Cute animals – and a ferret riddle

Cute animals are a staple of social media and other online platforms, so here are some animal stories from 19th Century Cumberland. 

Ok, ‘cute animals’ is the nearest Cumbrian Characters gets when it comes to click-bait. And is used with tongue firmly in cheek!

There are no cat videos in this post – it’s just a shameless way to link otherwise news stories of a clever dog, a resourceful deer, and two animal-related court cases.

One of those poses an unusual question: when is a ferret not a ferret? When it’s an engine. 

Not an unfunny joke, but a real legal conundrum. 

A resourceful deer

The first of our cute animals is a 1843 account of the Cumberland Stag Hounds, who chased a hind from Wreay till she took refuge in someone’s kitchen near Hesket New Market, after a 30-mile chase.

They met at Wreay, went towards Foulbridge, the right towards Bronthwaite, then by Woodside and Newbiggin Hall, across the Petteril, she kept to the right side of the river for about a mile, then crossed the Carlisle and Penrith turnpike at Scalesceugh, and round the east end of Wragmire Moss to Lowthian Gill, over the top of Great Barrock to Aiket Gate, thence to Low Hesket and Barrock Lodge, re-crossed the Petteril and up the hill for Ellerton, and taking a good line over Broadfield, soon gained the Valley of Ive Gill. (After a few minutes’ check, the hounds) ran over Middlesceugh pastures, by Middlesceugh Hall to Skelton Wood foot, then to the right by Sowerby Row and over Hewer Hill…. and so it goes on, till the poor exhausted creature found sanctuary and a chance to rest.

A clever dog

The second of our cute animals can be found in a news report from 1890.

On October 21, the Penrith Observer came up with the ‘punchy’ headline (!): Remarkable Sagacity of a Dog.

Mrs Scott, Ashley House, Castletown, Penrith, owns a small terrier dog which met with an accident more than a week ago.  On the 12th inst, she sent it for treatment to Mr Joseph Pears V.S (veterinary surgeon), Little Dockray, a boy leading the animal by a string.

Mr Pears found the animal to be badly cut and bruised on the fore leg, and from the noise it made while being attended to, the injured creature appeared to be suffering acutely. The wounds having been dressed, the dog was taken home again. Mr Pears was very much surprised next day to see his patient arrive alone at his establishment. He gave it the necessary attention, after which the animal went away, returning entirely unattended each day up to Saturday (by which time it was well again) and seemed anxious to be speedily dealt with.

When is a ferret not a ferret?

Fast-forward to March 1895, and: The Peculiar Game Case.

Wigton Police Court. John Hewson Wilson, joiner, West Street, Wigton, and Frederick Bell, tanner, Station Hill, Wigton, were charged with unlawfully having a ferret ‘or other engine’ in their possession for the purpose of taking game. Thomas Warwick, labourer, of South End, was charged with aiding and abetting them.

The constable who stopped them on the road had returned the ferret to them.

The Clerk had used a two-week adjournment to consider the legal aspects of the case. Mr Gibson for the defence had claimed a ferret was not an engine within the meaning of the Act.

The clerk stated in his opinion the case was not brought within the provisions of the Act, and must therefore be dismissed.

And finally…

Also in 1895 March 8 (ok, not strictly a ‘cute animals’ story).

Wigton Police Court. John Brough, farmer’s son, of Newtown, Mawbray, and Robert Robinson, farmer, Greyson House, Holme St Cuthbert’s parish, were separately fined 10 shillings plus costs for being drunk in charge of a horse and cart.

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