April 26, 2007
When they were not burning witches or stoning prisoners the mob amused themselves with bear-baiting, setting dogs on bulls, badger-baiting, and cockfighting. A bear would be chained by the neck in the middle of an open space and dogs would be turned on him. The crowd would bet on the first dog killed, the first dog to take a hold, and the first pair of dogs to get the bear down. Bull-baiting was often referred to as the national amusement. The bulldog, symbol of the British nation, was developed for this sport. The dog was bred to have an unshot jaw so that even while he was holding the bull by the nose he could still breahe, and a broad, squat body on bandy legs to make it difficult for the bull to turn him over.
When attacked by dogs, an experienced bull kept his head low to protect his nose and present his horns to the pack. If he managed to toss a dog, the dog’s owner ran in and tried to catch the animal as it fell to keep its back from being broken. One man stood by with a pole to push the falling dog into the arms of its owner. Once a dog took his hold, nothing could get him loose. Whatever portion of the bull’s nose he was holding had to be cut off. Bulls that were veterans of many baitings had no noses… they had been sliced away piece by piece.
That tasty nugget was from The Hell-Fire Club, by Daniel P Mannix, which is a fairly deranged and somewhat disturbing historical account of the 1700s.
Maybe TV isn’t all bad… keeps the mob down, doncher know?