The History of Bull-Baiting

Human beings, it seems, have always had a strong disposition to manipulate animal life for 'sporting' purposes. Of the animal sports in eighteenth-century England, bull-baiting was the most prominent. It was common at many wakes, closely associated with fairs, the 5th of November celebration, and was one of the festivities at local elections. For some communities it may have been a fairly regular recreation. In the 18th century town of Chichester, it was said by one resident to have been "given to mean diversions such as bull-baiting, which was very frequent, and for which many bulldogs were kept in town to the great torture and misery of those poor animals"1. Butchers were sometimes required to have a bull-baited before killing it. If the butcher refused to have his bull participate in this sport he would have to pay a fine. Bull-baiting usually took place in a publican's yard, an accessible open field, or a market place. In some towns like Harewood, Darlington, and Hornsea, this sport was played so much that these towns had an iron ring permanently fixed in the ground to which the bull's rope could be fastened. The relative frequency of bull-baiting was largely due to the scarcity of bears, which was the animal of choice.


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