The Queen’s Ass

Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
George Stubb’s portrait of the Queen’s zebra. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Some of the first exotic animals to enter France and England in the early 1700s were the chimpanzee and the rhino. They would later be upstaged by the zebra, with one zebra arriving in England in 1762. The zebra was a wedding gift from Sir Thomas Adams and given to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had married George III a few months earlier in 1761.

Adams had actually brought two zebras — a male and a female — but only the female survived the journey and she arrived in July 1762 aboard the HMS Terpsichore. At the time, the zebra was considered a marvelous animal, rare and strange. Because the zebra was rare, it was initially housed in the tower, but several months later, in September, when a rare elephant arrived for the King, the two animals were housed together. Continue reading

Canine Vengeance in the 1800s

Newfoundland Dog by Edwin Henry Landseer, Courtesy of Wikipedia

One nineteenth-century owner of a dog related a tale about canine vengeance. Later, his story was published in an English newspaper in 1868. Here is the story almost verbatim.

I purchased “Watch,” the hero of my tale, when he was only six months old, from a farmer in the island of Foulness. He was then, as large as an ordinary Newfoundland dog, but particularly shy and sheepish in expression; indeed, he looked and acted more like a stupid and very young calf than a puppy of ordinary intelligence, and when taken from his native home to the house of my good friend the doctor, to wait my sending for him, he melted the heart of his pretty daughter Lucy by crying (as she declared) so uncommonly like a child, that she laid his huge head in her lap in which comfortable position he soon whined himself to sleep. However, foolish he looked he soon provided himself to be of the true breed, and not to be insulted with impunity, for quiet as these dogs are, good-tempered and gentle to those who treat them well, they are fierce and unforgiving to their enemies, and are sure, sooner or later, to revenge any injury offered to them, and, as the sequel will show, “Watch” could both plan and execute his own vendetta with almost human sagacity and intelligence. Continue reading

Victorian Electric Traps for Rats and Cats

Victorians had all sorts of problems and rats and cats were one of their biggest problems. For instance, on an island off Cornwall, known as Looe or St. George Island, one Victorian gentleman found rats overrunning the island. They were so bothersome that no matter how much effort people put into exterminating them, they reappeared. He stated that it was “not how to kill the rats, but how to annihilate them so effectually as to place the reappearance of even one of them altogether out of the question.”[1]

Victorian electric traps for rats and cats
Brown Rat. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another Victorian country gentleman also found rats to be a problem where he lived. He wrote: Continue reading

Raising Turkeys for Market in the 1800s

raising turkeys
Bronze Gobbler, Author’s Collection

In the 1800s, turkeys were raised with the idea of the ultimate end: killing them and eating them. Turkeys were not exactly domesticated either. Apparently, when they were chicks they were nomads and when they gained locomotion they scurried away at the slightest provocation. They also had a habit of making beelines for distant haunts, which made them difficult to find when it came to selling them at market for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Continue reading

Richard Hoodless, The 19th Century Horse Swimmer

There are all sort of heroes, but one unusual hero was a nineteenth century farmer named Richard Hoodless who was living near the Grainthorpe coast of Lincolnshire. When he was not farming, he was “said to devote himself to saving of mariners from drowning, ad this [was accomplished] without any of the usual apparatus for succouring ships in distress.[1] Rather, Hoodless accomplished his remarkable missions using nothing but courage and his horse.

A Swimming Horse and Richard Hoodless
A swimming horse. Author’s collection.

Continue reading

Tales of Monkeys as Pets in the 18th Century and 19th Century

Many people desired a pet monkey in the 1700 and 1800s. One nineteenth century gentleman claimed a pet monkey was “a mischievous beast … but affording so much amusement as to compensate for the trouble,”[1] and another person wrote, “there is no pet which can be so interesting or amusing as a monkey.”[2] Because of the monkey’s popularity, in 1888, Arthur Patterson published a book called Notes on Pet Monkeys and How to Manage Them. In the book besides noting how to choose a monkey, what to feed them, and how to care for them, Patterson wrote:

“Persons who have a strongly-developed propensity for keeping of pets, have, in most cases, at some time or other included a monkey in their list of specialties; but with few exceptions, from some mishap or devilry on the part of the little imp, the fancy in that line has come to an abrupt, and, to the rest of the household, a very welcome termination.”[3] Continue reading

Fattening Fowl in the Mid to Late 1800s

Ogden's offered advertising trade cards with a pack of cigarettes. This one comes from a set called poultry rearing and management and described methods to feed poultry using cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and other large root vegetables. Author's Collection.
Ogden’s offered advertising trade cards with a pack of cigarettes. This one comes from a set called poultry rearing and management and described methods to feed poultry using cabbages, Brussels sprouts, and other large root vegetables. Author’s Collection.

Fattened fowl were an extremely desirable commodity in England and France in the mid to late 1800s. Many attempts were made to fatten fowl not only because consumers wanted better meat but also because sellers found fattened fowl a highly profitable business. But it was not always easy to fatten fowl, even if they were the easiest birds to feed, even if they digested more than they could eat, and even if “every alimentary substance agree[d] with them [and they willingly spent] … the whole day long incessantly busied in scratching, searching, and picking up a living.” Continue reading

Work Horses in the Regency Era

Shire Horse, Work Horses, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Shire Horse, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Horses were an important part of earning a living during the Regency Era. One way horses helped out was hauling loads in and around cities, and they were also a vital necessity on farms because agriculture was still one of the main ways Regency people earned livings. Moreover, Regency people used different horses depending on the type of job they needed to accomplish: Some horses thrived in cold climates, others were better at hauling, and still others were better at plowing in hilly locations. Among some of the more common work horses used in the Regency Era were the Shire horse, the Suffolk Punch, Cleveland Bays, Clydesdales, and Garrons. Continue reading

The Learned Pig Toby

Learned Pig

The original Learned Pig, known as Toby and described as a “most extraordinary and singular phenomenon,” was a pig that could read, write, tell time, and do mathematics. Toby would also respond to commands and answer questions. He accomplished these tasks by using his mouth to select cards with letters written on them and then he would arrange the letters into words. Continue reading