Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

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)


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.

About Mimi Matthews

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library JournalPublishers Weekly, and Kirkus, 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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