Today we celebrate International Museum Day with a focus on our globally renowned Dog Collar Museum, a unique collection of historic and fascinating dog collars which has been built up over the years and is now the largest of its kind on public display anywhere in the world!
There are over 130 rare and valuable collars including 30 collars, which were discovered in storage and have never been on public display before are now on show at Leeds Castle.
Many of the earlier dog collars in our collection, which date from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, were designed with protection in mind. During the Tudor period, dogs were used for herding, hunting and baiting. The leather increased the level of comfort for the dog as well as protecting the throat. This was a time when wolves, bears and wild boar roamed freely and the throat of the dog was vulnerable to attack. Often they were shielded by broad iron collars bristling with spikes and we have some examples of these in the collection.
As time went on, collars became less brutal and more elaborate, demonstrating the owner’s wealth and evolving into a status symbol. The most common collars date from the 19th century and usually include a simple brass ring.
In 1977 Mrs Gertrude Hunt presented the collection of dog collars to the Leeds Castle Foundation in memory of her husband, the historian John Hunt. Mr and Mrs Hunt were both avid collectors and amassed a large collection of art and antiquities, but the dog collars were Mrs Hunt’s particular passion.
Her donation consisted of more than 60 collars from all corners of Europe, dating from the 16th to the 19th century. Since that original gift, many more collars have been acquired by purchase and donation from members of the public and the collection continues to grow.
Leeds Castle’s Dog Collar Museum is open daily and entry is included with your admission ticket.