Bull-baiting was an ancient sport which involved pitting a bull against another animal. This was usually a dog such as a bull terrier, bull dog or mastiff.
In England during the time of Queen Anne, bull-baiting was practiced in London at Hockley-in-the-Hole twice a week and was also reasonably common in provincial towns. At Tutbury, a bull was tied to an iron stake so that it could move within a radius of about 30 feet. The object of the sport was for the dogs to immobilize the bull.
Before the event started, the bull’s nose was blown full of pepper to enrage the animal before the baiting. The bull was often placed in a hole in the ground. A variant of bull-baiting was “pinning the bull”, where specially-trained dogs would set upon the bull one at a time, a successful attack resulting in the dog fastening his teeth strongly in the bull’s snout. The extinct Old English Bulldog was bred especially for this sport.
Bull-baiting continued into the 19th century. Bull-baiting dogs, including bulldogs and bull terriers, were bred to bait animals, mainly bulls and bears. During bull-baiting the dog would attempt to flatten itself to the ground, creep as close to the bull as possible, then dart out and attempt to bite the bull in the nose or head area. The bull would often be tethered by a collar and rope which was staked into the ground. As the dog darted at the bull, the bull would attempt to catch the dog with his head and horns and throw it into the air.
The sport began to die out early in the 19th century, both because the baiting caused a public nuisance and because of new concerns about animal cruelty. A Bill for the suppression of the practice was introduced into the House of Commons in 1802 but was defeated by thirteen votes. It was not finally outlawed until parliament passed the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835, which forbade the keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal.
More Figures of the month
This is a very rare and desirable titled Staffordshire figure of FitzRoy James Henry Somerset Raglan, aka Field Marshal Lord Raglan. The figure stands a little over 13” tall and dates to around 1854. It may be found in Pugh’s 1987 edition of Staffordshire Portrait Figures, page 258, and in Harding Book One, page 121.
Pair of white cats
This is a rare pair of seated cats, approximately 13 ½” tall. They are decorated in bright gold and date to around 1870-1880. Harding Book Two illustrates this impressive pair on page 239.
Tiger and lion
This is a rare figure of a tiger and lion lying in front of a palm tree. Circus acts with wild animals became very popular in England during the 1830s and it is possible that this figure as well as other animal figures commemorated these events.
This is a rare figure portraying Lady Godiva seated sidesaddle on horseback. The figure is titled “Lady Godiva” and is decorated in the manner of the Parr factory, with soft yellow, green, and brown brushstrokes.
This is an early Staffordshire figure of a woman standing on a grassy pedestal, with a coin in her extended hand. The figure is titled “Lost Piece” and represents the biblical verses found in Luke 15:8-10.
This is a gilt script titled figure of William Shakespeare with his right arm resting on a book atop a pedestal. Next to the pedestal is a sloped watch holder with a clock face painted inside, sitting atop a tree decorated with grapes.