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A beast for the Black Country

Updated: Aug 11, 2022

In a recent e mail to the Black Country Society committee, the chairman gave notice of the broadcast time of an ITV interview that he had given concerning the historical context of the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony and the animatronic bull. At the end, he asked a question.

The bull, of course, is a symbol of the Birmingham and not the Black Country. It could be worth thinking about what might be a suitable Black Country animal symbol!

There then followed a somewhat less than serious exchange of emails that attempted to answer the question. Perhaps it was too hot to do anything else!

One of the first suggestions was that it should be the "Pig on the Wall", based on the Gornal folk story that can be found here. Other areas have similar stories however - not least Droylsden in Manchester. Another was that it should be a homing pigeon. However this again is not a wholly Black Country activity - for example there is an elderly lady in Windsor who I believe also runs a pigeon loft.

There were also a couple of equine suggestions - a tethered 'oss and the stripey 'oss from Dudley Zoo. But the former have been used in industrial districts elsewhere, and the Black Country does not have the extensive Savanah to be considered a true home to the latter.

A strong case was made for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier - one committee member wrote

"For me there is only one contender for a Black Country animal symbol and that`s the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. In the late 1920s a group of chainmakers, meeting in the Old Cross Guns in Cradley Heath, began a campaign to get the breed recognised by the Kennel Club and succeeded in 1935, so it`s Black Country provenance and heritage is second to none. It also promotes and perpetuates Staffordshire as the area`s `proper` historical county identity. The Society did actually use the Stafford as a logo in the 1970s and 80s, see above"

However another committee member remarked

"The Staffordshire Terrier certainly has provenance. Unfortunately it has developed a bad reputation in recent years, largely due to those who are dominating its ownership. In the words of the Independent a few years back it was described as 'the weapon of choice for urban thugs.'"

As I own a Staffie / Collie cross, I guess this makes me halfway to being an urban thug.

Finally it was suggested that the choice should be the Dudley Bug - the trilobite found in profusion in the Dudley limestone workings, which if nothing else has a lot of history going for it.

Are there any more ideas? Comments and suggestions welcome - please use the comment facility below.

Post publication note. The advocate for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has also pointed out that there is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Heritage Centre - in Albert Street, Wednesbury, open by appointment only. See their website

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