London. That’s where they were supposedly invented by accident, sometime in the 1880’s. A popular myth has it that they were invented at a butcher shop, one whose owner was experimenting with a savory biscuit recipe (for humans). The biscuits were so bad, it’s said, he was forced to feed them to his customers’ dogs, and — eureka! — new commercial product was born. It’s a very familiar plot line, “the happy accident”, and it forms the backbone of what seems like a million bogus food history tales.
The real evolution of the dog biscuit is much more pedestrian. Though dog treats have probably been around in one form or another for thousands of years, the first known instance of dog biscuits being mentioned by name occurs in a French-to-Spanish dictionary in 1789: pan de perro. “Dog bread” in other words.
Even so, the dog biscuit doesn’t seem to have come into its own until the height of the Industrial Revolution, around 1825. That’s when dog biscuits were first produced en masse. By the middle part of 19th Century, brand names like Slater’s Meat Biscuit for Dogs and Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes begin to appear in the US and England. The turn of the century brought us the name “Milk-Bone”, and probably the first mass-produced dog biscuits to be made in the shape of a bone.
Throughout their history, dog biscuits have been made primarily of grain and vegetables, though on occasion with scrap meat products — up to about 25% or so — mixed in. As you may have noticed, the recipe below doesn’t call for any meat whatsoever, though if you wish you can use chicken or beef stock instead of plain water. So I’m given to understand, the peanut butter alone is enough to make dogs go wild for them.