Letters in the Limelight: Edwin Brough, the man who hunted Jack the Ripper

Coll. Edwin BroughCataloguing the correspondence of zoologist/animal breeder James Cossar Ewart (1851-1933), I have been intrigued by the various ‘life stories’ which emerge from the letters. Periodically I will be including some highlights in a series of posts entitled ‘letters in the limelight’ .

I would never have guessed that there would be even a slight link between James Cossar Ewart and Jack the Ripper, but this week’s letter in the limelight, written to Ewart on 28 April 1902 by Edwin Brough, proves otherwise…

Brough was a silk manufacturer and bloodhound breeder who became publicly well known when two of his hounds, Barnaby and Burgundy (‘Burgho’), became involved in the hunt for Jack the Ripper, the infamous Whitechapel serial killer of 1888, who was never caught. In the huge public outcry surrounding the hunt for the murderer, numerous suggestions were made for the use of bloodhounds, whose extraordinary sense of scent and ability to follow a trail tirelessly makes them ideal tracking animals. However, Brough maintained that the hounds were of limited use due to the age of the scent and the crowded city environment, although it does seem that the presence of the hounds in the City temporarily deterred any further murders.

Brough predominantly bred hounds for tracking competitions, and was also a key figure in the introduction of the breed into America after exhibiting three of his hounds at the Westminster KC show in New York City. However, Brough was clearly interested in other types of animals breeding: in his letter to Ewart he discusses the experiments of a Colonel W. Scoby, who crossed a carting mare with a blood horse to produce excellent hunting horses. Brough himself was also successful breeder of cows, including the famous Jersey cow ‘Antic’ who in 1896 gave 1,071 gallons of milk!

The letter to Ewart bears the heading ‘Wyndyate’ (later called Scalby Manor) near Scarborough, Yorkshire. The house, with its stables and kennels, was built for Brough in 1885 and he lived here until 1910, breeding and training his famous hounds. The building has been a hotel or pub since the 1980s. You can see pictures of the Manor as it is now here: http://www.jtrforums.com/showthread.php?t=10311

Thrills and Spills and Just another Day at the Races – Motion Studies, Breeding and Cloning in Horse Racing

Now that spring has arrived and with National Hunt season ending and Flat Season beginning, I thought I’d show you some horse racing images we have in the Roslin glass plate slide collection.

Horse racing and animal genetics go well together since issues of genetic traits and physiology are of interest to both breeders and scientists. These images illustrate the ‘body in motion’ – from Muybridge’s film still of a horse running at a gallop to a race horse in the midst of a fall during a steeplechase – they can illustrate how race horse breeding has developed by being able to compare the points of the horse in the slides.Gallop Motion StudyWhite Cockade falls




Looking over the slides I found that they fell into three sub-genres within horse racing :

The first, ‘Racehorses at Rest,’ shows various individual well-known horses in profile which is very useful to see and compare favourable traits found in winners. Additionally, the text beneath the image provides a bit of history on the particular horse.

Dan Patch Horse

The second, ‘Racehorses during a Race,’ shows the horse and jockey in motion on a flat-track or jumping over fences during steeplechases. These images are very useful to see the physiology of the horse in motion. Prince of Wales on Pet DogMovich America's Fastest Racehorse

Grey mare's leap





The third, ‘Racehorses – Accidents’ – is just that- from showing suffragette, Emily Davison’s pulling down George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 to horses falling after taking a jump during a steeplechase. Just as a caution – these particular photographs are not particularly pleasant to view; however, they are fascinating to see how the camera has captured the moment and to see how the horses’ body moves.

No Damage DoneSatan and Gamecock fall over the fencesDavison Suffragette Horse 4





Another issue arising is the one on cloning racehorses – can it be done (yes); is it done (yes); are cloned racehorses allowed to race (no); and why clone racehorses (to preserve winning horses genetic lines).  Mike Bunker wrote in his article, “Cloning may be Horse Racing’s Next Horizon” on the 2007 Centre of Genetics and Society website,

Although cloning of food animals has become relatively common since 1996, when Scottish scientists made a DNA duplicate of a sheep named Dolly, the notion of copying racehorses for entertainment purposes is a controversial one. The Jockey Club, which writes and enforces thoroughbred racing’s rulebook, and the American Quarter Horse Association both prohibit the practice.

The first horse cloned was “Prometea,” in 2003 by Cesare Galli, at the University of Bologna in Cremona, Italy, though it was considered to be mostly a ‘scientific experiment’; then, in 2005, – the first champion racehorse, “Pieraz2,” was cloned by the same scientist to preserve its genetic lines. In 2008, Charlotte Kearsley (supervised by John Woolliams) wrote her PhD thesis for the University of Edinburgh on Genetic Evaluation of Sport Horses in Britain in which her “aim of this project was to derive models for predicting breeding values for British bred sport horses and hence develop procedures for their evaluation.”

There are more articles and websites on the genetics of breeding and cloning racehorses and there are more slides in the collection as well, so I hope that this has provided some interesting insight!

Letters in the Limelight: Rowland Ward, taxidermist

Coll14.9.10.71 Rowland Ward billCataloguing the correspondence of zoologist/animal breeder James Cossar Ewart (1851-1933), I have been intrigued by the various ‘life stories’ which emerge from the letters. Periodically I will be including some highlights in a series of posts entitled ‘letters in the limelight’ .

For anyone seriously interested in studying the various physical and biological characteristics of animals in James Cossar Ewart’s time, taxidermy played an important role. Ewart’s correspondence reveal that he travelled extensively around the world observing or seeking out various breeds of animals (for instance in 1905 he went to Mexico to study mustangs). He was also able to acquire various breeds or hybrids at his home in Penicuik (most usually sheep, ponies and his famous zebra/horse hybrids). We also know that his correspondents sent him photographs or glass slides depicting various interesting specimens. However, sometimes travel or photography was not possible, or a particular animal Ewart wished to inspect died before he could visit, or he wanted to preserve one of his own animals for future research use, such as examining colouration or markings. This is where taxidermy came into its own. The picture shows a bill from the renowned taxidermist Rowland Ward. Dated 4 July 1904, it summarises the services Ewart had received since 1902, including ‘skinning Przewalski’s horse [a species of wild horse], preserving and dressing skin, making artificial skull’, ‘preserving and macerating skeleton’ and ‘skinning zebra hybrid.’ During the course of his research, Ewart amassed quite a collection of zebra and horse skins, skulls and bones, which allowed him to compare variations in markings, bone structure and other characteristics.

Born in London in 1847, Rowland Ward left school at 14 to begin work at his father Henry Ward’s taxidermy studio. His gift for taxidermy and sculpture soon became clear, and his hard work and entrepreneurship soon made him established. His final premises, The Jungle, was situated in London’s fashionable Piccadilly district and largely catered for wealthy sportsmen and game hunters, as well as naturalists like Ewart. He became widely known for his hugely detailed dioramas, often used at large exhibitions, depicting, for example, scenes of jungle life, as well as fashionable ‘animal furniture’. However, he also pioneered techniques in taxidermy which are still employed today, and his books on taxidermy and extensive compilation of horn measurements are still consulted. The business continued to flourish after Ward’s death in 1912, its subsidiary company finally closing in 1983.

You can see examples of Rowland Ward’s work here: http://taxidermyemporium.co.uk/15.html

Roslin Glass Slides on Display in Masterpieces III Exhibition

An exciting exhibition has just opened here in the Main Library at the University of Edinburgh –  Masterpieces III – highlighting items from the University’s collection from the perspective of science and medicine. I??????????t’s open from April 5th to July 6th, 2013 at University of Edinburgh’s Main Library on George Square on the lower ground floor with hours from 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday. See the blog for even more information and images.

Since the themes of the exhibition are ‘Science as Art’, ‘Science as Innovation’ and ‘Science as Statement’, it was a perfect opportunity to showcase some of the Roslin Glass Slide collection. So, in the exhibition you can see 26 of the glass slides on display illustrating the diversity of the collection and highlighting the scientific and research interests of James Cossar Ewart and Professor Robert Wallace.

Hopefully you can visit the exhibition and see the slides and other items on display for yourselves. Enjoy!