The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 21, 2011

December 21, 1821

The Rev. Samuel Haughton, M.D., F.R.S (December 21, 1821 to October 31, 1897) was president of the Royal Irish Academy, serving from 1886 to 1891, and for twenty years he was secretary of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland. Haughton succeeded Sir Samuel Ferguson in the presidency and it is actually in a book about Ferguson where we find some illuminating details about Haughton, tigers, and zoos, in the Victorian era.

According to the authors of Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of His Day, Haughton "is a man eminent in the scientific world, the author of ' Principles of Animal Mechanics,' 1873, and 'Lectures on Physical Geography,' 1880. He is Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and he takes an active interest in the work of the Dublin Hospitals, and in the Zoological Gardens. 

Haughton's tiger stories fascinated these authors and they recount: "He has found it a difficult matter to raise the funds necessary for the support of the Zoo, and on an occasion when it was urgently in need of funds Professor Haugfiton called on his friends and fellow-citizens to become subscribers to the Institution. 'I have applied in vain to the Bank of Ireland for an advance of one hundred pounds [he stated]. The directors have demurred, although I have offered ample security for twice the amount. I proposed to hand over and deposit with them a fine young tiger well worth two hundred pounds; but, strange to relate, they have declined my offer.'

Regarding the Rev. Haughton, the text continues:

One of the finest tigers in the collection has shown its gratitude for services rendered by the courageous and resourceful Professor. The beast—a noble specimen—was threatened with gangrene in its paw, the claw having become distorted and grown into the foot. It was believed that amputation would be necessary to save its life; but how to perform the operation was the question, and what surgeon would volunteer to beard the tiger in his den? Dr Haughton undertook the dangerous experiment. In conjunction with his confreres he devised a net-work which was thrown over the animal, his mate having been secured in a side-den. Thus entangled, the tiger was drawn forward to the partially opened door, its feet, excepting the diseased one, firmly held by the assistant surgeons in the network, so that the beast, though much excited, was unable to strike at the operator. The infuriated animal had almost freed himself by a bound which brought his head in contact with the roof of his den, and blood flowed freely from the wound thus inflicted. The rage of the tigress looking on through the bars of the side-den was terrible. She flung herself against the barrier with an impetus which threatened to shatter it, and knocked off the hat of Professor Haughton. The efforts of the powerful beasts were, however, unavailing. The tiger was again drawn to the front, and the diseased paw operated on by Dr Haughton, who found it would suffice to cut away the offending claw, the suffering beast angrily endeavouring to strike at the operator who put him to so much pain. As soon as the wound was dressed and the network withdrawn the tigress was re-admitted. She had watched the surgical operation, and at once turned up the tiger's paw and inspected the work done; then she licked her mate, as a cat its kittens, and soothed him speedily, and soon the operators withdrew. A week later Dr Haughton was again at the Zoo to see how his patient got on. It was the dining hour of the carnivora, and the house was filled with children and other spectators. Professor Haughton kept in the background; but the animal espied him, and dropping the bone at which he was gnawing, began to purr like a cat, and rub himself against the bars. Seeing himself in this friendly fashion recognised, Dr Haughton came forward, got the keeper to open a part of the door of the den, and the tiger, still purring and rubbing his shoulder as a pleased cat is wont to do, allowed the paw to be examined, and evidently recognised in the operator who had enraged him previously a benefactor to whom he desired to express gratitude for service done to him. "Next day, and for years after, the tigress showed herself most friendly and grateful for what I had done," writes Dr Haughton.

The above details may be found in the book Sir Samuel Ferguson in the Ireland of his day, Volume 2, (1896),  written and compiled by  "Mary Catherine (Guiness) Ferguson (lady)" and Sir Samuel Ferguson.

 And so we find that the ancient story of the wild beast grateful to a human for removing a thorn, casts a long shadow in European cultural history.

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