The Cat Eaters | Articles | Features | Fortean Times UK

For some unfathomable reason, the 17th and 18th centuries threw up a formidable clutch of prodigious eaters. Nothing was safe from their terrible appetites or too disgusting to refuse, as Jan Bondeson gleefully describes.

Antiquaries and historians now recognize Lysons’ Collecteana as a valuable source of cultural history and, while studying them, I came across a startling newspaper cutting from the World, of March 13, 1788: “Amongst the curious Betts of the day, may be reckoned the following: The Duke of Bedford has betted 1000 guineas with Lord Barrymore, that he does not – eat a live Cat! It is said his Lordship grounds his chances upon having already made the experiment upon a Kitten. The Cat is to be fed as Lord Barrymore may chose.”

But what of Lord Bedford’s bet that Lord Barrymore could not eat a cat? Surely practices of the kind described by the ancients had not survived into 18th-century Britain? The unusual bet certainly attracted considerable public attention and several letters and articles appeared in the World under the headline ‘Cat Eating’. One authority on blood sports pointed out that it was “not without precedents in the annals of sporting.” He had himself, he wrote, at a racecourse near Kildare, witnessed an Irishman devouring five fox cubs for a bet of £50. Another said he had, in 1777, seen a Yorkshire shepherd eat a live black tom cat to win a bet of two guineas.

via The Cat Eaters | Articles | Features | Fortean Times UK.

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