The Story of “Bingo, the Potcake”
For those of you visiting The Bahamas for this athletics meet you may be wondering about the mascot for this event, “Bingo, the potcake”. You may know of many dogs called “Bingo”, but “What has ‘potcake’ got to do with a dog?” you may ask. In The Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands (which used to be governed from Nassau many years ago) the islands dogs are called “potcakes”. The baked food, often peas and rice, which forms at the bottom of a cooking pot, we call potcake. Traditionally, this crust was not thrown away, but used to feed the family pet, so the name of the food became associated with the dog. Naming dogs after what they are fed is not uncommon in the Caribbean. In Trinidad & Tobago, they are called “pothounds” and in Guyana,“rice dogs”.
So why are we so proud of our potcakes that we have made them the mascot of these games? We regard the potcake as quintessentially Bahamian, or as we would say “a tru, tru Bahamian”. Written records indicate that Christopher Columbus found dogs in The Bahamas (the original potcake) when he sailed here over 500 years ago. That means that the Arawaks, the people who lived on the islands when Columbus arrived had dogs, and ever since, dogs, and potcakes in particular, have been part of Bahamian households. Bahamians have appreciated their affection, their loyalty and their willingness to defend their turf from strangers.
Today’s potcake, is typically a medium sized dog who comes in many different coloured coats, which re ects the varied breeds which have been imported. The great variety of potcakes was even noted several hundred years ago by a visiting naturalist, and the diversity can still be seen today. Potcakes make excellent watchdogs and have good herding instincts, which enables them to enjoy the chase, be it another dog, cat or a car! They are considered hardy and well adapted to our Bahamian climate; like all wise dogs, they do not go out in the midday sun, but rather make sure that they are up and about to enjoy the Bahamian sunrise and sunset.
What has ‘potcake’ got to do with a dog?
Such is the status of potcakes in Bahamian society that several popular songs have been written about them, notably, “The Cry of the Potcake” by Phil Stubbs. Fleabag, a potcake character created by artist and musician Eddie Minnis appeared on many of the covers to his albums. Potcakes have appeared on postage stamps and have been a topic of a poem by the acclaimed Marion Bethel. Not to mention, a Member of Parliament even enjoys being called the “people’s potcake”!
We are not the only ones to fall in love with potcakes. Each year many visitors are so enamoured with our potcakes that with the help of the Bahamas Humane Society in Nassau, or the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, they take home more than just a suntan and memories of a holiday, but what some call a “Royal Bahamian potcake”! Now potcakes can be found in Canada, as well as the United States of America and probably elsewhere; it seems that it does not matter if it is in snow or sand, there are potcakes about.