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The Learned English Dog


“The learned English Dog … answers various questions in Ovid’s Metamorphoses…”

dog02Be Amazed by the Learned English Dog, who could answer questions on the topic of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was an expert in Roman history and knew the Greek alphabet. Exhibited in a public hourse in Northampton in November 1753, this Learned Dog (for there were several other rival hounds touring the country during the 18th and earlier 19th centuries) had a wide range of talents. The local newspaper, the Mercury, recommended a visit to the exhibition heartily:

“Of all the extraordinary curiosities that have ever been exhibited to the inspection for the curious, none have met with such a general approbation and esteem as the learned English Dog, now at the Angel Inn in this town: for he actually reads, writes, and casts accounts; answers various questions in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, geography, the Roman, English, and sacred history.”

dog04But in addition to such great academic prestige, this highly educated hound could read the time, tell the difference between colours, and, at the climax of his show, prove himself capable of Extra-Sensory Perception by reading spectators’ thoughts: he could reveal “the impenetrable secret” or tell “any person’s thoughts in company.”

That knowledge of classical authors and the ancient Greek alphabet were proof of the prodigious intelligence of an animal which even had telepathic powers is telling evidence of the degree of difficulty—and therefore cultural prestige in financial and class terms—associated by the provincial inn-going public with these parts of the educational curriculum.

encounter by Finlay


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