One of America’s favorite pastimes in 1774 was the cruel bloodsport of bull-baiting, pitting an enraged bull against several tough dogs in a fight to the death. The English amusement crossed the Atlantic like other customs and was still practiced long after the American Revolution ended, according to Jennie Holliman’s American Sports, 1785-1835. “British troops stationed in America during the Revolution and until 1783 played a part in establishing certain English sports in the States, an impetus being given to bull baiting and cockfighting during this time… For the purpose of the sport, dogs of undisputed pedigree were kept, usually bull dogs. Many butchers kept dogs and buffaloes for animal baiting. The wildest and fiercest bulls of the neighborhood were selected for a bull bait.” Large crowds of spectators gathered behind a circular enclosure as a chained bull would face off against six to eight bull dogs, which oftentimes were immediately killed, Holliman explains.
In his July 28, 1774, New-York Gazetteer, printer James Rivington published a bull-baiting advertisement for John Cornell. Apparently the bloodsport had such a draw that a “season” of weekly bull-baiting matches were scheduled. Pictured here is the original public notice from the New-York Gazetteer. Click to enlarge.