When dogs played domi­noes

BBC History Magazine - - History Now / Backgrounder - Jar­row Ex­press 8 July 1892

Thereis a fa­mous paint­ing by Cas­sius Mar­cel­lus Coolidge, from 1894, that de­picts a num­ber of dogs sit­ting around a ta­ble play­ing poker. It be­came his call­ing card as an artist, and he painted and re­painted the scene well into the 20th cen­tury. Per­haps, it might be ar­gued, Coolidge found in­spi­ra­tion for this scene two years ear­lier, when the Jar­row Ex­press car­ried an ex­cit­ing re­port of a fa­mous ‘Dog Domino Player’. Mr Leonard, who the pa­per de­scribed as “a gen­tle­man of in­de­pen­dent for­tune”, had taken up a new hobby.

Clearly blessed with more money than sense, Mr Leonard was oc­cu­py­ing his time by teach­ing his dogs to play domi­noes. A num­ber of his friends, hav­ing wit­nessed the dogs play one an­other, be­gan to ar­gue that it was all a trick, and so to chal­lenge Mr Leonard’s ca­nine com­peti­tors, a game be­tween man and dog was de­vised. Each player placed their domino, tak­ing in turns to play the right piece. To try and prove that the dog was sim­ply do­ing what it was told, Mr Leonard’s com­pan­ion played the wrong piece. To every­one’s sur­prise, the dog went berserk, and then won the game. News story sourced from british­news­pa­per­ar­chive.co.uk and re­dis­cov­ered by Fern Riddell. Fern reg­u­larly ap­pears on BBC Ra­dio 3’s Free Think­ing

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