We’re Fascinated With This Weird Victorian Law About Kissing Italian Greyhounds

by Mimi Matthews

Un lévrier reposant sur la chaise by Jacques Raymond Brascassat, 1836.

An 1860 edition of England’s Bedfordshire Mercury reports a “curious scene” from Paris.  An attorney was walking his Italian Greyhound on the Boulevard Beaumarchais when he realized that the delicate little dog had strayed. Retracing his steps, he found his pet in the arms of a dog thief.  The villain had already removed the dog’s collar and identification tags and was attempting to stifle its cries.  The attorney was, according to the article, “a man of great muscular power” and quickly “mastered the delinquent.”  Once he had the thief within his grasp, he gave him two choices – he could either be consigned to the police or he could kneel down on the street and kiss the little dog.

 Bedfordshire Mercury states:

The thief, after some little hesitation, chose the latter alternative, and performed the ceremony in the midst of the laughter and jeers of the bystanders.

 Image 2 copyBoulevard Beaumarchais, Paris, circa 1900.

Satisfied by this display, the attorney was willing to allow the dog thief to depart.  Unfortunately for the thief, however, some local “sergents-de-ville” had come upon the scene.  They insisted that the thief be taken up before the Commissary of Police.  The attorney accompanied them to the office and, once there, explained to the Commissary that he had acted in accordance with an “old law of the Burgundian Parliament.”  This antiquated law (Tit. X., cap. 8, art. 9), which had not yet been repealed, reads as follows:

“If any man has stolen a grayhound (voltrahum) or a ségusiave (segutium – a particular sort of hound used by the Gauls for hunting the boar), or a lurcher (petrunculum), we ordain that the guilty party be obliged either to kiss the animal before the whole people, or to pay five sols of gold to the master of the dog, and two sols as fine.”

The attorney then concluded by interceding on the dog thief’s behalf, arguing that he had already “satisfied the conditions of the law.”  Such an eloquent and learned plea was of no use to the unlucky thief.  The Commissary had recognized him as “an old offender” and, instead of being released, he was sent to the Prefecture.

Image 3 copyBedfordshire Mercury , July 22, 1865. (©2015 British Newspaper Archive)

If you would like to learn more about Italian Greyhounds or if you would like to adopt an Italian Greyhound of your own, the following links may be useful as resources:

The Italian Greyhound Club of America (USA)

The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity (UK)

This post originally appeared on mimimatthews.com and has been reprinted with permission.

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