We are a nation of animal lovers who are besotted with our pets so it is no surprise to discover a wide range of animals featuring in the archives we care for.  From dogs learning to ride scooters to cats helping with the gardening, there is an innumerable amount of sources concerning our beloved pets and animals.  For this blog, I’m going to share with you some of my favourite animal archives.

As you might expect there are countless documents and photographs referring to dogs and cats from a country with an estimated 8.5 million dogs and 7.4 million cats.  They appear regularly in family photographs including this example of a child and father with an early bicycle from Alresford in the early twentieth century.  Jem the tabby cat also features with her owner churchwarden Andrews in c.1890.

Dogs also appear in some more unusual situations such as dressing up or pulling small carnival floats!  In comparison, cats are often more aloof leading them to be a bit more difficult to spot.  A perfect example of this is a photograph of parishioners outside St Katherine’s during a visit to Arundel in 1926.

Our pets also follow us around the world and into the most dangerous places which are revealed by our Green Jackets collection.  The collection documents how dogs have served alongside their owners in various conflict zones including the Western Front and Borneo.

Unexpected animals make appearances throughout the archives including a donkey, pig and monkey featuring in family photographs.

Photographs are not the only source to reveal our love for animals with stories and poems also being written.  My favourite recent discovery has been the story of Algernon the rabbit written by Violet Phillimore for her children.

‘Once upon a time there was a rabbit called Algernon and wishing to see the world, and to get his mother some food, he set out one day with a basket on his arm to pick mushrooms.’

Unfortunately for Algernon, he was caught picking mushrooms by a little man who quickly forgave him and said:

‘“Well, never mind this time, if you leave our tent alone in the future, and you had better come downstairs with me, and see my daughter Jane, who is very fond of rabbits, least the goodones.”’

However, it was a trap and the little man and his family locked Algernon up in a library containing books titled ‘how to cook rabbits’.  Fortunately for Algernon one of the little man’s daughters was kind and helped him run away.  After their escape she said:

‘“Oh darling rabbit” she sobbed, “I must go back now, and they will kill me I expect for letting you out.”
“You shall never go back again, you dear, kind little girl,” said Algernon, “Tell me your name?”
“Dulcibella,” said she, smiling.
“Well Dulcibella you shall come and live with mother and me always, and I will take care of you.” So he took her hand, and they laughed and ran home to Mrs Rabbit, who was so pleased to have Dulcibella, and they all lived happily ever afterwards.’

At the end of the story is this beautiful picture of Algernon and Dulcibella together.

Last, but not least, is our resident animal at the archives, Wendy the hippo.  We adopted Wendy from Marwell Zoo and the cuddly teddy version has been our unofficial mascot since she arrived. Wendy has been a wonderful assistant with her Christmas archive advent and love for cake.

These are a few of the animal archives I’ve found.  What weird and wonderful animals can you find in the archive?

Matthew Goodwin, Archivist

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