Turnspit Dog

In England, in the Wiltshire region, is a village called Lacock. It is one of those place preserved as it once was and given to the National Trust so you get a feel of what life was once like there. One of the most interesting things there, to me at least, was a little inn.

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Inside is a large fireplace with a giant wheel attached at the side where you learn a dog once ran inside to turn the wheel, to make the spit turn so meat would get cooked evenly over the fire. These dogs, with short legs and small bodies, were even specially bred especially for this purpose. (In fact, small boys did this job at one time). The breed has died out, if indeed it was a real breed. I saw a dog the other day with the fur, head and tail of a labrador but the legs and body of a basset hound which I guess could be reproduced into a breed if you had the desire.

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It looked like this.

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A view of the fireplace with the wheel on the left side.

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A drawing of the dog at work. They think the dog was related to an Irish dog called the Glen of Imaal Terrier which were bred to dig into badger dens and dispatch them. I read that there were two of these turnspit dogs here at this inn and that usually every morning one of them would hide, not wanting to do the work. The other one, knowing he would be put to work if the other couldn’t be found, would show the people where the other dog was hiding.
Just another case of, “Who knew?”

9 thoughts to “Turnspit Dog”

  1. Wow! What an amazing story, I have never heard anything like this before. Thanks for the history lesson.

    I love the photo of the Inn, so pretty!

  2. We were always surprised when living in Great Britain how welcome dogs were in all sorts of places you couldn’t take them in other countries. For instance, seated at the table in a pub, or on the train. And there were no special requirements that the dog be helping a disabled person either. They were just looked on as furry friends. We were once in the middle of a near-fistfight in a pub in Wales, just following the town’s annual countryside show where there’d been a hair’s breath decision on which dog won the amateur sheep herding competition. It had been a West Highland Terrier over a Border Collie – or so they decided by some means, maybe flipping a coin. We’d watched the whole performance and it was really impossible to say which was clearly better. Both owners turned up with their dogs at the local and the discussion went on long and loud – and with lots of booze to fuel the language. The proprietor eventually moved us to the “diningroom” for our meal and we were glad to be out of the range of any black eyes that were exchanged. Interesting country life.

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