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Defining Pets in the 18th and 21st Centuries: Pets as Privileged Animals

Array ( [0] => ENGL 6330 Spring 2018 [1] => no-show [2] => student exhibit )

A house is not a home until it has a dog.

—Gerald Durrell, author of My Family and Other Animals

Mr. Saunders Feeding Caesar and Pompey
Mr. Saunders feeding Caesar and Pompey3

Caesar and Pompey

Found in Arnaud Berquin’s The Children’s Friend (1788), the story “Caesar and Pompey” tells of Mr. Saunders’ “two handsome dogs, one Caesar and the other Pompey. He had named them so”[3]. From the beginning, this work reinforces Thomas’ point that a pet is distinguished from other animals by a distinct name. During the eighteenth century, the names “Caesar” and “Pompey” were popular dog monikers, a popularity that continued into the early nineteenth century [1].

The dogs are described as “Caesar was extremely meek and docile; Pompey rough and quarrelsome”[3]. To this end, Mr. Saunders gives the dogs some meat which Pompey aggressively eats both his and Caesar’s portions which Caesar allows and does not retaliate. This leads Mr. Saunders to tell Caesar “since you have shewn yourself thus complisant and generous… you shall be in future my own dog, and range about the house as you think proper; but your brother shall be tied up in the yard” [3]. Because Caesar proves himself to be of agreeable temperament he is allowed to enter into Mr. Saunders domestic space, thus reinforcing the connection between pets and domestic space as put forth by both Thomas and Tague, (see “Defining Characteristics” on the previous page for more). Conversely, Pompey has shown he is not pet material and is thus relegated to the space outside reserved for animals not worthy of being allowed to share the same space as humans because of their disposition.  

Gulliver bids farewell to his Houyhnhnm master
Gulliver bidding farewell to his Houyhnhnm Master4

Gulliver's Travels

Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel, Gulliver’s Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World details the journeys of ship surgeon Lemuel Gulliver as he is cast upon unfamiliar shores by his shipmates. One such shore is the land of the Houyhnhnms, a species of intelligent horses who must deal with the beastly, human-like creatures known as Yahoos. This text depicts a layered portrayal of the defining characteristics that defined an animal as a pet in the eighteenth century.  

In Houyhnhnmland, the Houyhnhnms are the superior species and keep Yahoos as work animals. Gulliver resembles the Yahoos but is distinct in his ability to speak. Intrigued, one of the Houyhnhnms, whom Gulliver refers to as “master,” takes Gulliver in as a kind of pet.

Gulliver in his lodgings
Gulliver in his lodgings next to his Master’s home5

Gulliver’s Home and Name 

He is given his own “place for me to lodge in…six yards from the house” (31) and separated from the stabled Yahoos who were in a “building at some distance from the house… all tied by the neck with strong wyths”(22).  Additionally, he is given access to the Houyhnhnms’ living space which consisted of “a large room…a second room…a third room” (19-20).

Although he is not given a distinct name, Gulliver is distinguished from the other Yahoos through his master’s reference to him as “a perfect Yahoo”(41)[4].



The sorrel nag protects Gulliver from the Yahoos
The sorrel nag protecting Gulliver from Yahoos10

Gulliver Domesticated

In spending time with the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver is domesticated. He knows not to use his claws against the Houyhnhnms and to relieve himself outside due to “my teachableness, civility, and cleanliness” (34). He is therefore wholly dependent upon the Houyhnhnms’ protection from the Yahoos and is accompanied by a protector whenever he is let out to roam “being one day abroad with my protector the sorrel nag” (122)[4].


[1] Grier, Katherine C. Pets in America: A History. University of North Carolina Press, 2006, 8.

[2] Brandes, Stanley. “Dear Rin Tin Tin: An Analysis of William Safire’s Dog-Naming Survey from 1985.” Names, vol. 60, no. 1, 2012, pp. 3–14.

[3] Berquin, Arnaud M. Caesar and Pompey. The Children's Friend, Volume 2, J. Stockdale, 1788, 139–142. Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

[4] Johnathan Swift. Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. Vol. 2, Benj. Motte, at the Middle Temple-Gate in Fleet-Street, 1726. Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

Image Credits

1Tookapic. “Woman with Husky.” Pexels, 17 Jan. 2016, www.pexels.com/photo/woman-girl-animal-dog-40064/.

2Elf Talk. “Quick Release Buckle Collar.” Wikimedia Commons, Dec. 2004, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:QuickCollarNeck_wb.jpg.

3“ Caesar and Pompey.” Eighteenth Century Collections Online, British Library, find.galegroup.com.dist.lib.usu.edu/ecco/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=ECCO&userGroupName=utahstate&tabID=T001&docId=CW3312013598&type=multipage&contentSet=ECCOArticles&version=1.0&docLevel=FASCIMILE>.

4Swift, Dean. Illustration from Gulliver's travels into several remote regions of the world.1800-1899. BOOK COLL 10 L5-127. Book Collections. Utah State University Special Collections and Archives, Logan, Utah.

5Grandville, Jean Jacques. “Gulliver in His Lodgings .” Wikimedia Commons, 14 May 2017, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Podr%C3%B3%C5%BCe_Gulliwera_T._2_str_179.png.

6“Yahoos at Work under the Supervision of a Houyhnhnm.” Flickr, Gwydion M. Williams, 18 May 2017.

7Browne, Gordon. “Yahoos Pulling Houyhnhnms' Sled.” Flickr, British Library, 28 Nov. 2013, www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11096930943/in/photolist-i7QbJo-hUvd84-hKZPVH-hKYGo2-hKZNwF-hKYF86-hUhnes-ict4DJ-hKZ4Ro-hUAjUP-hKZFxv-hXAszm-hXyq2G-hKZSA2-hUE5GL-hUCC7R-hSW8Uq-hKYY52-hKYZ6v-ibkUKR-hXuPgW-hUDCzK-hKYWy6-hUy8UY-hXwQuS-hUA3v6-hUyHia-hKZwgf-icrrqw-hKZWQK-icstkv-hKZgB7-hKYY2Y-hKYPoe-idMoJx-hUBr67-i6oPhk-hKZjuG-hKYG6P-hKYGqX-hKZ2md-hUBdTv-i8azB9-hUAEXz-hXuUwq-hUwRpM-hXuhdm-hKZEy6-hKZV8g-hKZxVN.

8 Swift, Dean. Illustration from Gulliver's travels into several remote regions of the world.1800-1899. BOOK COLL 10 L5-127. Book Collections. Utah State University Special Collections and Archives, Logan, Utah.

9“Gulliver Imitating the Gesture and Movement.” Flickr, British Library, 10 Dec. 2013, www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/11305461685/.

10“The Sorrel Nag Protects Gulliver from the Yahoos.” Flickr, 5 May 2017, www.flickr.com/photos/45909111@N00/33979307794/.