A Real Taste for Animals


An interpretive drawing of William Buckland crawling into Kirkdale Cave where he found extinct cave hyenas and the remains of their prey
An interpretive drawing of William Buckland crawling into Kirkdale Cave where he found extinct cave hyenas and the remains of their prey

William Buckland (1784-1856) was the first man to write a full account of a fossil (the Megalosaurus). His love of animals and food blended together into some rather interesting eccentricities.

Buckland maintained a zoo at his home, filled with animals of every kind he could find. The animals were kept there until he could eat them or serve them as food to guests. He claimed to have eaten his way through the entire animal kingdom. He noted that the specimens that tasted the worst were bluebottle flies and moles. Various guests to dinner describe being served panther, crocodile, and mouse.

Augustus Hare reported being with Buckland at Nuneham Park and looking at the silver casket containing the heart of French King Louis XIV. “Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.”

Buckland became quite the expert in distinguishing the tastes of different animals — and their byproducts. Once he was on a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral and saw a strange stain on the stone floor. Vistitors speculated on what this strange mark could be, and some claimed it was the mark of a saint’s blood. Buckland immediately dropped to his hands and knees and licked the stain. He then announced the verdict: “Bat urine!”

source

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