Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Possibly the oldest dog to attend Crufts, sets tongues wagging thanks to the Mary Rose Museum

Simon Clabby, Mary Rose 500 Appeal

Some of you may have seen in the media that earlier in March the Mary Rose 500 Appeal went on tour to Birmingham, taking a member of the ships crew with us. This crew member is special for two reasons. Firstly, she (yes, she, the only definite female on the ship at the time of sinking) was the youngest member of the crew, and secondly, she was a dog!

According to the wear on her teeth she was about 18 months to two years old when the Mary Rose sank on July 19th 1545, and her remains were found in and around the carpenter’s cabin, towards the stern (back end) of the ship. Despite what you may have heard in some of the papers, she wasn’t actually trapped in the door. While some parts of her were found inside the cabin, the door was slightly ajar when discovered, so the movements of the sea, not to mention marine scavengers, would have moved them around, some falling through the door.

While it’s possible that she may have been some sort of mascot, the Mary Rose dog was onboard for one simple reason; rats. Rats in Tudor times were as much, if not more of a problem in dockyards and onboard ships than they are today, and although they were yet to be linked with diseases, they still caused enough damage to food supplies to be considered a pest that needed removing. In later years cats were used for this job, but the Mary Rose was in service during a period when cats were considered unlucky (in fact, the Pope had instructed the Spanish Inquisition to destroy all cats, and at the coronation of Elizabeth I a cat was burnt as a symbolic gesture or driving out evil from the land!) so dogs were used as ratters instead. She seems to have been good at her job, as rat remains from the Mary Rose consist of four bones from the pelvis/tail area!

The sumptuary laws which determined what materials and foods people of different social statuses were allowed forbade the poor from owning purebred animals, so she definitely would have been a mongrel. However, during our time at Crufts, we did get a lot of people, including two vets from the Kennel Club, suggesting she was possible some form of Terrier. Even so, she’s unlikely to have belonged to any modern breed, despite some of the insistences of one or two breeders groups! She shows signs of exostoses, abnormal bone growth on one of the ribs and her left front paw, which can be hereditary. Luckily for her, they’re not that pronounced, but may have caused her some minor discomfort. She also appears to be missing teeth, as there are two tooth sockets absent.

Crufts itself was an incredible experience. I have no idea how many dogs we saw over the four days of the event, but there were all sorts, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, Pitbulls to Poodles, and they all appeared to be enjoying themselves. We had pride of place on the Kennel Club’s stand, right in front of the main entrance from Birmingham International railway station, and the levels of interest from both the public and the other exhibitors were incredible. We met hundreds of people who’d heard about us in the papers, on the radio and via Twitter (including our feed, at, which I was updating as often as time and duty permitted!), and they all had opinions, suggestions and enthusiasm for both the dog and the Appeal. We got to meet Prince Michael of Kent (lovely man!), I got to go on Radio Crufts FM, and we all had our photos taken by the press and public. Sadly we never made it onto More4, who were broadcasting the event, and we didn’t win any rosettes, but at least we could say that our little mongrel, who spent her short life chasing rats around the hold of Henry VIII’s favourite warship, was the oldest (467, or 1881 in dog years!), most well behaved dog at the show. She was certainly the easiest to photograph! (If you visit our Crufts gallery at , you can see some of our photos) Overall, all of us who attended had a great time, and even though it was exhausting, we thoroughly enjoyed it!

We were at Crufts for two reasons. Firstly, it was to show off the dog (which, if you missed it there, will be on display at the Mary Rose Museum from March 26th), and secondly to raise awareness about the Mary Rose 500 Appeal, which is trying to raise money to create a new home for the Mary Rose, her artefacts and, of course, the dog! If you want to join the new crew of the Mary Rose visit for more information on how you can help, or become a fan on facebook ( for updates and events.

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