Bristol Water Dogs

This is one of my favourite discoveries from the first proper map of the city of Bristol by draper Jacob Millers dated 1673. It’s full of fascinating details of buildings and streets. But look closely:

Downstream from the bridge is a bird in the water and some animals. The recent sighting of a seal led a flurry of interest in this map. But this was a polluted river and a busy port. Can’t think why a seal would come 3miles upstream and locals would hunt it. But crucially, these swimming beasts have ears.

Well you may say, a mistake or artistic licence?

Here’s another one upstream:

But this was an expensive engraving by and for ppl if the city and beyond. All details must be taken seriously. Now look at this piece:

In the far left near the junction of the Avon and Frome is another beast but with a cross on its back, like you might use to attach a rope to. Or like a pommel on a saddle.

I’m pretty sure they are all water dogs to rescue people who fell into the water because a lot of ppl did. Sometimes even when sober.

I can’t recall the detail but there was a newspaper item of a couple arguing near the bridge. she threw herself and baby into the river and water dogs were launched to save her.

I’ve no idea what they looked like as many breeds of working dogs have died out but here’s a Bristol Mastiff which explorer Martin Pring used to scare off locals in North America.

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