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 fine pair of Staffordshire clowns, both standing 6 ½” tall, dating to circa 1860. Each is wearing pantaloons, with the figure on the left holding a cane.
This is an interesting example of a Scottish hunter, wearing kilt and underglaze blue coat, with a dog at his knee and a rifle resting near his right hand. The figure stands 14 ¼” tall and dates to about 1860.
This is a pair of recumbent Bullmastiff dogs, approximately 6” tall, dating to around 1850-1860. This English breed was developed as a guard dog in the nineteenth century and is also known as the Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.
This is a rare figure of Prince Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, second child and eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He stands with his right hand resting on the head of a brown and white dog, and his left hand on the barrel of a rifle.
This is a rare Crimean War figure representing two naval gunners with a cannon. One sailor stands upright with his right foot on the cannon, and his right hand to his head as if saluting. The second sailor is kneeling while priming the cannon.
This is a rare pair of Staffordshire figures representing two of the four seasons, Winter and Summer. Each figure stands a little over 6 ½” tall and dates to around 1850 – 1860.