Here is the sixth 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
All For The Coronation: Picture of the New Robes for the Peeresses
from The Evening Post 11th February 1902
Modified designs for the robes worn by Peeresses at King Edward VII's Coronation in June next are on display at Norfolk House. 'A few facts about the little animal whose skin is now in such great demand to make the robes of the Peers and Peeresses resplendent may not be uninteresting.
'The stoat, or, as it is generally called when in winter dress, the ermine, has its white fur during the cold months while in the summer the upper parts of its body is a dull mahogany brown. Their white coat is an extremely valuable article of commerce.
'The present revival of the trade in ermine, which is the result of the forthcoming Coronation, reminds us of the fact that... three years before Queen Victoria's coronation over 100,000 were landed on our shores. Yet, shortly after our late Queen's crowning, such a depreciation in the value of ermine set in that the Hudson's Bay Company actually found that the skins were not worth the trouble of collection.'
This week's #AHD offerings: sale of a menagerie, a stolen stag, a common cottage cock, cure for mad animals, a sagacious dog, animal ghosts and the British bulldog.
5th Feb: 1842: Auction sale of Mr Batty's menagerie of (mainly) performing animals from the Equestrian Theatre. Wombell bought elephant for £350
6th Feb: 1826: Stag captured after chase; 'poor animal' put in stable at Vine PH for another day's sport. But stolen overnight and £30 reward
7th Feb: 1806: Sir John Sinclair (Scot) asks which animal is the most miserable and which the happiest? Answer to both: common cottage cock
8th Feb: 1796: The importance of obtaining authentic Medicine for the Cure of the Bite of Mad Animals is obvious - avoid spurious preparations
9th Feb: 1776: Sagacity of a Dog: from Clerkenwell Bridewell, every day he visits public Offices of Justice at stated hours, but never Sundays
10th Feb: 1885: Animal Ghosts - fishermen on West coast of Ireland not kill seals as belief they enshrine souls of those drowned during floods
11th Feb: 1915: the Germans underestimated the Britain bulldog & her Allies - they should have heeded 'Cave Canem'; there was life in the old dog
Stories behind the 140-character:
1) William Batty (1801-1868) was an equestrian performer who operated his own circus by 1836. He travelled around the UK and the sale of his animals in 1842 marked the time when he changed direction and went on to manage the famous Astley's Amphitheatre and later opened his 'Grand National Hippodrome' in Kensington Gardens, which took advantage of the Crystal Palace Exhibition visitors. As for the auction... it was held at the Beehive Tavern, adjoining the Surrey Zoological Gardens and there was on offer an elephant, lions, tigers, a polar bear, leopards, monkeys, a brown bear and birds galore. Another showman, George Wombell, was the main bidder and he walked away with the Polar bear (£37) and the elephant (£350). York Herald 05 Feb 1842
2) Mr Shard's hounds hunted down a stag near to Romsey, Hampshire - it was surrounded/caught at Ower Bridge, so I would assume the stag entered the river as a desperate way to hide his scent and also to cool down. Once caught, rather than dispatch him, he was taken to the nearest public house and kept in a stable for another day's sport (they must have been short of stags). The next morning it was discovered he'd been stolen and a reward was offered - the perpetrator was caught and committed to trail at the next assizes. Salisbury and Winchester Journal 06 Feb 1826
3) Sir John Sinclair was a Scottish 'agricultural improver' and politician - he asked two questions: 1) Which is the most miserable? and 2) Which is the happiest animal in the Creation? His answer to both was the 'common cottage cock'. His reasons (to paraphrase): miserable because he could not fly, he ate nauseous food, he was confined to a yard and disturbed by the 'cries of helpless children, or the clamours of a scolding housewife', and to top it off he's carried to the village fete and 'compelled to fight for the amusement of a cruel multitude'. On the other hand, the cock is mollycoddled because he is protected when young, given no work to do on the farm, he 'enjoys all the pleasures of connubial society', has no competitors, sufficient food, fresh air and no worries in his life.... all in all (even with the abundant anthropomorphism) he leads a charmed life. The Scots Magazine 07 Feb 1806
4) An advertisement was taken out across the Midlands and northern England concerning the medicine for the cure of the bite of mad animals, prepared by Messrs. Hill and Berry. The segment assured customers that this authentic cure is sealed with Mr Hill's Coat of Arms and signed by J.Berry as a means to avoid 'being imposed on by spurious Preparations'. Obviously, with a rabies alert spreading through the country in early 1796 there were plenty of 'remedies' on the market to combat the 'most alarming Nature, and serious Consequences' of a bite. I'm sure the same would be true today - dodgy goods. This outbreak of rabies has also been cited by some as the reason for the Dog Tax and associated licensing introduced the same year. Leeds Intelligencer 08 Feb 1796
5) Everyone loves a 'sagacious' dog, don't they? This prison dog, from Clerkenwell Bridewell, would visit all the local Justices of the Peace to see if there were any felons needing to be sent to prison to await their trial - presumably, the dog would carry the news back to the prison on a piece of paper attached to his collar. The most remarkable thing about this dog, making him one of the most 'wonderful Instances that Naturalists have recorded of the Sagacity of Animals', was that he never left the prison on a Sunday...(more info re Justices of Peace and 18th century trial procedure can be found on the fabulous London Lives website) Derby Mercury 09 Feb 1776
6) I'm not sure for what reason, but animal ghosts were the topic of conversation in February 1885 when it was written in the Standard: '... it appears that it is the rule rather than the exception for ghosts to take the form of animals'. The most common ghosts were headless horses and black dogs and horses pulling a 'death-coach'. These spirits were imagined by the 'agricultural peasantry' and the dogs, especially, were either the 'disembodied souls of unbaptized infants' or 'the spirits of wicked persons being punished by being doomed to wear for a certain time the shape of a dog'. Other ghosts, such as a white hare or white doe, are said to be women disappointed in love who came back to haunt the suitor who wronged them - eventually causing their death. Spooky... The Star 10 Feb 1885
7) I'm no World War One historian, but I can't help be drawn to the way the countries involved were represented by their national dog breeds (postcard above). The article in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette crows with delight that the German spies and secret agents had been able to give their leaders all the information about Britain's fortifications and guns, etc. but had been unable to 'furnish the War Lord with the true meaning of the character of the British race'. The British bulldog may be an old dog, apparently slumbering, but when provoked (by Germany) they'd 'felt the teeth of the British bulldog, and found that, quiet and peace-loving as he may have been in ordinary times, he is a rough customer to pick a quarrel with, and never fights better than when at bay and facing long odds'. Along with 'the plucky and heroic assistance of his brave Allies', the German War Lord should have taken heed of two Latin words 'Cave Canem' (Beware of the Dog). Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 11 Feb 1915
Hannah Velten - author of