Thursday, June 29, 2017

Back Yard Fox

At various time I have had three trail cams for the backyard. One died some time back, and then I lost track of things (too busy!) and left one out in the yard for a few months. and ants got in to it. It's dead too now, and it was "the good one" that took nice color pictures with a flash.

This is my last working camera, and it just takes infrared, which is not what I really want.

Time to order another color camera. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Our Police and Our Nation Are Sick

This is a country where racism is saluted and police are given the green light to gun down people (and dogs) for almost no reason whatsoever. It's sickening.

On Tuesday, Michael Brown’s parents, Lezley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., received a $1.5 million settlement after filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, former Police Chief Thomas Jackson and former police officer Darren Wilson. ...

The settlement was... on par with one particular shooting in Maryland ― except, in this case, the family was white and the victim was their pet dog.

In May, a jury awarded $1.26 million to a family whose pet was shot and killed by Anne Arundel County police Officer Rodney Price in February 2014. Price, who was confronted by the dog in the homeowner’s front yard, was investigating a burglary in the neighborhood and claimed he was attacked by the nearly 5-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Vern.

Some Bird!

This bird is called an Ornate Hawk-eagle. I had never heard of the species before, but stumbled across a picture while looking for something quite different.  It can raise a feather crest on it head.

This species hails from Central and South America. 

Quite the paint job!

A Starving Sloughi is Russia's Shame

This starving Sloughi won the St Petersburg Sighthound competition in Russia earlier this week. It's clearly emaciated and way, way under weight, even for a sighthound.

How can you tell if a dog is too thin? Use this simple "hand gauge".

When your dog is too fat
 (and 40% of American dogs are obese!) you can feel a layer of fat over the ribs.

If you want to know what a FAT dog feels like, run your fingers over the underside of your knuckles 
with your hand open, palm up.  Some dogs are actually so fat, their flesh feels like the padded base where the thumb meets the palm!

When your dog is the proper weight, you should be able to easily feel the ribs just under the skin, but there should be some muscling on top.  To get an idea of what that feels like, run your fingertips over the top of the knuckles of your flattened hand.

When your dog is too thin, as in the pictured Sloughi, you can feel the ribs, which will be quite pronounced. On a smooth-coated dog, four or more ribs will be visible even when the dog is not breathing heavily. To get an idea of what a too thin dog feels like, run your fingertips over the knuckles of your fist.   If you see a ridge like this -- and that's what we see in the Sloughi -- the dog is far too thin. 

Most dogs should be run a little on the thin side, and most dogs deemed to be in proper weight are actually too fat. 
In my experience, veterinarians are part of the problem; they are so used to seeing profoundly obese dogs that they have forgotten what proper weight looks like (if they ever knew) and do not talk with their clients about canine weight when dogs are merely fat and out of tone and not yet morbidly obese.

And, in this instance, we have the rare case of a dog being shown that is far too thin. This is deemed a winner in Russia?  Anywhere else, it would get the gate, and its owner would likely be visited by animal control.

One Tree, One Year

Photographer and conservationist Bruno D'Amicis set up a camera trap in a forest in the Apennine Mountains of Italy and trained it on one beech tree for an entire year.  He then edited the tape down to include the charismatic megafauna.

The wolves pictured here are Italian wolves that weigh between 55–77 lb. There are between 500 and 1,000 wolves in Italy -- up from a population of less than 100 in the 1970s.

Tough Without a Gun

Glad to Be American With Wilderness and Wildlife

Aldo Leopold :: This is a repost from 2010.

There is something vaguely ridiculous about European hunting with its dress-up clothes and potted birds.

Even some of the descriptions of terrier work can border on the absurd. Does every fox have to be described as a "lamb killer"? I suppose so in a country that has no coyote, wolf, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear, alligator, or grizzly! When your biggest game animal eats worms and bulbs, and your largest predator dines on mice, you may have to dress up your rationale for the hunt every bit as much you dress up yourself. Mere sport with dogs cannot do!

In America, of course, such a claim would be met with laughter. A red fox threatens your farm? A badger? Please! We have real predators from one end of this country to another. No need for tales of Beowulf here! A country full of bears and coyotes does not need to invent dragons.

To be clear, what makes America special is not some extra gene coursing through our blood. What makes American special is the land, and the fact that, unlike Europe, we have not killed off everything big enough to kill a cat.

No one ever said it better than Aldo Leopold who, back in 1925, wrote an essay called "Wilderness As a Form of Land Use," in which he reminded us of what we were (American), and warned us of what we might become (European):

The day is almost upon us when canoe travel will consist in paddling up the noisy wake of a motor launch and portaging through the back yard of a summer cottage. When that day comes canoe travel will be dead, and dead too will be a part of our Americanism. Joliet and LaSalle will be words in a book, Champlain will be a spot on a map, and canoes will be merely things of wood and canvas, with a connotation of white duck pants and bathing "beauties."

The time is almost upon us when a pack-train must wind it’s way up a graveled highway and turn it’s bell-mare in the pasture of a summer hotel. When that day comes, the pack-train will be dead, the diamond hitch will be merely rope, and Kit Carson and Jim Bridger will be names in a history lesson. And thenceforth the march of empire will be a matter of gasoline and four wheel brakes.

European outdoor recreation is largely devoid of the thing that wilderness areas would be the means of preserving in this country. Europeans do not camp, cook or pack in the woods for pleasure. They hunt and fish when they can afford to, but their hunting and fishing is merely hunting and fishing, staged in a set of ready-made hunting lodges, elaborate fare, and hired beaters. The whole thing carries the atmosphere of a picnic, rather than that of a pack trip. The test of skill is confined almost entirely to the act of killing, itself. Its value as a human experience is reduced accordingly.

There is a strong movement in this country to preserve the distinctive democracy of our field sports by preserving free hunting and fishing, as distinguished from the European condition of commercialized hunting and fishing privileges. Public shooting grounds and organized cooperative relations between sportsmen and landowners are the means proposed for keeping these sports within reach of the American of moderate means. Free hunting and fishing is a most worthy objective, but it deals with only one of the distinctive characteristics of American sport. The other characteristic is that our test of skill is primarily the act of living in the open, and only secondarily the act of killing game. It is to preserve this primary characteristic that public wilderness playgrounds are necessary."

Read the whole essay which I have linked to here [PDF].

Are we there yet? Is our land so gut-shot with people that we have lost the wild and become European?

Not quite.

The coyote population is growing, and so too is the population of mountain lion, wolf, black bear, grizzly, and alligator.

We are not yet European, thank God!

Yet we may get there if we do not do more to slow population growth, most of which is now fueled by unbridled legal and illegal immigration. We cannot take all of the world's displeased and dispossesed, and it's high time we stopped trying.

Above all, we need to remember that we need to fight to continue to preserve large blocks of wild lands, including wilderness.

Preserving wilderness and wild lands is about nothing less than preserving America's soul.

Save it now, or someday soon, it may be gone forever.

Angeles Requiem from Tocho on Vimeo. The above video is not just amazing because the camere trap survived a forest fire, or because of what it else it got on tape (thanks Chaz!). It's amazing because it was all filmed by a single camera trap in Angeles National Forest just a 30-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles. Thiry minutes from downtown L.A.! This is still America as God intended, a country made by bear and lion, fire and rain, buffalo and deer. This land is your land. This land was made for you and me. .

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Falconer Perfume?

A perfume with notes of feather, sour meat, bird shit, old leather, bug spray, and sunscreen?


Pandering to the hyper-rich and falconry-besotted, a perfume vendor in Dubai has commissioned an Italian perfume maker to mix up scents for men and women made of Cassis, Lemon, Italian Bergamot, Patchouly, Sweet Orange, Lavender, Heliotrope, Pear, Black Currant, Sandal, Musk, and Vanilla.  The various concoctions are sold as "Falconer".

Rumor has it that it's the official "new car smell" of the Bentley for falconry.

Two Pairs of Twin Fawns

The attentive doe, above, had a pair of fawns
with her.

This was the second set of twins I saw on Sunday. The doe and pair of fawns, seen below, were crossing the creek right next to me, and I almost missed them as I was paying attention to birds. They crossed and went up hill into the woods before I could refocus.

How Many People Can You Put in a Canoe?

The wee dogs and I were rolling across the C & O Canal Aqueduct on Sunday when this enormous canoe carrying 26 people came down Seneca Creek and into the Potomac River.  I assume it's a scout troop.  This is at least six times more people than I have ever seen in a canoe before.

Large Freshwater Mussels

Large freshwater musels in the Potomac River where I was fishing yesterday.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Old Age Isn't For Sissies


This thin old doe was all alone and grazing. She's very skinny, but there's plenty to eat so my guess is that she's lost teeth, has cancer, or is being eaten alive by parasites.

Deer get to age 7 or 8, if they are lucky, and that's about all they wrote. For animals in old age, the best they can hope for is a swift death from a hunters bullet.  She will make it through the summer, but if she does not ad weight, I doubt she will make it though another winter.

A Moveable Circus

Two wee working terriers fit on my folding bike (with fishing rod and gear), which folds down to a bag, which slides into the tiny hybrid, with room for two dog crates, and digging tools as well.

Turkey Vulture

This turkey vulture flew in to sit on a snag near the river.

New World vultures are more closely related to storks than hawks or eagles. They are big birds, but they have very weak claws that can hold nothing.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Paw Paws Along the River

I found a Paw Paw tree between a marsh and the river. Pawpaw fruits are the largest edible fruit that is native to the United States. I'll be back in mid-September when they are ripe.

Fishing Competition on the River

The Seduction of Pessimism

A New York City possum vendor, just 100 years ago. 

Steve Case (of AOL fame) posted a link to this article by Morgan Housel, which I found illuminating:

Tell someone that everything will be great and they’re likely to either shrug you off or offer a skeptical eye. Tell someone they’re in danger and you have their undivided attention.

Hearing that the world is going to hell is more interesting than forecasting that things will gradually get better over time, even if the latter is accurate for most people most of the time. Pessimism can be hard to distinguish from critical thinking and is often taken more seriously than optimism, which can be hard to distinguish from salesmanship and aloofness.

Y2K got more media attention than any individual tech company.

SARS got more attention than the massive decline in HIV mortality.

Forecasting $250 a barrel oil in 2008 sparked immediate congressional hearings. Forecasting the bankruptcy of oil giants as electric cars proliferate sparks immediate giggles

I am a demographer by training, and have spent a few decades studying long data sets.  As a consequence I am pretty optimistic about most things dealing with the human condition.

Some years back, I won an optimistic 10-year bet about the long-term arc of the human condition.

Specifically, I bet that 10 years into the future five indices of global human welfare (Food, Water, Health, Education and Quality of Life, and Energy) will ALL show improvement. If any of the metrics had gone south, I would have lost the whole bet, and I  let my opponent pick the data sets..

The good news, for the world, is that won this bet.

And yet, if you go around and ask folks how the world is doing, they invariably say "to hell in a hand basket."

But follow up and ask these same folks if they want 1980 heart surgery or dentistry, and they recoil.  Never!

What about 1980 life expectancy?  1980 fruit and vegetable choice?  1936 gas prices?  The more they know, the happier they are with what we have now.

It's not that people are stupid; it's that we are amnesiacs.  

The difference between pessimism and optimism often comes down to time horizon. If a recession or downturn is the end of your show, you should be pessimistic. If it’s a bad commercial during an otherwise great episode, you should be optimistic.

Since short-term shocks are more frequent and recent than long-term gains, pessimism usually sounds smarter than optimism because it’s easier to recall.

Optimists are often ridiculed as being oblivious to how risky the world is. I’ve found this to be a bad reading. They’re often quite aware of risks, but equally aware of risks being the soil optimism eventually grows out of.

The basic point of the piece is that pessimism is so seductive. Or, as I like to remind folks, we actually pay money to be scared at amusement parks.

Preachers of Armageddon screaming Jeremiads get attention, collect money, and feel important.

Terror and trouble gives life meaning.

Folks who claim to have "secret knowledge" can both gain and give power by sharing that "knowledge," and what follows is a kind of cult-like following in which folks who have invested so much time and energy into believing their constructed fear, that they are loathe to accept fact or engage in critical thinking.

Back in 1995, Carl Sagan wrote The Demon-Haunted World, a book designed to encourage people to engage in critical thinking. He even provided what he called a "baloney detection kit," but he realized he was pushing skepticism uphill in sand, because the low-information gullible are always loathe to accept that they have been duped:

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

Missing Children

Tomorrow is the 733rd anniversary (June 26, 1284) of the missing children from Hamelin a small city in what is today the German state of Lower Saxony.

According to the Brothers Grimm, writing in 1817, Hamelin was hit by a plague of rats and a hero-like figure shows up, dressed like a court jester.  He told the townsfolk he could can get rid of the rats, but at a price.  The townspeople agreed, the Pied Piper played a strange tune on his pipe, and all the rats were lured into the Weser River, where they promptly drowned.

But the townspeople refuse to pay their debt.  `

What's the Pied Piper to do?  He cannot fight an entire town!

And so he plots his revenge, returning to Hamelin wearing the attire of a hunter. This time he plays a melody that hypnotizes the town's 130 children, who follow him into the mountains, never to be seen again.

That something horrible happened in Hamelin is almost assured.  What it was is still being debated.

Some speculate that it might have been a plague, borne by the rats, but the plague would not just impact children, and the rats seem to been a much-later addition to the story which, initially had no mention of rats at all; just of children being "piped" into the woods and disappearing.

A more likely explanation is that the story is a corrupted and expanded story of what happened to Hamelin children recruited for a Children’s Crusade that took place about 70 years earlier than the date given.

The first Children’s Crusade was led by a child shepherd by the name of Nicholas, who hailed from near Cologne, Germany. Nicholas preached that the purity of children would allow them to conquer the Holy Land. Scores of thousands of children joined up with him and followed him west.  Many ending up sick and starving, or were captured and sold into slavery into North Africa, or abandoned the pilgrimage and settled in towns and cities and countries along the way.

One thing seems clear:  Hamelin never saw its children again.

Proper Urban Attitude

You're in the city; get over it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Maudie: A Movie Worth Seeing

The Wife took me to see an Ethan Hawke movie called "Maudie".  The review in the paper said:

Marrying Maude in 1938 -- several weeks after hiring her as his live-in housekeeper for 25 cents a week – this boorish, barely verbal fish peddler expects his wife to know, and to keep, her place: As he puts it, oh so romantically, that place comes right after him, his two dogs and his chickens

That sounded promising. And it was.

This is a terrific movie. It's a love story between an asshole (Ethan Hawke) and a simple saint, Maude Lewis, with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis who does primitive paintings that she sells by the road.

It's a true story, and a masterpiece of acting in both lead rolls. My bet is that Sally Hawkins will be getting an Academy Award. Even the music (by the Cowboy Junkies) is terrific.

Pups in the Park This Morning

Oil of Dog Will Cure You!

The great Ambrose Bierce, soldier and war hero, journalist, adventurer, fraud-fighter, and short story writer was born on this day in 1842. Bierce's book, The Devil's Dictionary, was named as one of "The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature," and his short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge has been described as "one of the most famous and frequently anthologized in American literature.

Bierce disappeared in 1914 into the mists of the Mexican revolution, never to be heard from again.

For purpose of this blog, however, Bierce gets a mention for his story, entitled Oil of Dog, which begins with this amazing paragraph:

My name is Boffer Bings. I was born of honest parents in one of the humbler walks of life, my father being a manufacturer of dog-oil and my mother having a small studio in the shadow of the village church, where she disposed of unwelcome babes. In my boyhood I was trained to habits of industry; I not only assisted my father in procuring dogs for his vats, but was frequently employed by my mother to carry away the debris of her work in the studio. In performance of this duty I sometimes had need of all my natural intelligence for all the law officers of the vicinity were opposed to my mother's business. They were not elected on an opposition ticket, and the matter had never been made a political issue; it just happened so. My father's business of making dog-oil was, naturally, less unpopular, though the owners of missing dogs sometimes regarded him with suspicion, which was reflected, to some extent, upon me. My father had, as silent partners, all the physicians of the town, who seldom wrote a prescription which did not contain what they were pleased to designate as "Ol. can". It is really the most valuable medicine ever discovered. But most persons are unwilling to make personal sacrifices for the afflicted, and it was evident that many of the fattest dogs in town had been forbidden to play with me -- a fact which pained my young sensibilities, and at one time came near driving me to become a pirate.

Read the whole thing here.

Scotland Greenlights Docking for Some Working Dogs

The Scottish Government repealed the ban on tail docking for specific breeds of working dogs after Glasgow University reported that over half of working spaniels and a third of hunt, point, and retrieve breeds suffered tail damage each shooting season.

Dogs that had had the tip of their tails docked were far less likely to sustain injury.

While other parts of the UK have a ban on docking, there are exemptions for working dogs including spaniels, hunt point retrievers and terriers.

Back in 2007 I addressed the issue of tail docking in a post entitled Nannying Idiots Continue to Ignore Real Problems:

Tail docking is a very minor procedure and does no harm to the dog. It is largely aesthetic and historical with certain breeds. That said, some terriers and other breeds have long thin tails that can be damaged when whipped in brush, worked in rock, etc. so they may benefit, medically, if they are docked. How often an over-thin and fragile tail is a real medical problem depends on the breed, the dog, how it works, where it works (and if it is worked at all).

A terrier's tail, of course, is an essential part of the dog, and I consider it a very stupid thing to dock a terrier tail too short. I always advise people to err on the side of leaving the tail too long. You do not want to lose a good handle on the rear end of a working terrier by being too quick or aggressive with a pair of tail nippers....

People circumcise their children, women get themselves nipped for child birth (it's called an episiotomy), and every third teenager has a pierced tongue, nipple, eyebrow or navel.

Whole TV shows are devoted to full-body tattoos.

Women are getting breast implants or breast reductions, and men are getting hair transplants and scalp reductions.

Noses are bobbed, fat is sucked out, teeth are capped, botox is injected, and ears are being pierced, ringed, barbelled, and pinned.

Ever been to a PETA rally? If you look around, you will see a lot of metal hanging out of nostrils, off of eye brows, or rammed through tongues. Every other girl will be showing off her "tramp stamp" tattoo on the small of her back. God only knows what you might find ringed, belled and pierced if you were foolish enough to ever see one of these PETA lunatics standing before you naked. The mind shudders.

Consider PETA spokes-idiot Pamela Anderson, who not only married the walking Erector Set known as Tommy Lee, but who also got her own body repeatedly tucked, sucked, injected, lifted, dyed, bobbed, and implanted. And these people are worried about a ten-second tail nip? What on earth for?

There are real problems in the world, and this is NOT one of them.

The anti-tail docking people have no sensible rationale to oppose tail docking -- it is a ten-second thing done when the dog is one or two days old, and it is over with very little fuss or pain. People who love dogs more than their own lives have been doing it for generations -- proof alone that it is a small thing and does no damage to the dog while sometimes serving a health function in the field.

Here are some real things to worry about with dogs:

  • Closed genetic registries which mean that the genetic diversity of dogs is dramatically reduced in time, and with it the health of every breed with a closed registry (i.e. all Kennel Club breeds);
  • Fat dogs which do not see exercise and which have sad and shortened lives (about 1/3 of all dogs);
  • Slick floors in kitchens which increases the chance of hip dysplasia for all large canines (a serious and sad thing);
  • Poor fencing, poor obedience training, and the complete absence of tags and microchipping which means dogs are easily lost and frequently struck by cars.

These are REAL dog problems. Tail docking does not even come close to making the list of things to be concerned about -- in the world of working dogs or otherwise.

Not everything in the world needs to be legislated, and this is something that fits under the umbrella of "leave it alone and let freedom ring."

If a breeder of nonworking dogs wants to leave the tails on their dog long, so what? If a breeder wants a sensible working dog with a properly docked tail, so what?

What interest, business or concern is it of society?


The tail docking debate is really about a very small but vocal sector of society wanting to be nannies to the rest of us.

As a general rule these people know very little about dogs, know nothing about working dogs, and do not give a rat's behind about honest animal welfare -- if they did, they would pick a real issue to take action on.

And there are a LOT of real animal welfare issues. How about habitat protection? How about disease control in wild animal populations (rabies, distemper, mange, tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, West Nile)? How about pushing to lower the price of veterinary care and improving access to it as well? These are real issues.

Fair warning, however -- making a change in these arenas might involve actually going out into the environment with mud, bugs, rain, and cold (Ugh!).

In addition, a real problem might be inconveniently complex and serious (God forbid!), and actually involve something more involved than self-righteous bullying of ignorant legislators and dog owners.

But of course, the tail-docking debate is not really about dogs, is it? It's about people who want to feel smarter and superior to others. These people will always be with us and I suggest they simply find something new to feel smarter and superior about.

If, faced with all the issues and problems in the world (hunger, violence, hurricanes, disease, lack of health insurance, war, poverty, illiteracy, racism, deforestation, violence against women, animal extinctions, loss of global fisheries, pollution, child abuse, etc.), someone thinks tail docking of well-loved pets and working dogs is a major concern worthy of time and energy, they are idiots.

Australia Fights the Plague

The State Health Department rat gang of Queensland, Australia, fighting the Plague in Queensland from 1900 to 1909. Picture from the State Library of Queensland.

Ratcatchers in Sydney, Australia, about 1900.

The Fighting British

The Richmond Golf Club in Surrey, England, drafted an interim set of rules explaining the proper code of conduct should Nazi aircraft bomb the greens mid-game.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Rat Catchers Who Supplied the Rat Pits

From Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, we get a nice description of the rat catchers of his day who supplied the rat pits where small dogs competed based on weight:

The number of Vermin-Destroyers and Rat-Catchers who ply their avocation in London has of late years become greatly diminished. One cause which I heard assigned for this was that many ruinous old buildings and old streets had been removed, and whole colonies of rats had been thereby extirpated. Another was that the race of rat-catchers had become distrusted, and had either sought some other mode of subsistence, or had resorted to other fields for the exercise of their professional labours.

The rat-catcher's dress is usually a velveteen jacket, strong corduroy trousers, and laced boots. Round his shoulder he wears an oil-skin belt, on which are painted the figures of huge rats, with fierce-looking eyes and formidable whiskers. His hat is usually glazed and sometimes painted after the manner of his belt. Occasionally — and in the country far more than in town — he carries in his hand an iron cage in which are ferrets, while two or three crop-eared terriers dog his footsteps. Sometimes a tamed rat runs about his shoulders and arms, or nestles in his bosom or in the large pockets of his coat. When a rat-catcher is thus accompanied, there is generally a strong aromatic odour about him, far from agreeable; this is owing to his clothes being rubbed with oil of thyme and oil of aniseed, mixed together. This composition is said to be so attractive to the sense of the rats (when used by a man who understands its due apportionment and proper application) that the vermin have left their holes and crawled to the master of the powerful spell. I heard of one man (not a rat-catcher professionally) who had in this way tamed a rat so effectually that the animal would eat out of his mouth, crawl upon his shoulder to be fed, and then 'smuggle into his bosom' (the words of my informant) 'and sleep there for hours.' The rat-catchers have many wonderful stories of the sagacity of the rat, and though in reciting their own feats, these men may not be the most trustworthy of narrators, any work on natural history will avouch that rats are sagacious may be trained to be very docile, and are naturally animals of great resources in all straits and difficulties.

One great source of the rat-catcher's employment and emolument thirty years ago, or even to a later period, is now comparatively a nonentity. At that time the rat-catcher or killer sometimes received a yearly or quarterly stipend to keep a London granary clear of rats. I was told by a man who has for twenty-eight years been employed about London granaries, that he had never known a rat-catcher employed in one except about twenty or twenty-two years ago, and that was in a granary by the river-side. The professional man, he told me, certainly poisoned many rats, 'which stunk so,' continued my informant — but then all evil odours in old buildings are attributed to dead rats — 'that it was enough to infect the corn.

He poisoned two fine cats as well. But I believe he was a young hand and a bungler.' The rats, after these measures had been taken, seem to have deserted the place for three weeks or a month, when they returned in as great numbers as ever; nor were their ravages and annoyances checked until the drains were altered and rebuilt. It is in the better disposition of the drains of a corn-magazine, I am assured, that the great check upon the inroads of these 'varmint' is attained — by strong mason work and by such a series and arrangement of grates, as defy even the perseverance of a rat. Otherwise the hordes which prey upon the garbage in the common sewers, are certain to find their way into the granary along the drains and channels communicating with those sewers, and will increase rapidly despite the measures of the rat-catcher.

The same man told me that he had been five or six times applied to by rat-catchers, and with liberal offers of beer, to allow them to try and capture the black rats in the granary. One of these traders declared he wanted them 'for a gent as vas curous in them there hinteresting warmint'; but from the representations of the other applicants, my informant was convinced that they were wanted for rat-hunts, the Dog Billy being backed for 100 pounds. to kill so many rats in so many minutes. 'You see, sir,' the corn merchant's man continued, 'ours is an old concern, and there's black rats in it, great big fellows; some of 'em must be old, for they're as white about the muzzle as is the Duke of Wellington, and they have the character of being very strong and very fierce. One of the catchers asked me if I knew what a stunning big black rat would weigh, as if I weighed rats! I always told them that I cared nothing about rat-hunts and that I knew our people wouldn't like to be bothered; and they was gentlemen that didn't admire sporting characters.'

The rat-catchers are also rat-killers. They destroy the animals I sometimes by giving them what is called in the trade 'an alluring poison.' Every professional destroyer, or capturer, of rats will pretend that as to poison he has his own particular method — his
secret — his discovery. But there is no doubt that arsenic is the basis of all their poisons.

If the rats have to be taken alive, they are either trapped, so as not to injure them for a rat-hunt (or the procedure in the pit would be accounted 'foul'), or if driven out of their holes by ferrets, they can only run into some cask, or other contrivance, where they can be secured for the 'sportman's' purposes.

The grand consumption of rats, is in Bunhill-row, at a public-house kept by a pugilist. A rat-seller told me that from 200 to 500 rats were killed there weekly, the weekly average being, however, only the former number; while at Easter and other holidays, it is not uncommon to see bills posted announcing the destruction of 500 rats on the same day and in a given time.  Dogs are matched at these and similar places, as to which kills the greatest number of these animals in the shortest time. I am told that there are forty such places in London, but in some only the holiday times are celebrated in this small imitation of the beast combats of the ancients.

To show the nature of the sport of rat- catching, I print the following bill, of which I procured two copies. The words and type are precisely the same in each, but one bill is printed on good and the other on very indifferent paper, as if for distribution among distinct classes. The concluding announcement, as to the precise moment at which killing will commence, reads supremely business-like:


A Sporting Gentleman, 
Who is a Staunch Supporter of the destruction of these Vermin will GIVE A
Under 13£Kw. Wt.


On Tuesday, May 20, 1851

To be killed in a Large Wire Pit. A chalk
Circle to be drawn in the centre for the Second.—

Any man touching Dog or Rats, or acting in any
way unfair his dog will be disqualified.

To go to Scale at Half past
7 Killing to Commence At Half past 8 Precisely.

Queen Victoria's Rat Pits

A recycled post from blog, circa March, 2005.

Between 1800 and 1900, the population of Great Britain grew from 10 million to 35 million and advances in medicine, agriculture, animal husbandry and industry occured by leaps and bounds.

Despite great economic and social advances, the era was a time of squalor, deprivation, and grinding poverty for most people. The Enclosure Movement of the early 19th Century had forced huge numbers of people off of their lands and into the cities where they lived cheek-to-jowl and hand-to-mouth. Horse excrement littered the streets, water was pumped into homes untreated, and sewage systems were quickly pushed beyond capacity. The first large factories were started, and with them crushing boredom, inhumane work loads, and horrific industrial injuries.

Into this world arrived Rattus Norvegicus -- the brown rat. The rat pits required a certain type of rat -- the Brown Rat -- to do business. The Black Rat is simply too small and too docile to provide much sport, plus they tend to reside at rooftop, making them much harder to catch. It is not an accident that the Romans, who would fight any other two animals at the drop of a hat, did not have rats pits -- they were missing the required animal.

The Brown Rat arrived in Great Britain around 1730 and -- over the next 70 years -- quickly proliferated in the trash and garbage-strewn cities of England driving its cousin, the plague-carrying black rat, into extinction.

Bored and impoverished factory workers quickly found a good use for brown rats -- as contest combatants with small dogs. Thus was born the Rat Pit.

Rat pits were not actually pits, but instead were small built-up enclosures six to 12 feet in diameter, with wooden sides at elbow height, and with smooth metal walls to discourage the rats from climbing.

Into this pit were tipped various numbers of rats, depending on the size of the dogs and the rules of the contests. In general, dogs competed against each other by weight, with dogs being timed on how many rats they could kill in a set amount of time or -- conversely -- how much time it took them to kill a set number of rats.

Some contests featured rats placed inside overturned flower pots so that the dog had to knock over the flower pot, release the rat, and then run around inside the ring to catch the rat -- amidst all the other flower pots also containing rats ready to be released if that pot were knocked over in the commotion.

The rat pit era did not last long and, contrary to what is sometime asserted, no breed of dog was specifically bred for this sport. Because the rules varied so much from pit to pit and from contest to contest, it was impossible to breed a dog that could develop much of a competitive edge.

Speed was important, of course, but so too was the weight of the dog and the degree to which it could take punishment. Square pits were very easy for a dog to work as the rats would jungle up in a corner and the dog could pick them off the back -- here only speed mattered. Round pits defeated this tactic, however, and if a dog were required to work 30 to 50 loose rats in a round enclosure, it would likely take some bites around the ears.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal was founded in 1825. They found rat pits an easy thing to oppose as they were organized, drew publicity, and had a less-than-politically-powerful clientel. It did not hurt at all that many rat pits were associated with bars. Never mind that children were being jungled off into work houses, mothers were starving, and factories were lopping off the fingers of their workers -- save the rats!

By 1835, rat pits had been outlawed in Great Britain -- along with the fighting of any other animal whether wild of domestic. The era of legal rat pits had lasted not much longer than 50 years -- and within another 40 years or so, even the illegal rat pits would be gone.

The Resilient Power of Charlatans

Pet Fox Gets a Tunnel Den

Riot the pet fox gets a new tunnel den in the yard and he loves it, but Castiel, the German shepherd, is too large to fit.

I should probably make a tunnel in the yard for the dogs.

A Mind Reader of a Dog Trainer?

Circus dog trainer Vladimir L. Durov claimed to be able to communicate with dogs by sending his thoughts directly to their minds. You can read his story over on Atlas Obscura, and decide if he was right.

Fish on Friday

Sloane's Viperfish is a deep water fish, found all over the world, at a depth of about 8,500 feet. They are a long ribbony fish that is 11-12 inches long.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This is Why Health Care Is So Expensive

"Trump Doen't Care" misses the essentials, from long term care to affordability, and from cost containment to border collies.