May 28, 2022

The Turnspit is an extinct English dog breed. The scientific name is Canis vertigus (proposed by Carl von Linné).


The Turnspit was a small, long-bodied, short-legged dog with drooping ears and a twisted tail. The eyes were often extraordinarily colored: the iris of one eye was black and the iris of the other. The forelegs were often described as curved or crooked. The coloring was dark.


The turnspit was of ancient origin, but little is known about its ancestors. It is mentioned in the oldest dog book in England (dating from 1576), where it was called Turnespete. Carl von Linné also took this breed into account when classifying dog breeds in the 18th century. It is believed to have been related mainly to terriers. The original use of the breed was almost unique: to run on an “impeller” that turned fried meat. Its work was very strenuous and laborious, because at that time it took about three hours to complete the frying that was constantly turning on the frying pan. In large kitchens, there were often more members of the race to work as a group - replacing each other in turn on the impeller whenever one got tired to move. Some individuals were so eager to work that they jumped on the impeller on their own initiative, while others hid on “baking days” and had to be attracted to their work. Chefs are known to treat dogs sometimes badly and force them into their work, often hitting them if they stopped for a moment to rest their tired limbs. There was a great demand for the breed before the 19th century. In 1809, William Bingley wrote that the population was clearly declining. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the advent of powerful mechanical devices, it quickly became extinct.


The name comes from the words turn and spit. Georges Leclerc de Buffon gave the breed the name Basset à Jambes Torses, "orbital basset".