( Originally Published 1884 )
It appears to me that a cruel practice has too long subsisted with regard to a very harmless part of the animal creation, whose wrongs cry out aloud for redress.
The poor persecuted creature to which I allude is the hedgehog. or urchin; concerning whom (fatally for him) an opinion prevails; which I more than suspect to be altogether groundless, viz., that this little animal has both the inclination and the power to milk the cow. On this suspicion the supposed offender is doomed to suffer death, which, too, is frequently inflicted with circumstances of great cruelty ; and to render his chance of escaping the farmer's vengeance the less, a notion has been propagated through all parts of the kingdom that the law hath set a price on the head of this creature, which the churchwardens of every parish wherein the hedgehog is found are obliged to pay to whoever brings to them the poor devoted animal alive.
Now, Mr. Urban, I am informed that no such law exists in this country; and that, consequently, the churchwardens are not obliged to encourage this blind persecution of an helpless, innocent being, who, perhaps, possesses no one quality hurtful to mankind. But, as I am still in doubt in regard to the matter of law, I should take it as a great favour if any of your readers and correspondents, who are conversant with the statutes, will (if there be such a law) have the goodness to point it out, by a line in your very useful magazine. I likewise much wish to know whether the felonious use of sucking the cows has ever been proved upon the hedgehog.
A COUNTRY CHURCHWARDEN.
A country churchwarden wants to be informed whether the law hath set a price on the head of a hedgehog, and whether it hath inclination and the power to milk the cow.
As to the first part of this enquiry, your correspondent may rest assured that no such law is now in being, or ever did exist ; for to what purpose should mankind be roused to persecute, even with circumstances of barbarity, a poor, harmless, inoffensive creature, slow and patient, incapable to offend, or to do the least injury to any part of the animal creation, except devouring worms, snails, and other such creatures, on which it feeds, together with the berries of hawthorns and brambles, and other wild berries? Perhaps the appearance it makes may have disgusted some unthinking people, being guarded by nature against all common dangers by prickles and a power of rolling itself round in them when apprehensive of an enemy by means of a strong membrane or muscle, something like a football.
As to the power and inclination of milking a cow, I may venture to say that such a notion is one of the most absurd and silliest of all vulgar errors. Had Providence intended the hedgehog should have been vested with such a power, it would have been properly enabled to have carried that power into execution, by endowing it with a mouth large enough to receive the pap of the cow, and without giving any uneasiness to the cow during the operation of sucking; but, instead thereof, the head of the hedgehog terminates in a snout like that of a common hog, the mouth is small, armed with sharp and short teeth, utterly improper for suction, and which must destroy the very supposal of such a power; and from thence we may safely conclude the hedgehog cannot have any inclination to milk a cow. The hedgehog lives in the bottom of hedges and among furze on whins ; it collects moss, dry leaves, and grass wherewith to make a warm bed. I remember formerly that a wasted hedgehog and fried mice were reckoned good in the chin cough, or hooping cough,