Seabed to Showcase: Hatch the Dog Page 1 | The Mary Rose
Seabed to Showcase: Hatch the Dog
Collections | 14 Apr, 2023 | The Collections Team
A collections blog by Lina Fitzjames

Hatch, our ship's dog, is one of the most recognisable exhibits here at the Mary Rose (perhaps only second to the ship itself!). He’s also our most complete skeleton - but he wasn't discovered all at once...

On 12th July 1981, a diver excavating on the Main Deck towards the stern of the ship discovered a jawbone with teeth in situ whilst excavating behind a chest. With so little to go on, alongside hundreds more artefacts surfacing any given day, it’s no wonder Hatch was first entered into the Mary Rose’s records with the simple description of “one ½ jaw with teeth (animal)”.

Despite an inconspicuous start, Hatch was quickly identified - another diver in the same area six days later recovered the remainder of his skull and other bones, by the sliding door (or “hatch”) to which he owes his name. This also gave us the first photograph of Hatch in situ where he was found and allowed for his positive identification as a dog.

The majority of Hatch was then lifted two days later, on 20th July 1981, with the final pieces recovered on 14th October 1981 from the Orlop deck just below the cabin.

All in all, 55 bones were discovered and retrieved. The survival and recovery of these bones was only because Hatch was trapped between several chests which had fallen towards the starboard side as the ship sank. These chests provided an enclosed environment within which sediment accumulated. This prevented his tiny bones from drifting away or deteriorating over the passage of time.

With Hatch brought to the surface after over 400 years in the Solent, a more detailed examination could be undertaken to give us more insight into Hatch’s life - and death. From the assortment of recovered bones, specifically his skull and teeth, Hatch was identified as a young adult, who had most likely spent the entirety of his short life aboard the Mary Rose.

Although Hatch was mostly complete, there was no sign of his baculum, or penis bone, which lead to us referring to Hatch as ‘she’ for over 30 years. It wasn't until 2014 when analysis of Hatch’s tooth enamel showed that, despite this absent item, Hatch was actually a boy! 

Hatch has proven to be quite the excursionist, travelling across the United Kingdom for various tests and examinations - as a result of which, we can even tell which modern breed he is closest to (a Jack Russell, if you were wondering).

Though found in 1981, it took until 2010 for the meticulous conservation and reconstruction of his skeleton to be completed, the results of which premiered at the 2010 NFC Crufts convention. Following this, Hatch was brought back to Portsmouth for his debut at our prior museum, and after a final reconstruction in 2012 to bring him what was believed to be his living height of about 490mm, our ship’s dog headed to the new Mary Rose Museum where you can see him in pride of place in the carpenter's case on the main deck.  

It’s been over 40 years now since Hatch was first discovered. Though he began his journey as an unidentified animal jawbone, we now know as much about Hatch as his fellow sailors would have - perhaps even more!