Codie and Buddie to co-star in book

StarsCodie White and her calf Buddie are to appear in a book on the history of pets in New Zealand.

The pair are Calf Club Day stars, and appeared in a number of stories on this site, which is where author Nancy Swarbrick came across them.

Creature Comforts: New Zealanders and their pets – a history, is to be published by Otago University Press later this year.

Nancy was researching photographs for the book and says she was impressed by the photo of Codie and Buddie wearing all his prize ribbons, taken by mother Kim.

The book, described as a labour of love, takes as a starting point statistics that show New Zealand households have a higher percentage of pets than any other comparable country.

“I delve into the past to suggest some reasons as to why we are such avid pet owners. There are 10 chapters which each look at a different theme.”  This includes first contacts between Maori and Pakeha and their pets, the importance of pets to British settlers, the growth of poultry, cat and dog fanciers’ organisations, and some famous companion animals such as Paddy the Wanderer and Hector the Farmers’ parrot.

And one chapter is about farm pets – in particular pet lambs and calves and the rise of Calf Club Day (or Calf and Lamb Day).

“This became part of New Zealand rural life from the 1920s, when Boys’ and Girls’ Agricultural Clubs were set up to encourage country children to stay on the land – at that time, the drift to cities was becoming more obvious.”

Calf Clubs were extremely popular in dairying districts, and Taranaki is usually thought to be the stronghold, she says.

“But I have discovered that one of the first – possibly the first – was set up in Waikato – it was the Tautari Boys’ and Girls’ Calf Club at Pukeatua which began in July 1921.”

While there are plenty of official reports and files about the clubs, she has tried to describe the experience of belonging, rearing a pet calf or lamb, and competing on the day from the child’s point of view.

“For many people Calf Club Day was the highlight of the school year and one of the happiest memories of growing up. A number of people of all ages have shared their stories with me, but I’m always keen to hear from anyone with information and recollections. I think it is a very important part of our history that should be treasured and recorded.”

She also looks at some more controversial topics such as stray and unwanted pets, and the conflicts between conservationists and pet owners. The book moves from the late eighteenth century through to the present day, and is going to be illustrated with around 100 artworks, cartoons and photos – including, she says, the lovely one of Codie and Buddy.

Nancy is originally from the Waikato, Hamilton is her home town, but she now lives in Wellington.

“I’ve been working on the book part-time for the past four years. For my day job I work for Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand and I wrote an encyclopedia entry about Waikato a couple of years ago.

“My practical knowledge of pet-keeping is supplied by Guido, a feisty black and white male cat with a talent for catching huge rats!”

Nancy is keen to hear from anyone with information and recollections of calf club day – click here to send an email.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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