Chad, animal husbandry, suckling, cattle, goats, jørgen bitsch, adventure, explorer, moesgaard museum, collections, anthropology, ethnography

The adventures of Jørgen Bitsch – and a spiky ‘teat halter’

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What is this? Some strange torture device? A really edgy necklace?

Sometimes objects do not tell their story outright (at least not to those, who do not already have specialised knowledge). When I was combing through our database, looking for an interesting subject for today’s blog, the sight of this artefact filled me with, admittedly slightly macabre, hopes of some dramatic tale or other. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read the name of the artefact: ‘Pattegrime’ – which literally translates into ‘teat halter’. And the described use of the halter: ‘Til ged eller ko mod selvpatning’, or ‘For goat or cow against self-suckling’ (and trust me here, English speaking readers, that the Danish word for ‘self-suckling’ is even more amusing than the English).

So, my spiky torture device turned out to be a halter used in order to prevent a goat or a cow suckling its own teats. Maybe someone more knowledgeable in the ways of animal husbandry would have known immediately, but I sure did not!

The halter was collected in 1956 in Chad among the Masa people. The collector was named Jørgen Bitsch, and he was a man who had no shortage of dramatic tales to tell. Bitsch was an explorer who in the 50s and 60s gained national fame because of his books and films, chronicling his adventures in South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. There was the time when he wrestled an anaconda on camera (the anaconda might have been slightly dead, but who’s to say?), or that time when he journeyed alone through the Sahara Desert, almost dying of hunger and thirst (maybe the cameramen filming his efforts forgot to bring provisions?). Regardless, he left a legacy, as one of the great adventurers of the post-war era, when travelling to distant lands to explore unchartered areas of the maps was still something you could do.

And he left us with a surprisingly mundane collection of everyday artefacts from Chad, complete with a vicious-looking ‘teat halter’.

//Sophie Seebach

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putting thought to things

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