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Jan 1 2013 @ 6:04pm

Turnspit_Dog_Working-460

After noticing a dog treadmill for sale in a gift guide for pet owners, Rachel Laudan discovers it's not an entirely new development:

Early in the twentieth century the Sears catalog advertised dog treadmills for $15, very roughly about $300 in present day terms. These were all business, though.  The treadmills designed so that a dog (or a sheep or a goat) could do the hard work of churning butter.

Dogs were also employed for turning meat in front of the fire. Nicola Twilley has more:

The existence of a special dog bred for kitchen service was mentioned as early as 1576, in an English book on dogs. According to the BBC, the turnspit was recognised by taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus as a separate breed in 1756. Based on contemporary references, it was a terrier of some sort, developed from badger-hunting dogs. Turnspits were long in the body, like a sausage dog, with droopy ears and short, strong legs that Darwin remarked upon as an example of a desirable genetic trait nurtured through selective breeding.

Abergavenny Museum claims to have “the last surviving specimen of a turnspit dog, albeit stuffed,” in its collection. However, Wilson reports that “dog wheels were still being used in American restaurant kitchens well into the nineteenth century,” when, in the face of early animal rights lobbying, they were often replaced with young black children.

(Image c. 1800 of a turnspit dog from Wikipedia)