Dogs have many purposes. Hunting, herding, protecting or helping people with disabilities. But back in the 16th and 17th century England, there was a dog used as a, lets say, a high-tech solution to a kitchen and household needs. This dog was known as the Turnspit dog, or Kitchen dog, Cooking dog or the Underdog.
Back in the 16th century, people were cooking meat on an open fire, which required continuously spinning the meat so it would be evenly cooked on all sides. Until the invention of turnspit wheel, this was done by a person, but since than, it was done by a dog! The Turnspit dog.
These dogs were not considered as pets, but rather as household tool, a machine. The Turnspit dog was specifically bred to run on a wooden wheel that was turning the meat. The wooden wheel would be attached on the wall near the fireplace and also attached directly to the spit. The dog would ran in the wheel, similarly like a hamster, and as they ran the meat was rotating.
The Turnspit dog was not a pure breed, but it is speculated that they might have been related to Welsh Corgi or Glen of Imaal Terrier, both displayed in this video. Some people say, that they were some kind of a Spaniel dog.
The Turnspit dog had a long body and short legs. It was a small dog breed. They had very muscular and very often bent legs, which was a result of the never ending running in the wheel. From pictures we have, the Turnspit dog had a shorter coat and longer muzzle, thick tail and they came in all kinds of different colors.
As you can imagine, this was extremely hard job. The heat of the fire, the neverending run in the wheel, the clanking of the spit.. From todays perspective, it was absolutely cruel and inhumane to use a dog like this.
There are even stories that say, that in order to make the dog run faster, hot coal or wood was thrown into the wheel.
The Turnspit dog was mainly used in Great Britain, but they were also employed in United States since the end of 18th century. They were used for this cruel purpose until the 1850s, when the future founder of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was appalled by the way the turnspit dogs were treated in the hotels of Manhattan. It is believed that the treating of Turnspit dogs was one of the reason to found this organization.
At the 18th century, Turnspit dogs were everywhere in England, in majority of households. At the end of 19th century, they dissappeared and today, they are completely extinct.
The last Turnspit Dog, well, a stuffed Turnspit dog, is displayed at the Abergavenny Museum in Wales.