About Me

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Washington, United States
loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Monday, February 19, 2018

animated natural history: why dogs have floppy ears

thanks british library (PD)

Wolves: upright, pointy ears.  Most dogs: floppy ears.
Hares and wild rabbits: Ears up.  Many domesticated rabbits: Soft floppy ears. 
Boars/pigs? Check. Goats/goats? Check.  Cats/Cats? Um - that one doesn't work; they're all up and pointy, wild or no. (Cats: Throwing wrenches in the works since...ever.)
Still, the ear phenomenon is prevalent enough that it sparks curiosity.  And when I ran across this short, entertaining animation on the subject at NPR, I learned the latest research on why those ears (and those shorter muzzles and those spotted coats).  A publication by Charles Darwin is namechecked: "The variation of plants and animals under domestication."  Want to idly flip through some of that?  You can find an introduction and several editions here.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

in which a pet goldfinch is lovingly remembered

Goldfinch, being wild birds, aren't pets for us today.  However, in a book of pet care dated 1862, I found this (unattributed) story of a beloved pet goldfinch's last years.


I myself until lately possessed a goldfinch which I would not have parted with for an entire aviary of the choicest songsters. He was thirteen years old when he came into my keeping, and his eyes were beginning to fail him. They grew weaker and weaker, till at last the glare of the sunlight was more than he could bear, and I made him curtains of green gauze for which he was very grateful, and never failed to reward me with a bit of extra good music when they were pulled round his cage on sultry afternoons. When he was seventeen years old he went quite blind, but that did not at all interfere with the friendship that existed between us. He knew my footstep as I entered the room, he knew my voice,—I do believe he knew my cough and sneeze from any one else's in the house. He was extremely fond of cabbage-seed, and the door of his cage having been previously opened, I had only to enter the room and call out “cabbage-seed, cabbage seed,” to make him fly out of his cage and come to me. Sometimes I would hide behind the window-curtains, or beneath a table, and it was curious to see him put his little blind head on one side for a moment, to listen in what direction my voice proceeded, and then to dart unerringly to my head or shoulder. What is most remarkable, my brother (whose voice is singularly like mine) has often tried to deceive the blind goldfinch by (im)personating me; but I do believe he might have called “cabbage-seed, cabbage-seed,” till it sprouted in his hand, and the blind finch would not stir an inch. One morning when the blind bird was upwards of eighteen years old, I entered the room; alas! he was deaf to the enticement of cabbage-seed—he was dead at the bottom of his cage.

Weir, Harrison, 1824-1906, and Samuel Orchart Beeton. The Book of Home Pets: Showing How to Rear And Manage, In Sickness And In Health, Birds, Poultry, Pigeons, Rabbits, Guinea-pigs, Dogs, Cats, Squirrels, Fancy Mice, Tortoises, Bees, Silkworms, Ponies, Donkeys, Goat, Inhabitants of the Aquarium, Etc. Etc. : With a Chapter On Ferns. London: S.O. Beeton, 1862. 5.

Friday, February 16, 2018

happy new year of the dog!

Gift of Estate of Samuel Isham, 1914 www.metmuseum.org
2018 is the year of the Earth Dog.  Here's a dog year surimono calendar created in Japan in 1814, with a jolly furball wishing you the best (and also wishing you would play ball, by the look of it).  Were you born in a dog year?  You can check what element type your dog year is here

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

this is the cat of jack's diverting story

thanks hathi trust (PD)
http://bit.ly/2EoSjAp
Remember the house that Jack built and all the things that happened to him thereafter? (Spoiler: He got married and did really well for himself.)  Sometime in the years 1800-43, a prettily colored version was published by John Harris of London.  Titled "A History of the House That Jack Built: A Diverting Story," it includes this picture of the Cat doing in a strangely unconcerned Rat so that it won't eat up Jack's malt.  Jack must have been a brewer. Oh, I guess that explains why he did so well.  Want to see the whole book?  Look here.

Monday, February 12, 2018

a keeshond says, "i bide my time"

http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.503183  www.rijksmuseum.nl
At least I'm pretty sure that's what the slogan in this Dutch emblem says.  What would a Keeshond be plotting that his time needs biding?  As it happens, this emblem, dating from 1787, falls during a time in Dutch history when a political faction calling themselves the "Patriots" were actively opposing the rule of William V, Prince of Orange.  The Keeshond dog became the symbol of the Patriot party, while the Orange party was associated with pugs.  In 1787 the Prussians defeated the Patriot faction and many went into exile; this must be why "I bide my time."  Here's a bit more on that from the Rijksmuseum

Sunday, February 11, 2018

the turtle akbar

  • Gift of G.A. de Graag www.rijkmuseum.nl
Before I do anything else, let me offer you the link to this piece over at the Rijksmuseum, so you can really see and enjoy it.  This is a print (woodcut) by Dutch artist Julie de Graag (1877-1924), immortalizing turtle Akbar, dog Max, and cat...uh, Puss.  ("Poes" in Dutch.)  There is very little in English-language scholarship to date about de Graag, which is a pity, as her woodcuts of animals and nature are devastating in their skill and beauty.  Look:

  • Gift of G.A. de Graag www.rijkmuseum.nl

Three Cats, 1916

  • Gift of M. J.. de Graag www.rijkmuseum.nl
Ferns, 1920
I was able to find an entry on de Graag in the Dictionary of Women Artists (1997).  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

another little spaniel, 1560s


Gift of Edith Neuman de Végvár, in honor of her husband, Charles Neuman de Végvár, 1963. www.metmuseum.org
This work by Northern Italian painter Bernardino Campi (1522-91) is known only as "Portrait of a Woman," and dates from the 1560's.  Here we find another example of a very small spaniel, this one portrayed in an oddly toylike way.  This may have something to do with Campi's Mannerist styling (seen in the lady's elongated figure and the extreme detail of her clothing).  If you're curious about Mannerism, which was a pretty curious movement in any case, here's an article at the Metropolitan.