Cuttlefish Bone: Who, When and Where?

Another post from my old site:

Everybody knows that cuttlefish bone is an ideal source of calcium for cage birds, as well as for reptiles like terrapins and day-geckos. Ideal because it is calcium carbonate and not calcium phosphate and thus helps achieve a better calcium:phosphorus ratio as well as providing calcium. But as I was writing the Breeding Waxbills book, I was struck by the fact that what I did not know is when the value of cuttle bone was discovered, how it was discovered and who discovered it.

There is no mention of cuttle bone in Dr Bechstein’s book, The Natural History of Cage Birds, the third edition of which was published in German in 1812 and in English in 1841. By 1883, Dr Karl Russ is including it in his book (the translation of the 1883 2nd German edition), The Breeding and Treatment of Foreign Aviary Birds. Similarly, cuttlebone appears both in the text of George H Holden’s Canaries and Cage Birds published by the author in New York in 1883 and in his price-list at the end (he must have been a dealer as well as an author). So my guess is that it must have come into use in the middle of the 19th Century.

Cuttle bone was used as a household scouring agent as well as for mould-making in light metalwork. I would guess that its availability for those purposes led to its use for cage birds but the basic questions remain unanswered.

Has anyone out there come across the answer. If so, I would be interested to know.


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