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Issue 974

DOG BISCUITS

There are some unusual observances in the world, and perhaps one of the strangest is Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day on February 23. It’s time for Tidbits readers to “bone” up on these facts about doggie treats!

• Believe it or not, the history of dog biscuits dates back to the era of the Roman Empire. Dogs were given “bad bread,” that which was considered low quality and unfit for human consumption. Bread for dogs was called “parruna,” and was made from bran. This was the practice until the 1800s, when a dog food made of vegetables mixed with grain came onto the scene.

• A Brit by the name of “Mr. Smith” sold dog-biscuit food in the area of Maidenhead in 1827. It consisted of oats, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, and according to an 1828 publication, the factory was producing sales of five tons a week.

• In 1860, an Ohio electrician traveled to London to sell his new invention, lightning rods. Upon landing in London, as James Spratt stood along the harbor, he observed several mongrel dogs eating discarded hardtack, the cheap, dry, tough biscuits that sailors ate while on long sea voyages. Spratt was inspired to develop a biscuit for dogs, before long he had patented his mixture of grains, beetroot, vegetables, and gelatinous beef parts and beef blood, and was marketing as “Spratt’s Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes.”

• Others jumped on the bandwagon quickly, including Dr. A.C. Daniels’ Medicated Dog Bread, and in 1871, advertisements for Slater’s Meat Biscuit for Dogs bragged that this product contained “vegetable substances and 25% of prepared meat products.” They claimed that their biscuits would “give dogs endurance” and “keep them in fine working condition.”

• Spratt’s product led the pack until 1907, when an American inventor, Carleton Ellis, who had invented a type of margarine, along with varnish and paint remover, developed a milk-based dog biscuit. It was a good recipe, but the real success came along when Ellis baked the biscuits in the shape of a bone.

• Ellis’ invention was introduced in 1908 by the F H. Bennett Biscuit Company, produced in a bakery on New York’s Lower East Side. Each biscuit was packaged individually to guarantee freshness. Because of the high milk content, the biscuits were named Maltoid Milk-Bones. The “bones” were an immediate success, and soon a number of different flavors were added. The ads soon touted not only the great flavor, but cleaner teeth and better breath for dogs as well.

• Bennett’s products dominated the industry for decades, and in 1931, the company was sold to Nabisco. In 1940, Nabisco expanded the line to include not only different flavors but different sizes for dogs of varying sizes, small, medium, and large.

• During the 1950s, Milk-Bone was the sponsor of television’s “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin,” the story of Rusty, a young orphan being raised by soldiers at Fort Apache, along with Rusty’s German Shepherd.

• Milk-Bone introduced their Flavor Snacks in 1963, with six flavors – milk, meat, vegetable, cheese, bone, and liver – in each box. Their tartar control rawhide strips came along in 1989. Two new innovations came along in 2016 – peanut butter dog biscuits, and Pill Pouches, an item designed to help pets take their pills.

• Now owned by the J.M. Smucker Company, Milk-Bones are made exclusively in Buffalo, New York.