Monday, 20 April 2015

The Mysterious Case of the Pawprint in the Brick...

Saw this amazing little paw-print recently:

Isn't that lovely?

And unusual?

It appears in a red-brick Georgian house, built around the middle of the C18th, and presumably a cat walked across the bricks in their forms, before they were baked in the kiln.

I assume it's a cat - something with pads, and retractrable claws, and it seemed about the right size for a cat.

The owner wondered what sort of animal would have six toes, but I told them I was fairly certain it was two footprints, one nearly on top of the other.

A lot of four-legged animals walk in a pattern called "tracking" or "tracking up" whereby on each side, the back foot is placed exactly where the just-lifted front foot was. If you watch them walking, you can see this lovely coordination, the front foot rises just fractionally before the back foot would have nudged it.

In horse riding, this is something which is part of daily training, ensuring that your horse tracks up properly, and doesn't slop along with the back hoofs not landing exactly where the front ones went. If you look at a run of hoofprints in soft ground, you can often see whether the horse was working properly, or slopping along, by looking for overlapping hoof prints.

None of my various riding instructors could ever tell me why we had to work on this, but I have always assumed that any four-legged animal can only see where the front two feet are going, so to avoid unnecessary injury to the back feet, they should be placed only where the front feet have safely gone.

So we could assume that this little paw print is a back foot overlying a front foot.

Or, the cat started to walk on the half-set bricks, felt its paw sink in, rocked back, then decided to go ahead anyway.

Who knows.

Update: just had another one come in!  Read all about it here...


  1. I had a friend in college with an exposed brick wall, and one of the bricks had a paw print in it! Funnily enough her name was Rachel too!

  2. Hi Julian *waves*, what a great story!

    I wonder how common paw-prints in bricks are? It certainly "dates" the wall, then, as this can only happen in the pre-industrial times, before bricks were made on conveyor belts, but were left lying around in the yard while waiting to be put into the kiln.

    Unless .... maybe people who make expensive hand-made bricks for renovation and for exclusive building projects have a small mould on a stick, which they dab onto the bricks during the process? I wonder what a premium they could charge for them?

    If anyone else has a pawprint in a brick, do please send me a photo!

    1. Hi Rachel, I'm working on a barn conversion, we're taking down an old internal wall due to be rebuilt, up to now I've found 3 paw prints bricks the building dates to 1807,I'll send you pics as soon as 🙂

    2. Fantastic! I look forward to that! You can't attach photos to comments, but do please email me (address at top right of page) and I'll add them to the post!

    3. My house was built in the late 1960's. It has the paw prints and sea shell prints all over the house.

    4. How lovely!

      Presumably you're somewhere near the coast... and what about my comment that this wouldn't happen with modern, production-line bricks: was your house made of handmade bricks, or maybe old ones were re-used?

      Either way, it's fascinating!

  3. I live in a house (uk) built in the 1800's and we have a brick with a cat paw print in it too. I stumbled across this blog as I was actually looking for info on another type of brick my builder found in our wall that is zigzagged in shape. He'd never seen anything like it before.

    1. A zig-zag brick? I don't think I even know what that would look like!


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