Here is the seventh 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
Kicked by a horse: serious accident at Doncaster
Illustrated Police News 16 February 1878
'An alarming accident, which it is expected will terminate fatally' occurred at Doncaster Station when a carter, Samuel Burton, went to collect a horse he had purchased. From the illustration, I would guess the horse had been travelling by train, because of its rug and halter. Burton had asked for the animal to be 'cleaned down' (it was probably covered in sweat and dung from travelling) and while this was happening some drovers, returning from a fair (probably drunk), made an offer for Burton's horse. The drovers demanded Burton show off the horse's paces and Burton obliged by striking the horse with a whip.
I have to say it is no surprise what happened next: 'The animal jumped and struck Burton on the face. His nose was smashed to a jelly, and his eye was so badly injured that it has since been removed, his face being altogether so disfigured that it was scarcely recognisable. He was conveyed to the infirmary, where he now lies.' Some may say "Serves him right"! No further mention of the horse is made...
This week's #AHD offerings: a lame horse, a slaughterhouse closes, a Valentine's owl and sparrow, a goat fire alarm, elephants in the river, a male tortoise-shell cat and the Queen's Cruft's champion
12th Feb: 1932: Chingford - man charged with cruelty to bay gelding by working it when unfit. P.C arrested him; vet said lame and in pain - fined
13th Feb: 1947: Finally, the closure of Penzance 'open' slaughterhouse - in interests of health and humanity for animals and workers
14th Feb: 1876: Valentine trad. that every bird chooses its mate on 14 Feb. Custom of young folks going out before daylight and trying to catch an owl and two sparrows in a net. If they succeeded, it was a good omen, and entitled them to gifts from the village
15th Feb: 1822: Fire near Lincoln Cathedral discovered after goat in a stable made 'a prodigious outcry', showing his intelligence to alert help
16th Feb: 1842: Norfolk: Multiple elephants plunged into river as Wombwell's Menagerie crossing over bridge - men and 28 horses got caravans out
17th Feb: 1840: Male Tortoise-Shell Cat - most beautiful and rarest of all animals - entirely unparalleled - on show No.151, Strand; 1s. ticket
18th Feb: 1893: Winner of Pomeranian class at Cruft's 9th Dog Show, held in Islington, was 'Beppo', owned by Queen Vic
Stories behind the 140-characters:
1) Not a nice start to the week with a cruelty case, but it does show a marked change in animal cruelty legislation enforcement. Previously, when the SPCA was born in 1824, the Metropolitan Police didn't exist (nor other police) and it was the SPCA and private individuals who bought cruelty cases to court, by making complaints to a Justice of the Peace or a magistrate. In our #AHD example, the police were obviously helping to protect working horses on the streets.
2) The inhabitants of Penzance cheered in 1947 when, finally, after more than 27 years of campaigning the town's open slaughterhouse was closed down. For farmers this was inconvenient as they had to now take their animals to another location and locals lost the "odds and ends" (offal) they were used to, but letter writers to the Cornishman were glad: 'I've seen plenty of children watching the animals killed, and many times in passing [the slaughterhouse] have seen them [animals] cut open. I've not had to stop and stare' - Gwen Wilks (Mrs). Another (M. Clergue) was glad to see the back of the flies which bred in the abattoir and the awful state of the street outside which was often closed to pedestrians because it was 'not fit at times to be walked in'. The cause of the closure was not actually public agitation, but a dramatic and fast Government decision to close the local slaughterhouses with immediate effect.
3) According to Medieval folklore, 14th February was the day birds chose their mate - so it naturally lead to our Valentine's day when we celebrate love and fidelity. Another tradition linked to the birds was that of the first bird an unmarried girl saw on Valentine's morning acting as an omen of her future husband's character. As for our #AHD story, the girl seeing an owl would indicate her to meet a politician or a leader and the sparrows foretold a life on a farm. I guess the village would be pleased to hear this news - a strong, successful farming community would be ensured for the future?
4) Thank goodness for the goat! It was credited with saving Lincoln Cathedral from the fire as many of the surrounding buildings were constructed mainly of wood. The fire had started in the White Hart inn, and went onto destroy one of the stables, three post horses (mail coach horses), quantities of hay and corn. 'The cries of a goat in the stable pierced the still night far and wide: the poor animal made a prodigious outcry, and manifested alarm with a degree of intelligence scarcely short of language and reason.' And what was this goat doing in the stables? They were widely kept with horses as stable companions, but there were two trains of thought as to their benefit: 1) the presence of a goat was conducive to the health of the horses and 2) goats would run from fire and the horses would follow them out of the stables (presumably if the stalls were open!)
5) Wombwells' elephants were going over Rollesby Bridge when 'the large caravan of the elephants broke down and plunged the colossal animals into the river'. It presumably took so long to extricate the animals from the waters (they were kept in the wagons) because of the 28 horses being unharnessed and harnessed (and unharnessed and re-harnessed) during and after the rescue. It was common for Wombell's menagerie to tour the provinces with 15 wagons of animals, mainly drawn by horses - see left (although he travelled in 1836 from Edinburgh to Bartholomew's Fair in London with an elephant leading - this had serious repercussions). It was more than likely that coming into town, the elephant/camel combo (see below) would be used to pull in the crowds. The elephants in the #AHD example were obviously not too traumatised as they were able to perform at the annual Kings' Lynn fair several days later.
6) The rarity of a male tortoise-shell cat is down to genetic error - they have 2 X chromosomes and 1 Y chromosome (XXY). There is a record in 1808 of a male Tortie making £238 at an auction in Strand, London, and by 1840, evidently, their rarity still attracted the paying London public. The #AHD example was exhibited alongside the 'Industrious Fleas' (performing fleas) and one can only assume the cat did not take kindly to being exhibited for 6 hours every day...
7) The 1893 Cruft's Show at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, had 2,800 entries (over 700 more than the previous show). Royalty had the most column inches - Queen Victoria entered four Pomeranians (pic above), a collie, a Skye terrier and the Prince of Wales showed four Basset hounds, a retriever, a St Bernard and one breed from China.
Hannah Velten - author of