|A dulcimer (Image courtesy of dougberch.com)|
Sunday, 3 July 2011
Bisset's 'Cat Orchestra' and other performing cats.
Bisset’s ‘Cat Orchestra’ and Other Performing Cats.
I haven’t posted about cats for a while, so to put that right here is some historical trivia about performing cats.
In the mid 18th century, Scotsman Samuel Bisset read about the success of an animal act, ‘The Thinking Horse’ and decided to have a go himself. His first foray into animal training involved a monkey who he taught to ride a pony, and dance with a dog. But Bisset astutely realised that novelty was the key to success and hit on the idea of training that least trainable of all animals – the cat!
Bisset’s ‘Amazing Cat Orchestra’ soon became the talk of London; performances of cats strumming dulcimers and singing in high pitched meouws, were held at his house, and was seemingly very popular with the public.
As the ‘Eccentric Magazine’ wrote:
‘In such a city as
, these feats could not fail of making some noise, his house was every day crowded.’ London
In 1758 the master showman, Pinchbeck, suggested Bisset expand and hire an exhibition room in the Haymarket. ‘The Cats’ Opera’ opened with such entertainments as…. cats strumming dulcimers and mewing, a monkey dancing with a dog and a hare that walked on his back legs whilst beating a drum. This show was also a success and earnt Mr Bisset over a thousand pounds – testament to the eccentricity of the English.
However not all cat acts did so well. In the following century a Danish conjurer, Pederson brought a feline act to
. The animal part of his show involved two docile cats that allowed pigeons to perch on their heads. However, the magic of the act was dispelled when Pederson naively admitted in a newspaper interview, that an important part of the act was a plentiful supply of pigeons, since his cats were no always as docile as they seemed! London