Meet Crystal the fossil-sniffing beagle who uncovers prehistoric mammal bones

In 2018, Crystal discovered a bone of an extinct prehistoric woolly rhinoceros in a quarry near Peterborough.

By Adam Barker
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 4:31 pm
Fossils Galore founder Jamie Jordan and partner Sarah Moore with Crystal the fossil-sniffing beagle at the Yaxley Festival.
Fossils Galore founder Jamie Jordan and partner Sarah Moore with Crystal the fossil-sniffing beagle at the Yaxley Festival.

A Peterborough beagle, who has been training to find fossils since she was three, is now playing a vital part in important palaeontological discoveries.

“You have to see it to believe it,” Jamie Jordan, founder of museum and educational centre Fossils Galore, said about his seven-year-old dog Crystal's special talent.

“We take some bones we had found previously, let her sniff them and then she would go off to find the same sort of smell. She has come across all sorts in the past,” Jamie added.

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Crystal out fossil hunting in a quarry with owner Jamie Jordan.

“Some people don’t believe us until we’ve shown them a display."

In 2018, in a quarry near Peterborough, Crystal uncovered a bone of a woolly rhinoceros.

It’s an extinct species of rhinoceros that first appeared about 350,000 years ago and existed until about 10,000 years ago.

“The quarry workers had come across a mammoth tusk but we found out there wasn’t much more of that left,” Jamie said.

Crystal with owners Jamie Jordan and Sarah Moore.

“We took her round the site and she came across a woolly rhinoceros bone, which she managed to smell through the gravel.”

Jamie, who lives with his partner Sarah Moore in Werrington, founded Fossils Galore in 2003.

It was on a family holiday in Skegness four-year-old Jamie discovered his passion for fossil hunting.

“I was walking along a beach and I came across this interesting-shaped rock,” he said.

Crystal after a long day of finding fossils

“I took it to a local fossil shop, as they didn’t have any museums in the area at the time, and they confirmed it as a dinosaur-age bird footprint.

“We sent pictures across to the Natural History Museum, who confirmed it, which is what triggered it from there.”

Jamie was inspired by Victorian palaeontologist Mary Anning, who is renowned for her discoveries in the fossil beds and cliffs of Lyme Regis, on the ‘Jurassic Coast’ in Dorset.

Anning had a black-and-white terrier called Tray, who accompanied her while she collected fossils.

It was Tray who inspired Jamie to take the same approach and invest in a four-legged companion.

Crystal has been Jamie’s sidekick ever since he got her as an 18-month-old.

“We trained her up from a pup on a reward basis, so whenever she found something she would get a treat,” he said.

Aside from Crystal’s fossil-sniffing exploits, the pair’s relationship is much more special.

“She’s my little companion,” Jamie said. “I’m dyslexia and have ADHD. She looks after me.

“She knows when I’m having moments with my ADHD - that’s the reason I think she works so hard to try and impress me. She always tries to do her best.”