NOTICE of BULL BAITING to be held at Combe Hole, Buckland
BULL – BAITING, in the Middle Ages, was extremely popular in England and was patronised by all classes of people, from the very rich to the poor, and great amounts of money changed hands in wagers on the outcome of these contests. Almost every town and village in the country had its bull ring. Bulls, bears, horses, and other animals were trained for baiting. It was a highlight of market days, annual wakes and fairs, and special occasions.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries this sport (the original reason for breeding bulldogs) was very much alive. Baiting was a public spectacle and in those less gentile times considered good sport. The bull would be tied with collar and rope and tormented with ferocious dogs. The same type of bulldog was also used by hunters to catch game and by butchers and farmers to bring down unruly cattle. It was believed then that sending a dog out after a bull would tenderize the meat.
In 1822 a law was passed to prevent the cruel and improper treatment of cattle. This was the first parliamentary legislation for animal welfare in the world.
In 1835 the Protection of Animals Act made bull, bear and badger baiting, as well as cock and dog fighting illegal. However, the legislation only covered cruelty to domestic and captive animals, not wild ones. In the same year, Princess Victoria became a patron of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (established in 1824). She added the “Royal” handle in 1840. As a result, the RSPCA increasingly became identified with the upper classes.
In 1876 the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed – but there was still no progress for wild animals.
(from Kentish Gazette July 15 to 19th 1785 page 1)