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Old January 29th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #1

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The banning of dog-carts in Victorian Britain


Here is a picture of some Belgian refugees using a dog-cart during the First World War:

Click the image to open in full size.

Although they continued to be used in some parts of the Continent for local deliveries (especially of milk) well into the last century, their use was banned in London as early as 1839, right at the beginning of the Victorian period. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 ordered that they were not to be used within fifteen miles of Charing Cross:

"XXXIV. [Prohibition of Dog Carts.] And be it further enacted, That after the First Day of January next every Person who within the City of London and the Liberties thereof shall use any Dog for the Purpose of drawing or helping to draw any Cart, Carriage, Truck, or Barrow, shall be liable to a Penalty not more than Forty Shillings for the First Offence, and not more than Five Pounds for the Second or any following Offence."

The main consideration seems to have been that the carts were cruel to dogs (they could be, but were not necessarily so), and that this was a measure that might help to limit rabies; over-worked dogs were thought to be especially liable to the disease. The medical journal 'the Lancet' did in fact note in 1841 that there had been a decline in the number of cases of rabies in London, and remarked 'Whether the police or the Dog-Cart Act have had anything to do with the decline of hydrophobia, we cannot say'.

A more general bill was introduced into Parliament in 1841, to ban the use of dog-carts throughout the kingdom. The speeches from the debate show that humanitarian considerations were foremost in the minds of the people who were introducing the motion. This may thus be seen as forming one of the succession of Acts designed to limit cruelty to animals, beginning with an 1822 Act against cruel treatment of horses and cattle, and the 1835 Act banning bull-baiting and cock-fighting (although cock-fighting continued clandestinely). Here is a report on the dog-cart debate from Hansard:

" Mr. Pryme opposed the motion. The Bill was an interference with a humble class of traders. He was glad to see his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House. If his right hon. Friend would consent to allow an ass to be used [laughter], it might seem very ludicrous to the House to name the animal; it might perhaps be more agreeable to right 1356 hon. Gentlemen if he called the animal by the name of donkey. What he meant to say was, that if an ass were allowed to be used with the same license as was paid for using a dog, it would tend materially to lessen the number of dog carts, at least by one-tenth, throughout the country. He would conclude by moving that the Bill be committed this day six months.
Mr. Warburton seconded the motion, because he was satisfied that it was a waste of the time of the House to legislate on such trivial matters. Last year it had been attempted to excite a feeling on the subject by appealing to their humanity, and stating that the dog was not proper for a beast of draught, surely those who had made such a statement must have forgotten the Kamschatka dogs. The object of the measure was to prevent persons possessed of small means and in humble life, who could not afford to employ other animals, from doing their best to gain a livelihood. If the reason for putting down these carts was that dogs were small animals and liable to throw down horses, then they ought to graduate the dimensions of all animals suffered to draw in the streets, and to prohibit Shetland ponies.
Sir It. H. Inglis said, that having the honour to be one of the persons whose names were on the back of this bill, he would just shortly reply to the objections of the hon. mover and seconder of the amendment, that the more straightforward course for getting rid of this bill would be, by moving that so much of the Metropolitan Police Act as relates to the use of dogs in drawing carts and other vehicles be repealed. He could not see why the dogs in the country should be treated worse than the dogs of London. The hon. Member for Bridport had spoken of the dogs of Kamschatka, but he might have come still nearer home, for dogs were used as beasts of draught in Lapland and in Holland. But in Lapland and Kamschatka they ran over snow, and in Holland upon sand; therefore they did not suffer in the same way as in this country. He supposed, that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State, did not attach less importance to humanity now, than when he supported the measure which applied to the metropolis; and therefore he expected he would vote for this bill.
Mr. Hume said, that he had been a Member of the committee before which the 1357 evidence was taken which led to the proposal of this bill. Upon the evidence adduced before that committee he would not give it his support. If the question were one of humanity, why should donkeys be allowed to be ridden? He believed there were no animals who were worse used than donkeys, and if the question were put on the ground of humanity, the bill should be applied to them. There was no doubt any animals might be abused, but that was no reason why they should never be employed. There were laws already in existence to punish cruelty to animals, and he thought it better to leave the dogs to the protection of those laws. Every one might see that dogs drew carts with the greatest pleasure, at least they seemed to have a great desire to do so. He thought the House should not legislate upon matters which it would be much better to leave to the good sense and humane feelings of the community.
Mr. East replied. He had introduced the bill for the purpose of supposing those cruelties to dogs which took place no less in the country than in town. It should always be remembered, that the feet of dogs were not protected by nature so as to enable them to bear heavy weights. The bill was extremely simple, following closely the provisions of the Metropolitan Act, but extending it to the country. The dogcart nuisance was not only offensive to humanity, but was oftentimes productive of serious consequences. Only within the last few months the Lynn coach had been overturned by a dogcart, and much mischief was the result. He hoped, therefore, that the House would allow the bill to be proceeded with. "


The use of dog-carts thereafter was especially associated with the Low Countries, a collection of pictures may be found here (they may take a while to load):
DOGCARTS & LIONCARTS





Last edited by Linschoten; January 29th, 2012 at 11:53 AM.
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Old January 29th, 2012, 09:32 PM   #2
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What kind of dog is that?
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Old January 30th, 2012, 02:32 AM   #3

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A mutt I would have thought, though someone may correct me.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 02:50 AM   #4

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Wasn't the Rottweiler a German breed originally used to pull milk carts?-- you kept the cash in a bag around the dogs neck!
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Old January 30th, 2012, 02:58 AM   #5

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I didn't know that they had been used to pull carts, but according to wiki, their original name was Rottweiler Metzgerhund - Rottweil butcher's dog - and they were used to pull carts of meat to market. Pulling milk-cart does seem to have been the most common activity of cart-dogs.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 03:02 AM   #6

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I can not see that using a dog is any less humane than using a horse, as long it as it is well treated of course. In fact a dog actually likes 'working'.

An example of Victorian Britain's sentimental love for dogs.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 03:11 AM   #7

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Not necessarily mere sentimentality, I have read accounts of dogs being used to pull excessive loads in London; there had been earlier legislation to try to prevent cruelty to horses, and the people who were concerned with these matters seem to have concluded that dogs are simply too small to be safely allowed to pull carts, i.e. that an unacceptable mmeasure of cruelty was simply inevitable. In the debate, I note that the supporters of the bill did not claim that the use of dogs was necessarily cruel, and thought that the circumstances were different in Holland and the high north where they were used for sleighing.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 09:41 AM   #8

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In 'Three Men on the Bummel' (1900), Jerome K. Jerome writes about German dogs pulling milk-carts:

Now the German dog, on the other hand, has plenty to occupy his mind. He is busy and important. Watch him as he walks along harnessed to his milk-cart. No churchwarden t collection time could look or feel more pleased with himself. He does not do any real work, the human being does the pushing, he does the barking, that is his idea of division of labour. what he says to himself is:

'The old man can't bark, but he can shove. Very well.'

The interest and pride he takes in the business is quite beautiful to see. Another dog passing by makes, maybe, some jeering re arum casting discredit upon the creaminess of the milk. He stops suddenly, quite regardless of the traffic.

'I beg your pardon, what was that you said about our milk?'

'I said nothing about your milk' retorts the other dog, in a tone of gentle innocence. 'I merely said it was a fine day, and asked the price of chalk.'

'Oh, you asked the price of chalk, did you? Would you like to know?,

'Yes, thanks, I thought you would be able to tell me.'

'You are quite right, I can. it's worth- '

'Oh, do come along!' says the old lady, who is tired and hot, and anxious to finish her round.

'Yes but hang it all,did you hear what he hinted about our milk?'

'Oh, never mind him, There's a tram coming round the corner; we shall all get run over.'

'Yes, but I do mind him, one has one's proper pride, he asked the rouceif chakkm and he's going to jni it, it's worth just twenty times as much-'

'You'll have the whole thing over, I know you will!' cries the old lady, pathetically struggling with all her feeble strength to hold him back 'Oh dear, oh dear, I do wish I'd left you at home!'

The tram is bearing down on them, a cab-driver is shouting at them, another huge brute, hoping to be in time to take a hand, is dragging a bread-cart, followed by a screaming child, across the road from the opposite side, a small crowd is collecting; and a policeman is hastening to the scene.

'It's woeth' says the milk dog 'just twentyntimes we much as you'll be worth before I'm done with you.'

'Oh, you think so, do you?'
'Yes, I do, you grandson of a French poodle, you cabbage-eating-'

'There, Iknew you'd have it over,' says thnpoor milk-woman, 'I told him he'd have it over.'

But he is busy,and heeds her not. Five minutes later, when the traffic is renewed, when the bread girl has collected her muddy rolls, and the policeman has gone off with the name and address of everyone in the street, he consents to look behind him.

'It's a bit of man upset' he admits. Then shaking himself free of care, he addsmcheerfully; 'But I guess I taught him the price of chalk. He won't interfere again, I'm thinking.,

'I'm sure I hope not' says the old lady, regarding the milky road.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 11:47 AM   #9

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That's fun, I've never read that book.
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Old January 30th, 2012, 06:33 PM   #10

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It's ironic that the pic displayed is from Belgium during WW1-using dogs to pull carts was long banned in Belgium but allowed during the war.

FWIW-the newly-popular Bernese Mountain Dog was often used as a cart dog and even today dog clubs will have small competitions of their pulling prowess.

Click the image to open in full size.
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