Animal Accidents in 1843 in the United Kingdom

Accidents were common events in the Victorian Era, and although some involved people, many involved animals partly because they were an integral part of Victorian people’s lives. Stories of these animal accidents were publicized in local newspapers. Among the stories told, are five interesting ones from 1843. The first tale involves a horse in Northern Ireland, the second story talks about an infuriated cow, the third, an out-of-control bull, the fourth, a ghastly accident related to a horse, and lastly there is a story that involves man’s best friend, the dog.

Animal Accidents - Cattle from a Victorian Print

Cattle from a Victorian print. Author’s collection.

In Northern Ireland, the town of Clogher held a market day every Saturday. One Saturday, a boy was leading his horse up the street to attend the market. As he and his horse neared Lord Bishop’s Gate, the earth suddenly opened, and the horse was swallowed by the chasm that was said to be 95 feet wide and 6 feet deep. No one was able to ascertain exactly why the chasm appeared “as the street round it was hard and firm.”[1] Fortunately, the horse, was retrieved from the hole with the help of men using ropes and windlasses, and when the horse was back on solid ground, it was determined it was only slightly injured from the fall.

Animal accidents also included one bizarre incident that involved an infuriated cow. The cow belonged to an Irish Lord named Dunsany and had been sent to Smithfield market, the same spot were wife selling supposedly sometimes occurred. For some reason the cow broke out of its pen, ran through the market, and encountered a constable, who tried to stop the cow. Unfortunately, the cow pitched the constable into a sty full of pigs and then leaped into the sty, where it trampled both the pigs and the constable. The cow then ran down Queen Street, gored another pig, and killed it. Next, the cow injured a woman before it knocked a gentleman down on Blackhall Street. As the cow continued to run amuck, it entered a store where it ravaged the store’s interior and contents. Fortunately, the cow soon met its match. A determined blacksmith killed it with a “tremendous blow” from his sledge-hammer when he hit it full-force on the forehead.

Animal accidents - Smithfield Market in Victorian Times, Public Domain

Smithfield market in Victorian times. Public domain.

A third story about animal accidents involves a bull. As before, the bull seemed to snap for no apparent reason, and making the attack even stranger, was the fact that it occurred as the bull was being feed by an industrious servant of the Earl of Aboyne. The bull knocked the servant down, tossed him, and gored him. As the servant was screaming for help, several persons ran to assist him. The bull bellowed and pawed furiously at the ground and thus prevented anyone from coming near. Eventually, one courageous individual ran a hay fork into the beast’s nose, which distracted the bull long enough for the injured servant to be pulled to safety. Although the servant was expected to recover, he suffered a dislocated shoulder, three broken ribs, a broken arm, the loss of two front teeth, and various lacerations.

Cow and bulls were not the only animals to behave strangely or be involved in animal accidents. One strange accident in 1843 proved to be ghastly for a horse. Four horses were working in tandem at a thrashing mill. For some reason, one of the horses suddenly reared and was caught between a large fixed cross-beam and a movable one so that the horse’s head was wrenched backwards. Then it was “forcibly pulled through a space of less than eight inches.”[2] Of course, this decapitated the horse, and the Bell’s Weekly Messenger further reported that “both beams were deeply indented by the pressure of the bones of the [horse’s] head.”[3]

One final story among the many animal accidents is one that was nearly fatal not only to a stray dog but to a family. John Hopkinson ran a butcher shop in Brinsely. Apparently, he suffered repeated losses from the stray dog as it “seized every opportunity of entering the shop and carrying off large pieces of beef and mutton.”[4] Determined to stop the four-legged thief, Hopkinson purchased some arsenic and put a considerable amount into some meat. He cautioned his wife against using the meat, but unfortunately, she forgot and made a broth with it. The family all ate the broth except Mrs. Hopkinson. Soon after eating, everyone began to suffer violent stomach pains. It was at that point that Mrs. Hopkinson discovered her error and called a physician, who fortunately saved them. Afterwards the local newspaper reported on her mistake and cautioned readers against putting arsenic into meat. The paper also summed up the health of the Hopkinson family noting, “we are happy to hear they are pronounced out of danger.”[5]

Smithfield Market in Victorian Times, Pictured in "The World of Toys"

Smithfield market in Victorian Times, Pictured in “The World of Toys.”


  • [1] “Accidents and Offences,” in Leicestershire Mercury, 12 August 1843, p. 1.
  • [2] “Singular Accident,” in Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 16 January 1843, p. 3.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] “Accidents and Offences,” in Kendal Mercury, 25 March 1843, p. 4.
  • [5] Ibid.

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