The Dog on the Train: A Victorian Fox Terrier at King's Cross Station

My Best Friend by Robert Douglas Fry, (1872–1911).
My Best Friend by Robert Douglas Fry, (1872–1911).

An 1879 edition of the Huddersfield Chronicle reports the story of a little fox terrier named Wasp and his owner who, at the time, was a student at a college in London.  Wasp was devoted to his master and would follow him wherever he went—including on the train to school each morning.  While his master attended classes, Wasp would remain in the courtyard of the college, dozing in a patch of sun and “to all appearances asleep.”  Despite appearances, however, Wasp was always watching anxiously for his master’s return and those passing through the courtyard would often observe “one watchful eye unclose gently to spy if his master were soon coming.”

When his master arrived, Wasp would immediately spring up “with great delight.”  He would then accompany him home on the train.  According to the Huddersfield Chronicle:

“The young student generally left King’s Cross Station at twenty minutes to five, and, as Wasp accompanied him, they took their seats in the guard’s van, and travelled every day with the same guard.”

Junction of the Midlands, Great Northern, and Metropolitan Railways at King's Cross, Illustrated London, 1868.
Junction of the Midlands, Great Northern, and Metropolitan Railways at King’s Cross,
Illustrated London, 1868.

Sometimes, Wasp’s young master was unable to leave school at the appointed time.  On these occasions, he would give Wasp “a pat on the head” and send him home on his own.  It was a great distance on foot, but somehow Wasp always managed to reach home safely.  His master was never certain of the route which the little dog traveled until, one day, while waiting for the train, he began talking to the guard.  The Huddersfield Chronicle reports the following exchange:

“Oh, sir, we often have your dog, but not you, by this train.”

“My dog?” asked Wasp’s master, astonished.

“Yes, sir; he comes here punctually, finds me out, jumps up and gives me a friendly greeting, and then proceeds to take his place in my van.  He goes comfortably to sleep till we reach H— tunnel, when he gets up, shakes himself, and then, as the train stops at H— Station, gives a farewell wag of his tail and jumps out.”

Engraving of Queen Victoria's Fox Terrier "Spot" by Gustav Mützel (1839-1893)
Engraving of Queen Victoria’s Fox Terrier “Spot” by Gustav Mützel (1839-1893)

Thus concludes another of my (now twice monthly) Friday features on Animals in Literature and History.  If you would like to learn more about Fox Terriers like Wasp or if you would like to adopt a Fox Terrier of your own, the following links may be useful as resources:

American Fox Terrier Club (United States)

The Fox Terrier Club (United Kingdom)

Mimi Matthews is the USA Today bestselling author of The Matrimonial Advertisement, The Pug Who Bit Napoleon, and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty. She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law.

Sources

Huddersfield Chronicle (West Yorkshire, England), 03 March 1879.  ©The British Library Board.

Illustrated London News (London, England), 08 February 1868.  ©The British Library Board.

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Kathleen Whitcomb
Kathleen Whitcomb
4 years ago

I’ve known many people that aren’t as punctual or as smart as little Wasp. Lovely Story thank you.

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago

You’re very welcome, Kathleen :) I’m glad you enjoyed it!

patc44
patc44
4 years ago

Reblogged this on patc44's Blog and commented:
Dogs are incredible creatures arn’t they. So very inteligent!

seaofgold2012
seaofgold2012
4 years ago

This is a nice story, but I wonder about his owner blithely sending the dog home without a thought about how he got there.

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago
Reply to  seaofgold2012

Yes, that part is disturbing, especially for animal owners today. However, many in the 19th century let their dogs wander freely–sometimes with results that were not as pleasant as in this particular case.

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
4 years ago

A lovely story! even when I was a child, most people sent their dogs out for walks on their own, dogs wandering the streets without an owner weren’t feral, just taking a daily constitutional. One elderly lady sent her dog with a basket to get her daily vegetables, with a list, and her purse. I swear the dog was bigger than she was, looking back it was an airdale cross [crossed with a bear?] and she was no more than 4’9. She said the dog would let her know if she was short changed, and I think the shopkeeper believed… Read more »

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Waldock

I’m glad you liked it, Sarah :) I love the idea of dogs going out for their daily constitutional!

Cee
Cee
4 years ago

What a wonderful story thank you for sharing it

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago
Reply to  Cee

You’re very welcome, Cee :) I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Lindsay Downs (@ldowns2966)
Lindsay Downs (@ldowns2966)
4 years ago

A wonderful story of devotion and love of a dog. Even the guard took him on which was fantastic.

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago

I loved that part too, Lindsay :)

Pam Shropshire
Pam Shropshire
4 years ago

Lovely story about a very intelligent dog! Looking forward to your book!

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago
Reply to  Pam Shropshire

Thanks so much, Pam :) I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Angelyn
Angelyn
4 years ago

Terriers are so smart–I know mine is.

But about Kings Cross–I remember those old wooden escalators in the tube station. You weren’t supposed to smoke in there but people did anyway and a fire in ’87 killed quite a few.

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago
Reply to  Angelyn

Terriers are sharp little dogs! I hadn’t heard the details of the fire in ’87. How horrifying.

authorangelabell
authorangelabell
4 years ago

How charming! Love these animal tales.

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
4 years ago

Thanks Angela :)

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