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Meet the Beast: Tiny the Wonder Dog

Our immersive experience Beasts of London told the stories of some of the most famous animals in the city's history. Let's meet one the stars of the show: a tiny toy terrier who was also a sporting marvel.

Alwyn Collinson

Digital Editor

4 April 2019

Londoners have always lived surrounded by animals, from pets to pests. Some of the most troublesome of those pests were rats: these vermin spread disease, spoiled food and gnawed through houses. To battle this animal menace, humans turned to cats and dogs, like Tiny the Wonder. But this wasn't about pest control: it gave Londoners a chance to watch a cruel spectacle.

Tiny was an unusually small dog with a big talent: he was a brilliant rat-catcher. So brilliant that he was the star of his own gruesome show, in the rat-catching pit underneath a pub in Victorian London named the Blue Anchor Tavern. Here, crowds of Londoners would gather to watch Tiny chase down rats. A painting in the Museum of London collection records the scene. Click on the numbered circles to see the fascinating details of this beastly scene.

Tiny was so popular that you could buy souvenir handkerchiefs, to record that you were there when he broke a record in rat-slaying.

Handkerchief showing Rat-killing dog Tiny the Wonder.

Handkerchief commemorating Tiny the Wonder, 1849

Printed by owner James Shaw to commemorate Tiny managing to kill 200 rats in an hour. Copies were bought by spectators as souvenirs. ID no. 99.44

Nowadays, we think that it's cruel to watch animals be killed for our amusement. And English Toy Terriers, like Tiny, are kept as pets and lap-dogs rather than deadly vermin-killers. But we still need to share the city with beasts, and learn how to live beside them.

Tiny featured in Beasts of London, an interactive family experience at the Museum of London, which closed in January 2020.