Bear Baiting

Our ancestors had limited entertainments, but they often seemed to involve mistreatment of animals. Despite – or perhaps because – bears  became extinct in Britain in about the 6th century, bear baiting by large dogs seems to have been popular. But I always thought they were travelling shows. This item from a book on Derbyshire shows it to have been part of local life:

Cocking and bull and bear baiting used to be popular sports in this district. There was generally a bull-baiting after Sunday morning service outside the church at Chepel-en-le-Frith, and one old man I spoke with [c.1900] told me that when he was a boy at Little Hucklow the iron bull ring, fixed in a big stone, was still to be seen in the middle of the village. At Bagshawe traces of a bear pit are yet to be found, and for many years bears were kept by a local family of the name of Shotwell or Shotter. At holiday times Shotter and his bear went to the village feast just as the rifle-gallery proprietor goes there now. Nor was it a small distinction to own a bear.

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