Thursday, May 15, 2014

"The Vernepator Cur"

Heard this bit of history for the first time on the radio the other day -- the tale of the turn-spit dog tasked with running inside a wheel that turned the spit on which meat was roasted in England and, later, America.
The Canis vertigus, or turnspit, was an essential part of every large kitchen in Britain in the 16th century. The small cooking canine was bred to run in a wheel that turned a roasting spit in cavernous kitchen fireplaces....
"Turnspit dogs were viewed as kitchen utensils, as pieces of machinery rather than as dogs," says Bondeson. "The roar of the fire. The clanking of the spit. The patter from the little dog's feet. The wheels were put up quite high on the wall, far from the fire in order for the dogs not to overheat and faint."....
On Sunday, the turnspit dog often had a day off. The dogs were allowed to go with the family to church. "Not because of any concern for their spiritual education," says Bondeson, "but because the dogs were useful as foot warmers."....
The dogs were used in large hotel kitchens in America to turn spits. "In the 1850s, the founder of the [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] was appalled by the way the turnspit dogs were treated in the hotels of Manhattan," says Weaver. "This bad treatment of dogs eventually led to the founding of the SPCA."


  1. Talk about #PrettyUselessHistoricalFacts!

    In your listenings and readings did anyone explain how did these beloved ancestors kept their turnspit pouches moving correctly?

  2. Andrew -- The question seems to be answered in the linked article.