Description

‘Learned pigs’ and other apparently gifted animals (including horses and even geese) were displayed in Britain from the 17th century onwards. Perhaps the most famous of these though was Toby the ‘Sapient Pig’, who gained fame early in the 19th century for his apparent ability to carry out a range of intelligent tasks. These included playing cards, reading, telling the time from a pocket watch, guessing a person’s age and – somewhat enigmatically – being able to ‘discover a person’s thoughts’. Toby toured Britain extensively with his owner Nicholas Hoare who (perhaps unsurprisingly) turned out to be a skilful illusionist. Nevertheless, Toby caused something of a sensation throughout the country, visiting fairs, shows and pleasure gardens, and in 1817 even published his own ‘autobiography’ in which he recounted the history of his ‘uncommon talents’.

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