As well as the human inhabitants, the Mary Rose was home to a number of animals, some welcome, others not so welcome…
The Mary Rose didn’t have what we now consider the more traditional ‘ship’s cat’, it instead had a dog, which we've written about before, so I won’t go on about him here. Go and read that once you’ve read the rest of this!
The remains of at least three rats were recovered from the Mary Rose; The shoulder blade, tibia and pelvis of a large muscular rat, most likely Rattus rattus, the black house rat, or ship rat, was found on the upper deck of the Mary Rose, while an immature tibia was found on the upper deck and another in the hold.
Obviously, these rats were not welcome on board the Mary Rose, hence the presence of a ratting dog like ‘Hatch’, due to their destruction of food and damage to property, not to mention the spread of disease.
Among the insect remains recovered from the Mary Rose include a flea (Pulex irritans, the human flea, which probably arrived on board via a member of the crew, rather than the dog or rats), various fly larvae, which are known to fed on decaying meat, vegetable matter and sewage, and surprisingly few weevils, which in this case seemed to prefer the hay to ship’s biscuits!
There are also several beetles, including a dung beetle, which also arrived in the hay. We also found a wood-boring beetle, Lyctus linearis, which may have given the carpenter a few worries!
The pelvis of a frog was recovered from the hold of the Mary Rose, which had presumably been on board when the ship sank.
There are plenty of theories as to why the frog was there, from medical supplies to water purity detection, and even weather prediction! It’s more probably, though, that it was a stowaway; a dark ship filled with men with a limited sense of hygiene and raw, unrefrigerated meat and fish would attract a lot of flies, the perfect habitat for a frog (as long as he avoided the dog!)
Sadly due to the frog being out on loan, we are unable to show you a picture of it, but you know what a frog looks like, surely? Anyway, enjoy these barrels.
We can’t say for certain that there WAS a bird on board the Mary Rose, but there is evidence that at least one of the crew of the Mary Rose owned a bird of prey as a pet. Falconry was a popular pastime in the 16th century, and so it is unsurprising that we should find some of the paraphernalia that goes with it. What was for years believed to be a pair of left-handed mittens is now thought to be the inner and outer lining of a single padded glove, which was used as a falconry gauntlet. The divers on the Mary Rose wreck site in the mid-2000s also uncovered a small bell, similar to those usually attached to the legs of birds of prey to make them easier to find in the field.
As we say, there’s no evidence that the bird was brought on board the Mary Rose; there’s little to no space for a falcon to fly about within the ship (even the top deck had a roof of anti-boarding netting), so it would probably get very bored. There’s no evidence of falconry taking place on ships (an image of a peregrine falcon on a ship from the Vatican archives appears to depict a wild individual, rather than a member of the ‘crew’), but if the gentleman in question was only expecting to be on the Mary Rose for a few days (maybe even just for the duration of the Battle of the Solent), who’s to say he didn’t bring his bird aboard? Sadly, unless we find the remains of a bird of prey during a future dive we shall probably never know.