Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

Kissing an Italian Greyhound: A 19th Century Attorney Cites the Law

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

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.

As the 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.”

Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris, circa 1900.

Boulevard 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 X., cap. 8, art. 9), which had not yet been repealed, reads as follows: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.

Bedfordshire Mercury , July 22, 1865.

Bedfordshire Mercury , July 22, 1865.
(©2015 British Newspaper Archive)

Thus concludes another of my Friday features on Animals in Literature and History.  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)


“A Curious Case.”  Bedfordshire Mercury.  Bedfordshire, England.  July 22, 1865.

About Mimi Matthews

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

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