Lennox Killed by Phrenologists on a Witch-hunt

“As children tremble and fear everything in the blind darkness, so we in the light sometimes fear what is no more to be feared than the things children in the dark hold in terror…” –  Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Viennese physician Franz-Joseph Gall (1758-1828) believed that organs on the surface of the brain affected the shape and contours of the skull. From this idea he proposed that one could measure skulls to predict personality, intelligence and even morality. [1]

Nowadays most people are smart enough to dismiss someone trying sell the idea that the bumps on your skull were indicative of personality traits. But not when it comes to dogs. Governments all over the world have made passed laws discriminating against dogs, all based on the shape of the skull.

Phrenology is back in full force, we now call it Breed Specific Legislation.

Dog Phrenology. The Carp Review – Feb 24, 1927

Dog Phrenology the Latest Fad. Auckland Star, 1898.

On July 10, 2012 a two year international campaign to save the life of an Irish mutt named Lennox came to a bitter end.The Belfast City council carried out the death sentence under the guise that Lennox was a dangerous dog; they based their decision on the way he looked.

Working under the same assumption as those 19th C phrenologists – that skull morphology determines personality – dog wardens in Belfast took a measuring tape to Lennox’s head and decreed that he was a danger to society.

The Belfast city council, like other governments, has taken spurious data combined it with inane beliefs and applied it to dogs. Breed targeting legislation is based on the false assumption that the way a dog looks – more specifically the shape of its skull – is a reliable indicator of how much danger it poses to society. They believe that the psyche has been externalized into skull morphology.

“In the witch trials, mitigating evidence or defence witnesses were inadmissible. In any case, it was nearly impossible to provide compelling alibis for accused witches: the rules of evidence had a special character.” – Carl Sagan, Demon Haunted World

The case of Lennox also brought to light the pernicious nature of all breed specific legislation and the capricious application of the law. Once officials accuse your dog, it becomes impossible to change their minds. It is reminiscent of the witchcraft trials of the middle ages; evidence is not needed. The accusation given as proof of guilt. The death sentence is invariably carried out.

But Lennox was one dog in one city in one country. Every day the story is repeated across the world; dogs die everywhere citizens have allowed politicians to quell irrational fears with absurd legislation. The story of Lennox will  be repeated as long as politicians continue to be ruled by fear and pass laws based on pseudo-science.

It’s time to say “NO!” to dog phrenologists and their witch hunts.


  1.  The Skeptics Dictionary – phrenology (cranioscopy) http://www.skepdic.com/phren.html
  2. Dog Phrenology the Latest Fad.   Auckland Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 223, 21 September 1898, Page 6.   http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=AS18980921.2.43
  3. The Carp Review – Feb 24,  1927 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1211&dat=19270224&id=fl1TAAAAIBAJ&sjid=aoQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4340,881092

Further Reading

Statement On Lennox By Sarah Fisher

Lennox: The Gloves Come Off

5 thoughts on “Lennox Killed by Phrenologists on a Witch-hunt

  1. Bravo. An interesting take on this sad story, one I’ve not seen elsewhere. What the heck, I buy it. It makes as much sense as any of the stupid excuses for BSL.

    • My take on phrenology was based on the report that they really DID take a measuring tape to Lennox’s head to determine it was a pitbull and therefore a danger to society.

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  3. Exactly right. They call it ‘breed’-specific legislation but it is more shape-specific legislation and not particularly specific at all. Here in Ontario, Canada we have created a chimera using three very rare breeds + any dog that may resemble them to an unsophisticated observer. The law has absolutely nothing to do with behaviour. It is like being in an Orwell story, or worse.

    This is the money quote from your excellent piece:
    “It is reminiscent of the witchcraft trials of the middle ages; evidence is not needed. The accusation given as proof of guilt.”

    It is absolutely a witch hunt since there is no such thing as a “pit bull”. It is shameful and inexcusable and the piling on by media airheads and others is illustrative of how widespread superstitions really still are and worse, how dishonest politicians are ready to take full advantage of that.

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