Turnspit Dogs


Those of you who follow my instagram know that I’m more of a cat lady than a dog one. However I do like the woofly doggos and it astounds me how many different types… breeds… there are.

As part of Making History last week we investigated bloodlines and I learnt how these breeds go in and out of fashion… and some go extinct all together, not just because no one likes them anymore but because they are working dogs and the work doesn’t exist anymore.

One such breed is the turnspit dog, which if you listen to the show, you’ll discover had the horrible task of being placed in hamster wheel that was rigged to the spit above the fire, turning the meat like a medieval kebab van. People who own working dogs know, if you let your sheepdog out, he will try to round up imagined herds, a pointer will guide you with the classic pose, a pinscher will guard stuff with amazing patience. They are bred to love the work they are tasked with. Not so the turnspit dog who apparently hated the task of kitchen engine and would, given half a chance frequently scarper leaving the meat burnt on one side and raw on the other.

The idea that personality can be bred is incredibly interesting. Am I a naturally curious person that I would, given any situation try and find the unusual exciting stories were I born in another era?

You can hear more from Adam Rutherford on the Z List Dead List podcast.

You can hear more from Adam Rutherford on the Z List Dead List podcast.

Tom Holland and I were lucky enough to interview Dr Adam Rutherford about Bloodlines for the same show. How, while you might be directly descended from someone the chances that you share DNA isn’t always the case (you only inherit half from each parent after all, meaning half of their DNA is lost to history… unless you have siblings). It was a fascinating interview. And lead us to talk about eugenics and I’m proud to say we managed the entire segment without talking once about Nazi Germany. Instead we focused on the tragedy of the stolen generations, a story that blows your mind considering how recently it occured.

You can listen to the episode here

The next episode is on Tuesday at 3.30pm on BBC RADIO 4 and is about power lines… from laying cable, female engineers, and how the cloud is under the sea. Also I got to visit a pylon. It was by a canal. The glamour!

I do hope you’re liking the series so far. You can listen on BBC Sounds and provide feedback by following this link (click the ‘send feedback’ button). If you have a moment, that would be excellent of you. I’m dead proud to be part of it!