✦ Pets are part of the family and have been so for generations. They write their own stories within our lives and hearts and offer so much above and beyond companionship. Throughout history there have been countless stories of famous pets that have been elevated to legendary status. Here we take a look at some of them.
The stories of famous figures from history owning pets are plentiful. Roman emperor Caligula (37–41 BC) was renowned for his vicious temper and penchance for cruelty, yet adored his Spanish racehorse called Incitatus who he built a marble stable for and bestowed a bejewelled collar upon. Incitatus also had flakes of gold mixed in with his daily oats, drank from a golden bucket and had a procession of servants to wait on him. Sadly though, the emperor’s famed temper ultimately took a turn for the worst and he had Incitatus beheaded!
The third emperor of the Ming dynasty in China (1402–1424) known as Yongle had many exotic pets such as bears, rhinos, parrots and peacocks although it was his pet giraffe that was the toast of the court, revered by all who believed it to be the mythical qilin, a Chinese unicorn.
The Egyptians are well known for their love of pets with cats being the most popular. Indeed, such was the extent that felines were regarded, anyone found guilty of intentionally killing a cat would be punished by death. Dogs were popular too, often used for guarding homes and hunting. Both cats and dogs were often mumified once they had passed away and a common practice among ancient Egyptians would be to shave off all their hair, including their eyebrows, to show their grief for the death of a pet.
In more modern times, one of the most famous dog’s in Australian history is Bob. Born in South Australia in 1882 and living his early years as a stray, Bob had a love of trains, hanging around the railyard with workers and often following trains down the track. Things got even better for Bob when he was adopted by the local station master who then allowed the canine to ride in the guard’s van each day.
The pair eventualy parted ways after the man received a promotion and moved away although that didn’t stop Bob as he carried on jumping trains alone, travelling up and down South Australia for years. He would follow the guards and station masters home at evening after a hard day’s work where they fed him and allowed him to rest before all returned to the train yard the following day.
Bob’s reputation became legendary and he was warmly welcomed at whichever town he might roll into. Children loved him, he was welcomed to attend dinners and banquets as a guest of honour and a special bracelet was made for him with instructions on how he could be safely returned for anyone who might find him lost.
Similarly, the story of Hachiko is the stuff of legend in his native Japan, to the extent that he has even inspired a couple of movies. The Akita-bred dog was born in 1923 and adopted by Professor Hidesaburo Ueno. The loyal pooch would wait for his master to return from his workplace every day, sitting patiently at the now world famous Shibuya station in Tokyo.
Unfortunately, one day in May of 1925, Ueno-san did not appear, after having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passing away. Heart-breakingly, Hachiko spent the rest of his days visiting the same spot near the train station everyday in the hope his master and best friend would again return, something he did for 10 years until he himself passed away.
There now stands a bronze statue, erected in 1934, to mark the spot outside the bustling station which has become one of the most visited tourist sights in Tokyo, for locals and foreigners alike. Prior to the days of mobile phones, Hachiko’s statue was frequently designated as a landmark for friends meeting one another, a duty it continues to serve to this day even with the developments in technology. Even the exit from Shibuya station nearest to the statue is named ‘Hachiko exit’.
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The story of ‘Captain’ from Argentina is very similar to that of his Japanese counterpart and is equally guaranteed to pull at even the heardest of cynics’ heartstrings. Capitan’s master, Manuel Guzman, passed away in 2006. Following his funeral, Guzman’s family returned home to discover Captain had disappeared.
It transpired a few days later that the faithful hound had found his way to his master’s grave and continued to visit everyday for the following six years. There was even a story on him featured on ABC News in Argentina in 2012.
In Italy, there is the famous story of Fido, a dog who was born sometime during World War II and found close to death of the streets by a kind man who took him in and nursed him back to full health. Italy was under freuqent heavy fire with bombings at the time but Fido would wait at the bus stop for his master to alight everyday. One day, sadly, the man didn’t return as he fell victim to an air raid and was killed. Fido still continued to wait at the same bus stop everyday for the next 14 years, hoping his master would one day return.
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Stories of celebrities’ pets are well known worldwide, from Michael Jackson’s beloved chimpanzee Bubbles to Beyoncé’s pet snake Fendi who she claims she would frequently share her bed with at night. “I loved the snake,” the iconic singer has often recalled, wistfully.
Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney habitually stated that he loved his Vietnamese pot-bellied pet pig Max more than any of the famous and beautiful women he dated over the years, although we’re pretty sure his current wife and mother of his twin children, acclaimed UN Human Rights lawyer Amal Clooney, wouldn’t want to hear that!
Singer Miley Cyrus dedicated a song she wrote to her pet Pablow the blowfish and hardman ex-boxer Mike Tyson is famous for his love of breeding pigeons although, exerting a softer side, he admits he doesn’t name them because it makes him sad to get too attached.
The hamster belonging to Emma Watson sadly died while the 10-year-old actrees was on the set of one of the Harry Potter movies so the crew very kindly constructed a mini coffin lined with velvet for it to be buried in.
Fellow actress Drew Barrymore was so spiritually attached to her pet dog Flossie that when the canine passed away aged 16, Barrymore flew to India to scatter her beloved pet’s ashes. It transpired that Flossie had managed to wake Barymore when a fire broke out at her Beverly Hills home some years previous, effectively saving the actress’ life and hence why she had an extra special place in her affections. “Flossie was my first girl,” Barrymore wrote in her memoir. “And the love I felt for her is one of the best gifts I have ever known.”
It is often said that pets save lives, in a variety of ways, and that was certainly the case for Brit James Bowen and his cat Bob. At the time Bowen was a drug addict, living homeless of the streets of London when he came across an injured cat in 2007. He tended for it and the two soon became inseparable. Bob would often be seen on Bowen’s shoulders adorning a woolen scarf as the man busked to make money in London.
Bowen soon made the story into a book and a subsequent film and fame welcomed both Bowen and his beloved feline before Bob sadly passed away in June, 2020. Bowen credits Bob with literally saving his life, saying on his Facebook page: “He gave me so much more than companionship. With him at my side, I found a direction and purpose that I’d been missing.”
Last but not least we have the heartwarming story of Rin-Tin-Tin, a German Shepherd who was rescued from a French battlefield during World War I by kindly American soldier Lee Duncan. Once both had safely relocated back to the United States, Rin-Tin-Tin literally became the toast of Tinseltown as he went on to star in 27 Hollywood silent movies, starting with Where the North Begins in 1929.
Warner Bros. will always have a debt of gratitude to Rin-Tin-Tin as they faced bankruptcy at the time. However, the movies Rin-Tin-Tin starred in were so incredibly successful that he helped the studio make enough money to remain in operation and become the powerhouse that they are today!
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