Turnspit dog breed

Darwin, in his chapter on dog lineages talked of a “turnspit” breed of dog.  I checked it out and learned that it is apparently an extinct breed of dog that ages ago was trained to walk continuously like a mouse in a wheel cage to turn a spit for cooking meat in a fire.  I did not know that til I read about it in Chapter I, “Domestic Dogs and Cats,” in “The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Volume I, 1897.  The “monstrosity” of the shape of the legs and the body is noted in the paragraph beginning with “Some of the peculiarities.”


  1. Outside of the kitchen, the turn-spit dogs were also used for “fruit presses, butter churns, water pumps, and grain mills.” On their off days, they would accompany their masters to church to serve as foot warmers .


  2. Pretty interesting stuff! I don’t think they were lazy, I just think they did what they needed to do and tested stuff out. This shows you that it worked and didn’t seem like it was too big of an issue. Thank you Dr. Barnes for putting these blogs up. Makes you really think about how far we’ve come.


  3. So this dog was basically a kitchen appliance. I had no idea dog were used for such seemingly simple uses. It makes you wonder what other breeds of animals were used for what we now use machines for, such as horses to cars.


  4. Quite a fascinating story. I definitely wouldn’t put it past humans to make and/or breed something to do a task that is already so simple just because of their own laziness.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s