!
4) More steps and more animals – a theme this week?! After ‘coolly’ walking up the stairs of the house, the shaggy Galloway ‘gave a slight nod of his head, perhaps in courtesy’ to the frightened inmates he met on the landing and then proceeded to quietly walk into a bedroom. It was then the drovers decided to try and reverse him back down the stairs, but that didn’t prove to be easy: ‘about half-way down the poor brute stumbled and fell to the bottom, breaking several of the steps, but received no injury to his own limbs’. A few days before another bull had paid a visit to the premises of a photographer and cabinet maker and was dragged out by the tail after he had broken a glass…!
5) According to letters in the New York papers the American lion tamer, Elijah Lengel, of Philadelphia was killed by the tiger belonging to the Courtney Circus. During the attack on Lengel, several of the audience members pulled out their revolvers and started firing at the animal – a lucky shot killed him. Can you imagine the scene…?! And it gets worse (or so the journalist would have us believe)…just as Lengel’s body was removed through the sliding door, the other tiger in the cage ‘threw itself upon the one that had been shot, and began tearing it with teeth and claws. The horror of the scene was such that most of the spectators took immediately to flight.’ I bet they did!
6) 1894: the farmers around Burnley were obviously being bombarded with all sorts of ‘medicines’ to treat their animals and all sorts who were claiming to be animal physicians… but it would have been getting easier to identify a qualified veterinary surgeon after the passing of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1881 which created a register of qualified veterinarians as vetted (excuse the pun) by the Royal Veterinary College. The ‘Farming Notes’ column had some other good advice, such as those snippets about hens: ‘Hens that are crowded will not lay. Hens will not lay when shivering with cold. Do not change all the old hens for young pullets…Whenever grain is fed in cold or stormy weather it should nearly always be fed among litter so as to give the hens an opportunity to scratch and exercise.’
7) The new sport of greyhound racing was the main theme of the keynote speech by Sir Robert Newman MP at the RSPCA meeting in 1928 – it was a source of satisfaction to Newman that ‘if the amusement was to be continued there was no animal to be destroyed, and that the hare was a mechanical and not a live one’. Greyhound racing was attacked especially because it encouraged gambling, but from an animal protection viewpoint Newman was happy. He went on to state that the public was not fully aware of the work of the RSPCA – they were there to prevent cruelty to animals ‘through the medium of warnings by its officials’ rather than to secure convictions. There was also talk of the Band of Mercy – a youth group aimed at instilling animal kindness and knowledge about animals to prevent ‘ignorance and general carelessness’ (Applause from the audience).
Phew… another marathon week.
Please do share if you enjoyed – until next week.
Hannah Velten - author of