The Exeter mail coach, on its way to London, was attacked last Sunday night at Winterslow Hat, seven miles on this side of Salisbury, in a most extraordinary manner. At the moment when the coachman pulled up to deliver his bags, one of the leaders was suddenly seized by a ferocious animal. This produced great confusion and alarm; two passengers who were inside the mail got out, ran into the house, and locked themselves up in a room above stairs; the horses kicked and plunged violently, and it was with difficulty the coachman could prevent the carriage from being overturned. It was soon perceived by the coachman and guard, by the light of the lamps, that the animal which had seized the horse was a huge lioness.
A large mastiff dog came up and attacked her fiercely, on which she quitted the horse and turned upon him. The dog fled, but was pursued and killed by the lioness, within about forty yards of the place. It appears the beast had escaped from a caravan that was standing on the road side, belonging to the proprietors of a Menagerie, on their way to Salisbury fair.
An alarm being given, the keepers pursued and hunted the lioness into an hovel under a granary, which served for keeping agricultural implements. About half past eight they had secured her so effectually, by baricading the place, as to prevent her escape. The horse, when first attacked, fought with great spirit, and if at liberty, would probably have beaten down his antagonist with his fore feet, but in plunging, he embarrassed himself in the harness. The lioness, it appears, had attacked him in front, and springing at his throat, had fastened the talons of her fore feet on each side of his neck, close to the head, while the talons of her hind feet were forced into his chest. In this situation she hung, while the blood was seen flying, as if a vain had been opened by a lancet. The ferocious animal missed the throat and the jugular vein, but the horse is so dreadfully torn, he is not expected to survive. He was a capital horse, the best of the set. The expression of agony in his tears and moans was most piteous and affecting. A fresh horse having been procured, the mail drove on, after having been detained three quarters of an hour by this extraordinary obstruction.
The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday 22 October 1816
Note: “baricading” and “vain” appear as in the original. I do not like to use the term “sic” on the grounds that it intrudes itself into the reader’s concentration for little purpose other than to impart a sense of the editor’s superiority.
Note 2: This is a somewhat unsatisfactory story, for one is left wondering upon the outcome for both horse and lioness. Being of a melancholy nature, I assume death for both, but am intrigued to know whether any attempt was made to restore the predator to the menagerie from which she made her escape.
Note 3: I realise I should make the effort to research the matters raised in note 2, but at present all I wish to research is the location of the nearest gin bottle.
Note 4: An attack by a big cat was scarcely enough to detain the mail by three-quarters of an hour! What excuse, then, does Mr Amazon give for the fact that I have, to date, waited SEVEN DAYS for my parcel of… “improving literature”?