Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dog Whipper

A dog whipper was a church official charged with removing unruly dogs from a church or church grounds during services.

In some areas of Europe during the 16th to 19th centuries it was not uncommon for household dogs to accompany - or at least follow - their owners to church services. If these animals became disruptive it was the job of the dog whipper to remove them from the church, allowing the service to continue in peace.

Dog whippers were usually provided with a whip (hence the title) or a pair of large wooden tongs with which to remove the animals. They were generally paid for their services, and records of payments to the local dog whipper exist in old parish account books in many English churches. In some areas a portion of village land was made available for the use of the dog whipper, the small park named 'Dog Acre' in Birchington-on-Sea is the remnant of such a grant.

Some villages employed dog whippers in a more general capacity, dealing with stray and disruptive dogs throughout the village. In this sense dog whippers were precursors of modern animal control officers.

Dog whippers became less common from the late 18th century onwards, presumably because animals were increasingly unwelcome at church services. One of the last recorded dog whippers was one John Pickard, who was appointed to Exeter Cathedral in 1856. A small room in the cathedral is still known as the Dog Whipper's Flat.

A dog whipper's whip survives in the parish church of St Anne at Baslow in Derbyshire and a dog whipper's pew is preserved in St. Margaret's Church in Wrenbury, Cheshire. A notable carving of a dog whipper removing a dog with his whip can be seen in the Great Church of St. Bavo in Haarlem.

With the advent of animal shelters, this job became obsolete.

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