Sharks are as tenacious of life as cats. Couch tells a delicious story of one which, being returned to the sea after its liver had been cut out, chased a mackerel. This story has been repeated in popular natural histories, but I confess I do not believe it. Doubtless the mackerel and the shark were swimming in the same direction, and there the pursuit began and ended.
The Tope (Galeus Vulgaris), another shark, variously known as white-hound, penny-dog, and blue hornless dog fish, is a very similar creature. In an old book, the ' History of Harwich,' by Dale, this fish is termed the Sweet William. Pennant imagines the name was conferred upon it ironically, its flesh being offensive and smelling rankly ; but once, when fishing off Deal, the man with us described a spineless dogfish which I had just caught as a ' Sweet William,' and said it was very good eating. Possibly it was one of these topes—I did not take much notice of the fish at the time. In appearance it resembled a small blue dogfish, but was without that sharp spine which inflicts such dangerous wounds. We caught some of the spined dogfish, also some nurse-dogs, as they are termed locally. These also are eaten at Deal, but the spined fish are considered worthless.
Topes are plentiful off parts of the East coast, and are caught in considerable numbers during the summer months. They are, strictly speaking, sharks, and not dogfish. Off the coast of Devonshire and round Ireland they are common fish, but less numerous in Cornish waters. One of the largest specimens on record was caught in Dublin Bay, and measured seven feet in length.
The Hammer Headed Shark is an extraordinary creature which takes its name from the very peculiar shape of its visage, an eye being at each end of the hammer head. These remarkable fish are only occasionally caught in British waters. When large they are fierce and voracious. An enormous specimen, measuring over ten feet in length, was once taken in Carmarthen Bay.
The Spinous Shark (Echinorhinus Spinosus) is another occasional visitor to our coasts. It is easily distinguished from all the others by reason of a number of bony scales, from which grow spines or claws not unlike those found on the thornback. The largest specimen I ever heard of was one measuring nine feet in length, caught off the Eddystone in 1869.