King John III Sobieski’s Otter

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King John III Sobieski's Otter
The otter of King John III Sobieski.




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This otter used to be the pet of a Polish aristocrat during the reign of King John III Sobieski (1629 – 1696). It slept in his bed, as the story has it, and woke him up anytime someone came close to the bedroom like a dog would do. He also used to rely on his companion to provide him with fish, whenever he had guests, and to take it around with him on his travels.

The otter gained the reputation of being such an extraordinary pet, that it soon came to the attention of the King, who decided he needed to have this amazing animal for himself. Our gentleman resisted as much as he could, but one cannot stand in the way of one’s king’s desires very long, and he painfully resigned himself to part with his friend.

It took a little while for the animal to get used to its new owner, but the two of them finally got along so well that the otter became the king’s favorite pet, the one he favored over his tamed lynx and his cassowary. Unfortunately, one day it was wandering around in the gardens of Wilanów Palace, an unsuspecting soldier saw it, and killed it with a stick. He sold the hide for the equivalent of a few shillings. When he learned about this tragedy, the king gave orders for the man to be shot, but later changed his mind.

The caption reads in the original French: La loutre du roi Jean Sobieski.

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