On this day in history : 28th April 1772 – The death in Mile End, London of what is believed to be the World’s most ever travelled goat ~ having circumnavigated the globe twice….
When practical it was normal practice to carry livestock onboard a ship for use during the voyage – and remained so until the time refrigeration became available…. Small animals, such as pigs, goats, lambs and chickens provided fresh meat, milk and eggs…. Goats were a popular choice, being hardy and easy to breed….
The goat we are concerned with here must have been truly exceptional…. We don’t have a name for her – but sometimes she is referred to as ‘Sir Joseph Banks’ goat’…. We’ll come to that shortly….
Our goat’s first trip around the World was onboard HMS Dolphin, the first ship to circumnavigate the globe twice…. George Robertson was master on the second voyage, which sailed under Captain Wallis…. Robertson wrote a book recounting the journey and it was entitled ‘The discovery of Tahiti; a journal of the second voyage of H.M.S. Dolphin round the world under the command of Captain Wallis, R.N. In the years 1766, 1767 and 1768 written by her master’ – and in it he makes reference to the goat….
But what really earned our little goat her stripes was her second circumnavigation – this time with Captain James Cook on his first voyage onboard HMS Endeavour from 1768-1771….
Endeavour departed Plymouth on the 26th of August 1768…. It carried onboard 96 people, including a team of elite scientists consisting of naturalists, an astronomer – and eminent botanist Sir Joseph Banks…. Also onboard were a number of pigs, goats, poultry, 2 greyhounds and a milking goat….yes, our goat….
Cook was fastidious about keeping a clean, hygienic, disease-free ship and knew the importance of a good diet to maintain a healthy crew…. Our precious goat more than stepped up to the mark in performing her duty of providing fresh milk each day…. One sailor onboard recorded….“I must not omit how highly we have been indebted to a milch goat; she was three years in the West Indies, and was once round the world before in the Dolphin, and never went dry the whole time; we mean to reward her services in a good English pasture for life”….
And that is exactly what happened…. Sir Joseph Banks had a silver collar made for her to wear…. His friend, Dr. Samuel Johnson – English writer, poet and playwright, most noted for his Dictionary of English Language in 1755 – comprised a Latin epigram for her which was engraved upon the collar….
‘Perpetui ambita his terra praemia lactis,
Hac habet, altrici capra secunda Jovis’….
Later Boswell wrote Dr. Johnson’s biography and expanded on its meaning….
‘If fame scarce second to the nurse of Jove,
This Goat, who twice the world had traversed round,
Deserving both her master’s care and love,
Ease and perpetual pasture has found’….
Our little goat was bestowed ‘the privileges of an in-pensioner of Greenwich Hospital’ and cared for and put out to pasture…. Sadly her retirement was to be short-lived, as she died not long after…. I can’t help thinking that maybe she missed her sea legs….