Last year, I wrote about the dog of the Mary Rose, the mascot of a ship that was sunk in 1545.
Now researchers using DNA have discovered that the little dog was a male rather than a female as thought previously.
The skeleton of the dog lacked a baculum, or penis bone, and so was thought for many years to be that of a female dog. The dog, named “Hatch” by researchers, was discovered in 1981 during the underwater excavation of the ship, which sank defending Portsmouth from a French invasion in 1545.
However recent developments in DNA analysis have found that Hatch was a young male dog, most closely related to modern Jack Russell terriers, with a brown coat.
The team, which included members from University of Portsmouth, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, King’s College London Dental Institute, Durham University and the Mary Rose Trust, were even able to ascertain that the dog was carrier for the canine genetic disorder hyperuricosria. This causes dogs to produce urine with very high levels of uric acid and can lead to bladder stones and, less frequently, kidney stones.
“We extracted the DNA from one of the dog’s teeth to identify the breed of the dog, its gender and even the colour of its fur. This technique could now be applied to further museum specimens, meaning we could find out more about previously unknowable animals.”
Recovered over a period of several months, the dog’s skeleton was found partially outside the carpenter’s cabin, with other bones inside the cabin, under a pile of chests belonging to the carpenter and several gunners. Despite stories claiming he was trapped in the door, the dog probably died fully outside the cabin, with some parts being pulled inside post-death by marine scavengers.
The dog’s skeleton is on display in the new Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.