Accidents were common events in the Victorian Era. Many accidents involved animals partly because animals 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 story 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.
In Northern Ireland, the town of Clogher held a market day every Saturday. One particular 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.” 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.
One bizarre accident involved an infuriated cow. The cow belonged to an Irish Lord named Dunsany and had been sent to Smithfield. For some reason the cow broke out of its pen, ran through the market, and encountered a constable. The constable tried to stop the cow, but 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 and killed another pig, goring it. Next, the cow injured a woman before it knocked a gentleman down on Blackhall Street. As the cow continued to run a muck, 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.
Another attack involved 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 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 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. One strange accident in 1843 involved a horse. This accident proved to be ghastly. 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.” Of course, this decapitated the horse, and the newspaper further reported that “both beams were deeply indented by the pressure of the bones of the [horse’s] head.”
One story that was nearly fatal involves a family and a stray dog. 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.” 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. All of the family 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. 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.”
- “Accidents and Offences,” in Leicestershire Mercury, 12 August 1843
- “Dreadful Accident from a Bull,” in Cambridge Independent Press, 16 September 1843
- “Family Poisoned at Brinsley,” in Kendal Mercury, 25 March 1843
- “Serious Accidents from an Infuriated Cow,” in Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 16 January 1843
- “Singular Accident,” in Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 16 January 1843