International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

Illustration by Steve Worthington

Illustration by Steve Worthington

International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day is celebrated on February 23rd of each year.

A dog biscuit is a hard biscuit-based dietary supplement for dogs or other canine, similar to human snack food.

Dog biscuits tend to be hard and dry. Dog biscuits may be sold in a flat bone-shape. Some manufacturers claim the dry and hard biscuit texture helps clean the dog’s teeth, promoting oral health.

“Dog’s bread”, made from bran, has been mentioned since at least Roman times. It was already criticized (as in later centuries) as particularly bad bread; Juvenal refers to dog’s bread as “filth” – “And bit into the filth of a dog’s bread” Et farris sordes mordere Canini.

In Spain, “pan de perro” is mentioned as early as 1623 in a play by Lope de Vega. It is used here in the sense of giving someone blows; to “give dog’s bread” to someone could mean anything from mistreating them to killing them. The latter meaning refers to a special bread (also called zarazas) made with ground glass, poison and needles and intended to kill dogs.

The bread meant as food for dogs was also called parruna and was made from bran. This was very likely what was referred to in associating the bread with (non-fatal) mistreatment.
In France, Charles Estienne wrote in 1598: “Take no notice of bran bread,… it is better to leave it for the hunting, or shepherd, or watch dogs.” By the nineteenth century, “pain de chien” had become a way of referring to very bad bread: “It is awful, general, they give us dog’s bread!”

The English dog biscuit appears to be a nineteenth century innovation: “With this may be joined farinaceous and vegetable articles — oat-meal, fine-pollard, dog-biscuit, potatoes, carrots, parsnips” (1827); “being in the neighbourhood of Maidenhead, I inspected Mr. Smith’s dog-biscuit manufactory, and was surprised to find he has been for a long period manufacturing the enormous quantity of five tons a-week !” (1828).

Illustration Credit: Steve Worthington
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