In this edited extract from “Old Times in The Potteries”, by William Scarratt, who was born at Tunstall in the early 1840s, the author describes a dogfight which he saw when he was a pupil at King Street National School.
William told his readers that:
“Even though dogfighting was on the decline in the 1840s and 1850s, there were still many fighting dogs kept in Tunstall. These bull-terriers or fighting dogs had coarse yellow or brown hair with white patches over one or both eyes and ears. The dogs were pugnacious to a high degree, although affectionate and quiet at home. A fighting dog had to be prompted to attack another fighting dog, but once a fight started the two dogs continued fighting until they were exhausted.
“On one occasion during school dinner time, I saw a fight between two dogs. One was a white bull-terrier that weighed 24lbs. The other was a broken haired, crossbred bull-terrier that weighed 28lbs.
“No one tried to stop them fighting. After several rounds both dogs were exhausted. They could only crawl along the ground to each other to continue the fight when the next round started.
“It was an accidental scratch battle, to begin with. Then men took respective sides for each dog. A series of lines were drawn on the ground to make ‘a ring’ in which the dogs could fight. At the end of each round, the dogs were picked up by their owners and carried over the lines where their mouths were cleared of loose hairs.
“Because the spectators believed neither combatant would yield to the other, I understood that the dog which failed to drag itself over the first of the series of lines at the start of the next round would be considered vanquished. The contest lasted about an hour. When it ended, the men picked up the dogs who were unable to walk and took them to the Grapes Inn where they were weighed in an outhouse.”