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In England during the time of Queen Anne, bull-baiting was practised in London at Hockley-in-the-Hole, twice a week – and was also reasonably common in provincial towns. At Stamford and 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 immobilise 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 bulldog was bred especially for this sport.
Bull-baiting was not only practised as a form of recreation. In early modern England, many towns had by-laws regulating the sale of meat, which stipulated that bulls' flesh should be baited before any bull was slaughtered and put on sale. It was believed that baiting improved the flesh. These laws continued in operation during the eighteenth century. By the early nineteenth century, they were starting to die out, mainly because the baiting caused a public nuisance rather than because of new ideas 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 of 1835, which forbid the keeping of any house, pit, or other place for baiting or fighting any bull, bear, dog, or other animal.
Dogs in bull baiting
Bull baiting dogs, referred to today as bulldogs, were bred to bait animals, mainly bulls and bears. During bull-baiting the dog would attempt to flatten itself to the ground, creeping as close to the bull as possible, then darting out and attempting 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. In 1835, the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in Parliament that outlawed "Blood Sport" in Great Britain. The bulldog's work was suddenly over and the bulldog rapidly started dying out. Around 1865 dog fanciers began developing dog clubs which eventually culminated into conformation shows. Many fanciers utilized various remnants of the dog utilized for "Blood Sport" to resurrect the "Bull" dog and ultimately developed today's modern English bulldog.
- Griffin, Emma. "Sports and Celebrations in English Market Towns". Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- *Jenkins, Robert; Ken Mollett (1997). The Story of the Real Bulldog. Neptune, NJ: TFH Publications. ISBN 0-7938-0491-4.
- Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports. Routledge (UK). 2005. ISBN 0-415-35224-X.
- Fogle, Bruce; Tracy Morgan (2000). The new encyclopedia of the dog. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 381. ISBN 0-7894-6130-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bull-baiting.|
- Griffin, Emma (2005). England's Revelry: A History of Popular Sports and Pastimes. Oxford University Press.
- The Trial of 2 Centuries: Animal v. Animal Sport: Bull-Baiting
- Bull baiting in the Eastern Essex area of the UK