Lord Doneraile’s tame fox and rabies


Sir, – Frank Folan has focused on an important and poorly understood episode in his letter “Foxes and the aristocracy” (August 27th).

During the last outbreak of rabies in Ireland, Lord Doneraile, and his coachman Robert Barrer, were both bitten by a tame fox, on January 13th, 1887. Lord Doneraile had the worst bites, with deep multiple wounds on both hands.

They both went for treatment by Pasteur in Paris, as Frank Folan notes.

They received two full courses of treatment on January 24th and February 21st.

Various stories are circulated about this, including that Lord Doneraile got bored and did not complete the treatment, but his relevant file (number 1356) at the Pasteur Institute, shows clearly that he did in fact complete both treatments.

Lord Doneraile’s death in August prompted the eradication of the disease, enacted by the Diseases of Animals Acts, and the last case in Ireland was in 1903 .

While now rare in Europe, rabies is still common in Africa and Asia, so we need to remain vigilant. – Yours, etc,


School of Biological, Earth

and Environmental


University College Cork.