Episode 2:Fantastic Beasts in London
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Hazel: Hello and welcome to London Guided Walks podcast. In the coming episodes we will be sharing our love and passion for London, its people, places and history in an espresso shot with a splash of personality. For those of you who don't know me, I am Hazel Baker, founder of londonguidedwalks.co.uk, providing guided walks, private tours and treasure hunts to Londoners and visitors alike. And now bringing you a jam-packed podcast during the time of the Coronavirus.
What we discussed:
What do pelicans, parakeets and polar bears have in common? Even though fish is the staple food of these pelicans, they have been known to snack on London pigeons from time to time. Pelican in St James’s Park eats a pigeon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sTUSnUgDXI
London is also home to a healthy population of ringneck parakeets.
So, we've covered parakeets and pelicans. But what about polar bears? The Tower of London used to be home to a polar bear.
In the 16th century, the Menagerie at the Tower of London was open to the public, but this was not without its problems.
But it wasn't just royalty who liked to collect these exotic creatures. From the early 18th century onwards, increasing number of private individuals started collections of exotic animals; these were usually housed on country estates.
Hans Sloane was one of the most influential men of early 18th century London. He amassed one of the greatest private collections of plants, animals and antiquities, coins and other curiosities.
What animals are top of mind if you think of animals in London? Perhaps it's the lions at Trafalgar Square, or the pigeons from Mary Poppins film, or perhaps its the dragon surrounding the city of London. What if I told you London had been home to straight tusked elephants, giant deer with antlers almost twice as wide as the deer's height and several species have now extinct rhinoceros?
For hundreds of years, up to the middle of the 1800's, Londoners enjoyed blood sports, and of course, that meant the blood of innocent animals, ratting, cockfighting and dog fighting were commonplace in purpose-built arenas attached to inns and taverns.
Betting on animals through the 20th century was also popular, just less bloody.
Working animals in London have been a very common sight. Horses had been a staple to London's success, and the life for many was tough.
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