In The Bahamas, street dogs, once called simply wild dogs, then Nassau dogs or Bahama dogs are now commonly referred to as Potcakes. Historically speaking, too many of these animals have a harsh and unforgiving existence in the islands. Too many are seen mangy, half-starved, skeletal creatures lying listlessly on side streets or scurrying around in desperate searches for food and water. The ill-treated ones pretty much go unnoticed. But for charitable agencies like the Bahamas Humane Society whose long history of animal welfare, since the 1930s is beyond exemplary; and new efforts like Voiceless Dogs of Nassau, BAARK and others, the fates of many animals would end in an early, painful demise. You can find them on their websites and Facebook. Please donate to their efforts.
The Bahamas Humane Society is a non-profit organization, comprised of a compassionate team, dedicated to promote the humane treatment of animal and prevent cruelty to animals through continuous education in a variety of methods. https://www.bahamashumane.org
Bahamas Humane Society charity event 1935
Baark’s mission is to carry out spay/neuter and education projects to reduce the homeless animal population and end the suffering of dogs and cats in The Bahamas. https://baarkbahamas.com
Voiceless Dogs of Nassau – Dogs on the streets of Nassau get exposed to gut-wrenching cruelty. STAND WITH US AND BE A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS DOGS. https://www.pawtcakerefuge.org
Disparagingly named ‘POTCAKE’ – the most humble STREET DOG OF THE BAHAMAS
If one is being perfectly honest, the term potcake, applied to the street dogs of The Bahamas, was never meant as a term of endearment. Potcake is a disparaging term. It was meant to convey something without value, common, and by nature unworthy of any serious attention. It follows the type of treatment meted out to too many of them. There have been substantial efforts, by local animal welfare groups, to reclaim this word potcake and devise a modern definition for it. A new definition they hope, comes out of seeing the potential in the humble potcake in a new, more humane way.
Goodness only knows where the word ‘potcake’ came from originally; but undoubtedly, it is European and was related to, quite expectedly, cakes made in a pot. In 1897, a recipe for a German Potcake, a type of Christmas cake, was published in the fashionable London women’s newspaper The Queen.
Potcake, in The Bahamas, meant the charred bit at the bottom of the peas and rice pot. This hardened burnt rice and peas layer, would naturally, take the curved shape of the bottom of the pot.
When turned out, it reminded one of a flat burnt cake bottom, that is, if a real cake had been forgotten and vastly over cooked, by three hours, in the oven.
Because this burnt rice bottom was such a common occurrence in Bahamian kitchens, and probably because it was thrown outside to the dog, maybe in the local cultural vernacular, this burnt rice leftover dog food, mixed with a few old chicken bones and maybe a piece of discarded ham fat, became synonymous with the common unpedigreed dog.
The word “potcake” in The Bahamas refers to a street dog. There are many, of these neglected poor animals, across the islands.
1954 – British-Bahamas Moves To Slow Kill Animal Management and the story of ‘Brownie’ who begs treats at British Colonial Hotel
Over the past century or so, Bahamas wild dogs, now famously known as the Potcake, have adapted to the fine art of skilfully begging food from strangers. In 1954, ‘Brownie’ came each day to luncheon at the British Colonial Hotel. There the dog would sit, staring out at the sea, hoping some kindly tourist would share their meal.
1938 – ‘Spottie’ The Domesticated Wild Dog of Nassau Makes International News
In 1938, the term ‘potcake’ had not yet been applied to street dogs in Nassau. They were simply called wild dogs. One Bahamas wild dog, gained international fame, because of his well-heeled adopted family. Sir Sidney Turing Barlow Lawford and Lady Lawford were part of the winter season tourist crowd of Nassau. Their son Peter Lawford, was then, just an up-and-coming teenage actor, when they fell in love with a wild dog while on vacation in Nassau. Undoubtedly, the dog adoption was probably at the behest of their teenaged son Peter, who wanted a companion.
Peter Lawford went on to become a top Hollywood actor. Lawford married into the Kennedy Clan and was part of the Frank Sinatra Rat Pack.