Little Known Facts – The Titanic’s Dogs

It is a little known fact that among RMS Titanic’s 2,229 passengers and crew, there also travelled a number of sea-faring dogs.

On the first page of Walter Lord’s classic account of the Titanic tragedy ‘A Night to Remember’, he writes: ‘Even the passengers’ dogs were glamorous. John Jacob Astor had brought his Airedale, Kitty. Henry Sleeper Harper, of the publishing family, had his prize Pekingese, Sun Yat-Sen. Robert W. Daniel, the Philadelphia banker, was bringing back a champion French bulldog just purchased in Britain. Clarence Moor of Washington also had been dog-shopping, but the fifty pairs of English foxhounds he had bought for the Loudoun Hunt weren’t making the trip.’

It is difficult to know exactly how many dogs travelled on Titanic because they were considered as cargo and therefore weren’t listed on the official manifest, but from eyewitness accounts it is thought that at least a dozen dogs sailed. They were walked daily by crewmembers, causing quite the spectacle on deck, and it is thought that a dog show was planned for the morning of April 15th.

So, what became of these canine passengers when the mighty ship sank?

Who Let The Dogs Out?

We don’t know for certain? While some of the smaller dogs on board Titanic were kept in the state room accommodations of their owners, larger dogs were kept in kennels on the Boat Deck (near the ‘dummy’ fourth funnel). At the time of the sinking it is believed that a passenger, possibly Robert William Daniel, a first-class passenger whose bulldog was onboard, released them from their kennels to give them a chance of escape.

Sadly, at least nine dogs perished when Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15th. These included ‘Dog’ a fox terrier, ‘Kitty’ an Airedale, belonging to millionaire John Jacob Astor and the fabulously named bulldog ‘Gamin de Pycombe’.

Unbelievably, three lucky pups survived.

dogsPictures of a number of the dogs aboard the Titanic. The two smaller dogs, the Pomeranian and Pekingese, both survived…but sadly the larger three dogs perished.


Lady – a Pomeranian belonging to Margaret Hays. The dog had been purchased in Paris before the New York resident set sail for home on the ill-fated ship. Margaret and Lady were saved in lifeboat seven.

Unknown – another Pomeranian (name not known), belonging to the New York clothing magnate, Martin Rothschild and his wife. Rothschild died in the disaster, but his wife and dog made it into lifeboat six. It is reported that she kept the small dog hidden beneath a coat and that the crew of the rescue ship Carpathia initially refused to allow the pooch on board.

Sun-Yat-Sen – a Pekingese, owned by Henry Harper and wife of New York publishing firm Harper and Row. All three were rescued in lifeboat 3. When later asked about saving the dog, Harper is reported as saying: ‘There seemed to be lots of room, and nobody made any objection.’

It is thought that the three surviving dogs escaped with their lives because they were all small breeds which could be easily concealed and would not have taken up space in the lifeboats.

A Woman’s Best Friend

One passenger’s devotion to her dog was to cost her her life. Ann Isham reportedly refused to leave the ship without her Great Dane, which was too large to place in the lifeboats. Relinquishing her place in the lifeboat, she went down with the ship. A woman’s body, clutching that of a large dog, was found by the recovery vessel the Mackay-Bennett.

Rigel – A Canine Hero

One amazing dog story, reported in the New York Herald on April 21, 1912 stated that Rigel, a Newfoundland dog belonging to the ship’s first officer, Murdoch, swam in the icy waters for three hours, looking for his master. When the rescue ship Carpathia reached the scene of the disaster, Captain Rostron was drawn towards a dog’s barks. Just near the dog, was one of Titanic’s lifeboats which had drifted dangerously under the Carpathia’s starboard bow. Its passengers were too exhausted to cry out for help. Had it not been for Rigel’s barking alerting the Carpathia’s crew, they may have missed this lifeboat of survivors or, worse, hit the lifeboat. This story has never been entirely verified.

RigelNewspaper article detailing the heroic story of Rigel.


Captain’s Dog?

Titanic’s Captain, John Smith, was photographed on board Titanic with a large wolfhound. This was a gift to Captain Smith’s daughter from Benjamin Guggenheim, who knew the Captain well. Guggenheim was not originally scheduled to sail on Titanic, but his plans were changed. Guggenheim went down with the ship. The dog was more fortunate. It was taken off the ship and given to Captain Smith’s daughter, before Titanic set sail.

edwardwolfhoundCaptain Edward John Smith with the wolfhound his daughter received as a gift.


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