Stray animals of Turkey

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Today Istanbul holds an unusually large population of stray cats. They are often well taken care of by the city’s population. How old is this tradition, is it due to Turkish or Islamic culture, or does it date back to Roman times?

cats dogs kedi kopek

Today Istanbul holds a usually high population of stray cats, and are often well taken care of by the cities population. How old is this tradition, is it due to Turkish or Islamic culture, or does it date back to Roman times?

Is looking after stray animals due to Turkish or Islamic culture, or does it date back to Roman times?

It is easy to check. There are a couple of countries who claim heritage of Turkish, Islamic or Roman culture. For example, how good the countries such as Italy, France, Germany or England who were heirs of Roman Empire, take care of stray cats? Or how good the countries such as Morocco or Iran which are prominently Muslim Majority countries treat the animals? Do they differ from other Turkic states such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan in regards of animal rights?

A quick research on internet tells it was not a Roman tradition. You may check following articles.

  • Ritualistic Cat Torture Was Once a Form of Town Fun
  • 1677: Londoners burn live cats in wicker pope – Past Peculiar
  • The Golden Bough/The Fire-Festivals of Europe
ottoman manca dog cat food

But we have some well-documented information about animals of Turkish History. For example, there was an occupation in Ottoman for the people who fed stray animals which called “mancaci”. Manca means cat & dog food.

mancaci dog cat ottoman osmanli

Mancaci would feed the stray animals with the donation money of animal-lovers.

stray dogs ottoman
ottoman children dogs

Not just cats or dogs were fed, but wild animals such as wolves. In winter months, necessary meat had been left for them, so they would not attack people or wouldn’t come to settlements.

osmanli dogs wolves
ottoman dogs

Not to forget feeding birds

ottoman birds
children birds

Of course only feeding them is not enough. They also needed some institutions. A cat hospital in Uskudar, Istanbul, a bird hospital in Dolmabahce, Istanbul. And another one in Bursa, solely for the storks (Gurabahane-i Laklakan) since 16th century.

ottoman birds hospital
ottoman animal hospital

Animal-loving also shows itself in architecture as bird-palaces since 15th century.

bird palaces
bird palace

They were even included in pious foundations and wills. For example Bayezid Foundation had spared annually 30 gold for feeding birds among other things. It was/is also common to put water cups for birds in graveyards.

graceyard bird feeding

The first official regulation in the world regarding animal rights?; The Imperial Degree of Ottoman Sultan Murat III, dated 19th March, 1587 stated that “It was forbidden to overload animals such as horse or mule more than their capacity. And necessary care should be given about feeding and caring animals. And those who do not comply with the provisions would be punished.”

ottoman sultan murat animal rights

Deserved a retirement: The Cattle, which pulling cannons during wars, were retiring with a salary, when they got old. Retired animals were living in a farm which specifically established for them since 1654.

retired animals ottoman

Animal holiday: An imperial degree dated 2nd October 1856, reminded people that it was forbidden by law, on fridays, to use horses to carry goods as well as ride them. Fridays were holidays for the horses since they were working remaining six days of the week.

animal holidays ottoman

Asking permission to kill ants: It is well known story that Suleiman the Magnificent asked his Sheikh al-Islam, whether it was ok to kill ants, which searing fruit trees in palace gardens. (The answer was: No, it was not ok!)

ants magnificent suleiman ottoman

Many foreign traveller such as German Hans Dernschwam (1542), French Jean Thevenot (1656), Lamartine, Guer and British Ambassador Paul Ricout mentions about animal hospitals and pious foundations for animals which they had witnessed in Istanbul.

ottoman animals
osmanli ottoman animals

In the 17th century, the traveller Jean du Mont wrote that “For Turks, it is a crime to kill animals such as cats, dogs or horses which were not fed for their meats.

pera istanbul animals

Also Busbecq (1554) writes in his travelogue about a Venetian merchant who was taken to court by Turkish people because he had nailed a bird to his door while it was alive.

ottoman osmanli dogs

Dogs came to Istanbul with Turks and they were always part of street life. However not all stories are pleasant. In 1910, a French Company which used dogs for the perfume and chemical industry applied Coup D’etat Government (Comittee of Union & Progress) of Ottoman in order to buy these dogs. They signed a deal. However, when news heard there was an uproar. Using dogs in experiment was unthinkable for most Turks, that’s why they protested.

dogs sold ottoman era

Yet, coup government did not care. When stray dogs had been gathered on a ship, animal lovers raided the ship and saved the dogs. However, poor creatures been forcefully re-gathered. And this time there were guards who were ensuring their captivity. Then, it was decided that dogs could wait in a deserted island instead of a ship.

kopek adasi dog island istanbul

While 80.000 dogs were staying in a deserted island, French company declared that they backed off from the deal. All dogs died from hunger and thirst.

hayirsiz ada sivriada dogs kopekler

Official name of the island was/is “sharp” (sivri). However from then on people started to call that island as “scapegrace” (hayırsız ada). People also believed that, the earthquake of 1912 and many other following misfortunes befell on them due to this unheard cruelty towards these voiceless, innocent creatures.

main qimg be58c60158c0c5f844bc6108082db577 pjlq

This heartbreaking and disgraceful event still vividly remembered by people.

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