Here is the eleventh 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 British Newspaper Archive (@BNArchive) on the appropriate day, from any year (generally the 1800s).
IMAGE(S) OF THE WEEK
I had most RTs this week on Twitter for these images of Islington past - the cow capital of London. The bovine populations provided the City with milk and the area gave respite for driven animals on their way to Smithfield Market, and later the Caledonian Market ('layers' was the name used for the temporary accommodation). You can get your fill of 'Cow History' here (via Google Books) : 'A Day At A London Dairy' The Penny Magazine (p297 onwards).
This week's #AHD offerings: military horses pre- and post-WW1, Napoleon's prize bull, Jumbo for sale, suffocated by horse, musk rats banned and a yellow hare.
12th March: 1910: HofC discuss Army Estimates for military horse supply - 2m horses in UK over 4 yrs, need 200,000 for Regular Army & Territorials
13th March: 1937: 4 letters to Hastings & St Leonards Observer re. animal welfare: hunting, war horses in France, bird-nest raiding & pets in flats (Hastings & St Leonards Observer)
14th March: 1860: Ayrshire bull dispatched from Windermere via train to France; gift for Louis Napoleon. Decorated with 17 first-class prizes (Derby Mercury)
15th March: 1882: Elephant Jumbo being sold to Barnum - visitors to London Zoo incr. from 549 a year ago, to 6117 visitors today - most V's sale (Portsmouth Evening News)
16th March: 1901: Verdict of accidental death recorded for man suffocated when horse pulling his coal barge bolted and rope twisted round his neck (Gloucester Journal)
17th March: 1933: importation of and keeping of musk rats to be made illegal (kept for their fur) - due to 'the danger caused by these animals' (Western Gazette)
18th March: 1843: Yeovil: Rare yellow hare shot (then stuffed & prepared by London animal stuffer). White and green variety of hare more common (Sherborne Mercury)
Stories behind the 140-characters:
1) When war was declared in 1914, the Army's reserve of horses was inadequate (motor cars had decimated the horse population), despite the Army Council's best efforts in 1910 to give the Army mounts to anyone (although not farmers) for free, as long as they were fed and cared for and given up at short notice in the event of war. The Council was totally against requisitioning of horses for the purposes of war, as was the practice in France where conscription of people was enforced. In the end, horses did have to be called up - a million farm animals and pet horses, most cruelly.
2) And what happened to those which survived the war and stayed in France? The concerns of dwellers in the seaside town of Hastings in 1937 included the unpublicized plight of war horses left behind in Flanders and France. These war horses the letter writer, Mrs Kate Holmes, states have met a 'cruel fate. They helped gallantly, and this is how they are rewarded. I had no idea until recently, that after 19 years some are still alive, some blind, all partially starved and ill-used, and driven from market to market until purchased. Will not Hastings be responsible for at least one poor gallant animal? The approximate cost would be about £10, and the Dumb Friends' League would negotiate. Do help, please, even a few pence does help.'
3) Another animal soon to be in France was the bull, gifted to Napoleon III (first President of the French Republic). What he would do with a bull is not explained, but I would guess the Royal breeding herd (of cattle) improved after this bull's semen was introduced!
4) Jumbo was one of London Zoo's greatest star attractions, and became even more popular when news broke of his sale to the American showman, Barnum. Jumbo has been behaving aggressively and unpredictably during his must and the Fellows decided to get rid of him before he killed someone - the story is well documented (shameless plug alert!) in Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City . The report in the Portsmouth Evening News speaks of Jumbo being fed by his adoring fans with buns, oranges, tarts, biscuits, sugar, acidulated drops and 'other kinds of sweetmeats'. It wasn't only visitors who showed their support, but letters poured into the Zoo protesting 'vehemently' against his removal and many testifying that he would suffer terrible seasickness during the Atlantic crossing. Jumbo did eventually leave the Zoo... and was killed by a train in the US.
(Image: 'Jumbo Objects to the Irons' as part of the front page splash from The Graphic covering his removal from the Zoo to his disembarkation from St Katherine's Dock - The Graphic 1st April 1882 - I suggest an April Fools' as from other newspaper reports Jumbo was moved under cover of darkness through mainly deserted streets)
5) The musk rats, imported into UK from North America in the early 19th century, were farmed for their fur, which made attractive waterproof coats. However, escapees caused major damage to roads, ditches and rivers and were outlawed under the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932. Other animals later included in this Act were the South American coypu, grey squirrel, Japanese squirrel, mink, assorted fish and parakeets.
6) Talking of non-indigenous animals... the rare yellow hare, shot in Dorset, was quite possibly an escapee as, according to The London Encyclopaedia (vol. 12, p.679), this variety of hare was only found in the UK on the highest peaks of the 'Scottish Alps'. Goodness knows what the green hare was - mystical??!
Hannah Velten - author of