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The Rise And Fall Of The Working Dog That Turned The Roasting Spit : NPR


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The Canis vertigus, or turnspit, was an essential part of every large kitchen in Britain in the 16th century. The small cooking canine was bred to run in a wheel that turned a roasting spit in cavernous kitchen fireplaces.

"They were referred to as the kitchen dog, the cooking dog or the vernepator cur," says Caira Farrell, library and collections manager at the Kennel Club in London. "The very first mention of them is in 1576 in the first book on dogs ever written."

The turnspit was bred especially to run on a wheel that turned meat so it would cook evenly. And that's how the turnspit got its other name: vernepator cur, Latin for "the dog that turns the wheel."

"Whiskey," a taxidermied turnspit dog on display at the Abergavenny Museum in Wales.i

"Whiskey," a taxidermied turnspit dog on display at the Abergavenny Museum in Wales.

I have never heard the phrase "small cooking canine" before now.

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