Updated: May 11
✦ 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