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Lock, Stock, and History

Not Your Typical Pirate —- Capt. Basil Hood, the Cow Pirate, 1713.

17th and 18th century pirates loved gold, silver, and jewels.  After all the Spanish Main was rich with treasure for the taking.  However treasure was not the only thing that pirates would raid.  Anything of value was fair game for a pirate, any luxury good and any commodity, and during the colonial era there was rich trade to plundered.  It was not uncommon for pirates to steal valuable commodities such as silk, sugar, tobacco, cotton, liquor, weapons, tools, molasses, spices, medicine, indigo, and sassafras.  One example was the infamous pirate Edward Teach, aka “Blackbeard”, who in 1718 blockaded the port of Charlestown, South Carolina, raiding all ships who attempted to enter or leave the port.  He warned the mayor of Charlestown that he would only lift the blockade if his demands were met.  What were his demands?  Gold? Jewels? Dubloons?  Not at all, he demanded a large supply of venereal disease medicine to cure his crew’s various sexually transmitted diseases.

One of the weirdest plunders that ever occurred on the high seas actually happened on land, by a crew led by the not so infamous pirate Captain Basil Hood in 1713.  Capt. Hood had a brilliant plan to make some quick cash with little risk.  Raiding ships was dangerous business, after all if the crew resisted there was a chance a pirate could get stabbed, shot, or some other nasty thing.  Hood had the idea to conduct his pirate raid on land.  His treasure of choice; cows.  That’s right, in 1713 Hood and his crew landed on shore and stole an entire herd of cattle, stowing them on their ship and sailing away.  At first the plan worked perfectly, the baffled and befuddled cattle herders were not expecting that pirates would land and steal their livestock. They offered no resistance.

Unfortunately for Capt. Hood his plan went awry once out on the open sea.  The cattle grew seasick from the open ocean, and began to vomit and poop profusely due to illness.  The stench was so bad that from miles away a British warship was able to track down Hood and his crew.  It seemed that Hood was destined to make a one way drop at the end of a noose.

Faced with a British frigate who had them dead to rights, Hood and his men immediately surrendered.  It would have been the end of the line for Hood had it not been for the British Captain of the warship, who could not stand the terrible sight and stench of the filthy, sick cows.  Unable to stomach the terrible smell, the British Captain decided not confiscate Hood’s ship and cargo.  He let them go.  

Captain Basil Hood and his crew later sold the herd at another port, collecting a nice sum of booty.  Unfortunately for Hood, one does not become an infamous pirate by stealing cows.

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    I love weird history like this.
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