Every dog has his day. . . to serve as a furry rotissierie jack. There used to be a canine known as the "turnspit," a low-slung breed who existed to take his turn running on a wheel, the better to make the joints roast evenly. This breed is no more, and here's a letter from 1862 musing on how they were getting scarce even back then:
Thirty years ago, the kitchen of nearly every respectable house in Haverfordwest possessed a dog-wheel and a turnspit dog. There was no other way of roasting meat, saving that of the kitchen-maid turning a spit placed on andirons, as roasting-jacks had not then penetrated into this far-away region. . . I remember two turnspit dogs in the possession of a friend, a clergyman resident in the city of St. David's They had to work in the wheel on alternate days; and as meat was not roasted every day, some days would elapse without the services of a turnspit being required. Yet each dog knew well when it fell to his turn to occupy the wheel; and if the cook did not lock him up before she began to prepare her meat for roasting, he infallibly made his escape. In that case, the other dog had to take his place; and he would lie down in the wheel, and howl dismally, in expression of his sense of the injustice with which he was treated. if the cook locked up the proper dog, the other one took no notice of the culinary preparations, excepting by significant wags of his tail and lickings of his lips, indicative of his extreme satisfaction at the prospect of dinner.Over at the taxidermy blog Ravishing Beasts they have a photo of the only turnspit specimen preserved anywhere; his name was Whisky and he's from Wales.
--John Pavin Phillips, letter to Notes and Queries (London: Bell & Daldy, third series 2nd volume, Sept. 1862) p. 255.