Kissing an Italian Greyhound: A 19th Century Attorney Cites the Law

Un lévrier reposant sur la chaise by Jacques Raymond Brascassat, 1836.

Un lévrier reposant sur la chaise by Jacques Raymond Brascassat, 1836.

An 1860 edition of England’s Bedfordshire Mercury reports a “curious scene” from Paris.  An attorney was walking his Italian Greyhound on the Boulevard Beaumarchais when he realized that the delicate little dog had strayed.  Retracing his steps, he found his pet in the arms of a dog thief.  The villain had already removed the dog’s collar and identification tags and was attempting to stifle its cries.  The attorney was, according to the article, “a man of great muscular power” and quickly “mastered the delinquent.”  Once he had the thief within his grasp, he gave him two choices – he could either be consigned to the police or he could kneel down on the street and kiss the little dog.

As the Bedfordshire Mercury states:

“The thief, after some little hesitation, chose the latter alternative, and performed the ceremony in the midst of the laughter and jeers of the bystanders.”

Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris, circa 1900.

Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris, circa 1900.

Satisfied by this display, the attorney was willing to allow the dog thief to depart.  Unfortunately for the thief, however, some local “sergents-de-ville” had come upon the scene.  They insisted that the thief be taken up before the Commissary of Police.  The attorney accompanied them to the office and, once there, explained to the Commissary that he had acted in accordance with an “old law of the Burgundian Parliament.”  This antiquated law (Tit. X., cap. 8, art. 9), which had not yet been repealed, reads as follows:

“If any man has stolen a grayhound (voltrahum) or a ségusiave (segutium – a particular sort of hound used by the Gauls for hunting the boar), or a lurcher (petrunculum), we ordain that the guilty party be obliged either to kiss the animal before the whole people, or to pay five sols of gold to the master of the dog, and two sols as fine.”

The attorney then concluded by interceding on the dog thief’s behalf, arguing that he had already “satisfied the conditions of the law.”  Such an eloquent and learned plea was of no use to the unlucky thief.  The Commissary had recognized him as “an old offender” and, instead of being released, he was sent to the Prefecture.

Bedfordshire Mercury , July 22, 1865.

Bedfordshire Mercury , July 22, 1865.
(©2015 British Newspaper Archive)

Thus concludes another of my Friday features on Animals in Literature and History.  If you would like to learn more about Italian Greyhounds or if you would like to adopt an Italian Greyhound of your own, the following links may be useful as resources:

The Italian Greyhound Club of America (USA)

The Italian Greyhound Rescue Charity (UK)

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017).  She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. 


“A Curious Case.”  Bedfordshire Mercury.  Bedfordshire, England.  July 22, 1865.

© 2015-2017 Mimi Matthews

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14 thoughts on “Kissing an Italian Greyhound: A 19th Century Attorney Cites the Law

    • Mimi Matthews says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Rosie 🙂 I’m not familiar with adding posts to blog links, but if you would like to share my article you’re welcome to do so (as long as I’m cited as the source).


  1. Renée Reynolds says:

    This story made me picture my dad. My mom is allergic to animal dander but after their nest emptied of two-legged creatures, they decided a four-legged companion was needed. After much research and visits to all the animal shelters within 150 miles of their home, they adopted an Italian greyhound. There is nothing so sweet as seeing my 6 1/2 foot father cuddling his baby Noelle, or so odd as seeing them run together at the track.

    I enjoy your animal posts so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vickie says:

    Quite entertaining! I can’t imagine having my dog stolen but I too would chase them down and get my dog back! Thank you for this excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tomoko Slutsky says:

    I immensely enjoyed the article. I don’t know if I can be as composed as this gentleman before the perpetrator should anyone steal my Italian Greyhound! Thank you very much for sharing this. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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