Old sea dog sets tongues wagging at Crufts

LONDON Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:18pm EST

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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A 16th century dog, the only known female to have served aboard King Henry VIII's ill-fated flagship the Mary Rose, has stolen the show at Britain's Crufts dog show this year.

The two-year old mongrel, lost aboard the Tudor warship 465 years ago, is a special guest of the Kennel Club this year, according to the show's organizers.

The painstakingly reconstructed skeleton, poised on its haunches, acquired the nickname "Hatch" after divers discovered her remains near the sliding hatch door of the Mary Rose's carpenter's cabin.

Her remains were found partly inside and outside his quarters suggesting she was trapped there as the huge warship, the pride of the English fleet, keeled over and sank in the Solent off England's southern coast in mysterious circumstances.

Experts from the Mary Rose Trust believe she almost certainly earned her keep as the ship's "ratter" -- superstitious Tudor sailors did not have cats on board as they were thought to bring bad luck.

And she was probably very good at her job -- only the partial remains of rats' skeletons have been found on board the Mary Rose, they say.

"Expert analysis of Hatch's bones suggests that she spent most of her short life within the close confines of the ship," said Rear-Admiral John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust.

"It is likely that the longest walks she took were along the quayside at Portsmouth (southern England), her home town."

Hatch is just one of 19,000 Tudor treasures recovered with the wreck of the ship, a Tudor time capsule likened by archaeologists to a British Pompeii.

Her bones will be on display at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, central England, for the length of the show (March 11-March 14), before returning to take up a permanent home at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.

(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Keith Weir)

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