Flashback Friday: Dog Soup Party

Dog Soup Party, Pine Ridge Sioux. RG0802.120-82


By Kylie Kinley, Assistant Editor

If you search our photo collection for the word “party,” you expect to find birthday parties, hunting parties, and even anniversary parties. Even the “mule party” (group of people traveling on mules) doesn’t really surprise you. But dog soup party? That merits investigation. The caption was written by the photographer, so we don’t know if the people in the photograph would consider the gathering a “party.” It could be an everyday meal where dog was the only food available, a special occasion for a guest, or another kind of event. The tone of the caption implies the photographer is jesting about the situation. Cultures around the world have different tastes in what animals are fit to eat. Beef and pork are taboo in some places and eaten with relish in others. Dog meat is no different.

Dog Soup

Americans are expected to spend $62.75 billion on their pets in 2016 (American Pet Products Association). But dogs were often treated as meat animals throughout history and are treated as such in many cultures today. While the annual June dog meat festival in China is one of the more famous instances, dog is eaten as a common, ceremonial, and medicinal dish in Asia, African, the Americas, and even parts of Europe. The Swiss often eat dog meat at Christmas, and dog lard is used for rheumatism (Phillips).

It is illegal for U.S. slaughterhouses to slaughter cats and dogs, and the sale of cat and dog meat is illegal (because it is unregulated). However, few U.S. states have specific laws that prohibit the use of pets for food. Some states charge people who are caught eating dogs or cats with animal cruelty. New York prohibits “any person to slaughter or butcher domesticated dog (canis familiaris) or domesticated cat (felis catus or domesticus) to create food, meat or meat products for human or animal consumption” (Palmer). California even bars possession of the carcass, so you can’t say you’re holding onto dog chops for a friend. Many states forbid the unnecessary killing of an animal except for farming activities, and dogs and cats are not covered under “farming activities.”

Dog soup specifically is a popular dish in South Korea. Called “Boshintang,” the soup is a “supposed ‘health’ soup.” Animal rights activists have campaigned against this practice for years. Last week, fresh opposition came from British animal rights groups, who claimed that up to three million dogs a year are slaughtered in South Korea. The country is hosting the 2018 winter Olympics, and animal rights advocates and celebrities are calling for their home countries to pressure South Korea to ban the practice before the Olympics start. (Wheeler) South Korea banned dog meat during the 1988 Olympics, but the ban did not discourage their citizens’ appetite for the dish.

Do Nebraskans eat dog meat? The Nebraska Humane Society’s website says “it is unlawful for anyone to willfully or maliciously kill, maim, disfigure, torture, beat with a stick, chain or club or other object, mutilate, burn or scald with any substance or cruelly set upon any animal.” Slaughter for meat consumption is not on the list.

When Dog Was on the Menu

While it wasn’t always served as a soup, dog was often reserved for important feasts in traditional Sioux culture. It was also eaten out of necessity when other meat sources were unavailable. Some of the earliest records of Native American tribes eating dogs come from Lewis and Clark. Members of their expedition – including Lewis – frequently ate dogs. National Geographic writes, “In the dry areas of what is now eastern Washington, in fact, where there was little if any game and the only other choice was dried salmon, usually impregnated with sand, the men came to prefer dog.” However, Lewis’s Newfoundland dog Seaman was spared and completed the entire journey with the Corps of Discovery.

Dogs were also used as pack animals both before and after the introduction of horses to the Plains tribes. Dog history scholar and dog law lawyer John Ensminger has a blog called “The Dogs of the Great Plains Nations” where he describes the origins of the types of dogs used as well as their purpose in tribal culture. Prince Maximilian of Wied, a German explorer who began his travels among North American Indians in 1832, is quoted describing the Sioux dogs:

“Smaller articles were conveyed by the dogs…. The dogs, whose flesh is eaten by the Sioux, are equally valuable to the Indians. In shape they differ very little from the wolf, and are equally large and strong. Some are of the real wolf colour; others black, white, or spotted with black and white, and differing only by the tail being rather more turned up. Their voice is not a proper barking, but a howl, like that of the wolf, and they partly descend from wolves, which approach the Indian huts, even in the daytime, and mix with the dogs…. [they] showed their teeth when any one approached them” (Ensminger).

Several early explorers and traders recorded that taking care of the dogs was the responsibility of the Native American women. One explorer wrote “the dogs drag on poles the camp furniture, the provisions, the little children, and all the valuables of the family. It is a very amusing sight to witness several hundred dogs solemnly engaged in moving a large camp. They look wistfully at passers-by, and take advantage of the least want of attention on the part of their mistresses to lie down, or snarl and snap at their companions in the work. They nevertheless obey the word of command with alacrity and willingness if not fatigued” (Ensminger).

Nebraska-specific dog feast stories can be found in the late Jim Potter’s last book, From Our Special Correspondent. Dog feasts were given with gifts of ponies to honor guests (Potter 157). Sharing dog meat was also a gesture of friendliness. A man named “Old Ribs” “extended a cordial invitation to his auditors to go to camp with him, where he says some of the remnants of the feast were left over, and that he will give them all the cold dog they can eat. This invitation was declined, however, courteously but firmly” (196). One reporter named Albert Swalm writes of a dog feast in great detail, from the selection of the doomed canine, to the way it was clubbed to death, and then how it was cooked. Then, the dish was served. Swalm wrote,

“To Col. Beauvais, who is of St. Louis, was given the whole head, which set in his dish, grinning at him like—well, there is nothing so much on the grin as a dog’s head boiled. Possibly your readers cannot obtain an adequate idea of such a sight save only in one way—boil a dog’s head, set it in a pan and gaze at it by the light of a pine knot.

“I positively decline to state what your correspondent received in his dish, but Capt. Ashby, who is from Nebraska, had his pan garnished with an elegant hind leg, and a few joints of tail. Bade to come to a feast, it must have been a grave breach of Indian hospitality not to partake, but Col. Beauvais, who is an old Indian trader, informed the whites that if they did not wish to eat that dog, a release could be purchased. None of the visitors were hungry, and it took twenty dollars to convince the Indians that they were not so. The dog was entirely eaten up, the bones being picked as clean as though flesh had never covered them.”

This Dog Soup Party photo does not have the detail or the feast-like atmosphere discussed in Special Correspondent. Instead, this photo shows a group of six people in front of a tipi and wagon with the caption “Dog Soup Party, Pine Ridge Sioux.” In a direct contradiction of the “stoic Indian” stereotype, the photo subjects are relaxed and seemingly happy. While dozens of photos of life at Pine Ridge Indian Agency and at nearby Fort Robinson show dogs hanging out with their humans, the animals are conspicuously absent from this photo. Well, almost absent. One of the men has a full fork halfway to his mouth.

Note: the word Indian is used instead of Native American as it was the norm at the time.

Works Cited

Brandt, Anthony. “Sex, Dog Meat, and the Lash: Odd Facts About Lewis and Clark.” National Geographic News. Dec. 8 2003. Web. Date accessed 14 September 2016. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/12/1204_031204_lewisclark.html

Ensminger, John J. “The Dogs of the Great Plains Nations.” Doglawreporter. Jan. 22 2012. Web. Date accessed 14 Sep. 2016. http://doglawreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/dogs-of-great-plains-nations.html

Nebraska Humane Society. “Reporting an Animal Issue.” Nebraska Human Society.2015. Web. Date accessed 14 Sep. 2016.  http://www.nehumanesociety.org/community-services/animal-control/reporting-an-animal-issue.html

Palmer, Brian. “Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. Is it legal to eat your cat?” Slate.com. Aug. 12, 2010. Web. Last accessed 13 September 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/08/here_kitty_kitty_kitty.html

Phillips, Catherine. “Not Just For Christmas: Swiss Urged to Stop Eating Cats and Dogs.” Newsweek.com. Nov. 26 2014. Web. Date accessed 14 Sept. 2016. http://www.newsweek.com/not-just-christmas-swiss-urged-stop-eating-cats-and-dogs-287378

“Pet Industry Market Size and Ownership Statistics.” American Pet Products Association. Web. Last accessed 13 Sept. 2016. http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

Potter, James E., ed. From Our Special Correspondent: Dispatches from the 1875 Black Hills Council at Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society Press, 2016. Print.

Wheeler, Richard. “Dame Judi Dench urges Boris Johnson to ‘vigorously encourage’ South Korea to end dog meat trade.” The Mirror. 12 Sept. 2016. Web. Date accessed 14 September 2016. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/dame-judi-dench-urges-boris-8815189

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