Most Famous Dogs in History
Throughout history, human beings have turned to dogs for companionship, protection, and service. However, humans never seem to be able to give dogs back as much as they give us. So we honor them by remembering their love and sacrifice and telling their stories to inspire us to love the ordinary dogs in our own lives.
If you need to be inspired, here are some stories of the most famous dogs in history. These magnificent creatures have worked alongside us and loved us for as long as we can remember and deserve their time in the spotlight.
Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov famously used his many dogs as the subjects for experiments. Thanks to their help, he was able to discover a response that we now call Pavlovian conditioning.
Pavlov implanted a small test tube into the cheek of each dog to measure the amount of saliva that they produced when offered meat. He later discovered that the dogs would begin to salivate as soon as they heard the footsteps that heralded the arrival of their dinner. He was able to then train his dogs to respond to conditioned stimuli. Pavlov used this evidence to prove the existence of unconditioned responses.
One of Pavlov’s dogs was later taxidermized. It is currently on display at the Pavlov Museum in Russia.
Another famous Russian pup is Laika, a stray dog who was plucked from the streets of Moscow and sent into space aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957.
At the time, the effect of space flight on living beings was still unknown. So, the Soviets decided to use a dog to see how it would react to the harsh conditions of space. Laika was selected as the inaugural flight dog because of her calm, quiet temperament. She was placed inside the capsule three days before the flight and hooked up to sensors that would monitor her bodily functions.
Unfortunately, Laika died of overheating during the fourth circuit of Earth. Her remains disintegrated with the rest of the rocket upon its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on April 14, 1958.
Although it’s likely that the story told in Homer’s Odyssey is fiction, the myth of Argos — Odysseus’s faithful pup — has been told so many times that it feels like part of our history.
The story of the Odyssey follows Odysseus’s return to Ithaca after 20 years away fighting the Trojan War. When Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca, he hides his identity and is unrecognizable to everyone. Everyone except his faithful dog Argos, who has grown old and tired in the years that Odysseus has been away. Argos just has the strength to wag his tail. However, Odysseus can’t pet him because it would give away his identity. Odysseus walks past Argos, who immediately dies.
Argos waited to see his master one more time before succumbing to old age.
One of the most memorable First Dogs is Bo Obama, a Portuguese Water Dog. Bo was adopted by the Obamas after months of public speculation about whether they would get a pet. The pup was selected because of his easy temperament and hypoallergenic fur.
Bo was actually a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy, whose dog Cappy was one of Bo’s littermates. Bo was an immediate hit with both the Obamas and the wider American public.
Another popular political pup is Lennu, a Boston terrier who belongs to the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and his wife, Jenni Haukio. Unlike many other political puppies, Lennu regularly appears at political functions. He’s often featured in photoshoots with the President and his wife, especially before the birth of their first child.
Lennu’s squashed face and precocious behavior won over the Finnish media. In fact, photos featuring him regularly get more retweets and shares than actual policy statements released by the President’s official Twitter account.
Greyfriar’s Bobby is the name of a Scottish Skye terrier who became known throughout the country for his devotion to his master. Even after the death of his master.
Bobby’s owner was a gardener named John Gray, who often took Bobby with him as he trudged through Edinburgh to work. Gray passed away from tuberculosis in 1858 and was buried in the cemetery of Greyfriar’s Kirk. Bobby spent the rest of his days lying on Gray’s grave, refusing to leave even during the coldest winter nights.
Bobby died on the grave in 1872. Soon after, a fountain with a statue of Bobby was placed outside the churchyard with the inscription: “Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”
Rottweiler mix Sinbad wasn’t just a mascot of the U.S. Coast Guard. Sinbad actually served alongside sailors on the USS Campbell from 1937 until he was honorably discharged in 1948.
Although initially smuggled onboard by an officer, Sinbad soon became such an integral part of the crew. So integral, in fact, that Sinbad was given his own enlistment papers and a uniform. He regularly boosted morale among the soldiers. As essential personnel, Sinbad often remained on board even when most other crew members were evacuated.
Sinbad was eventually promoted to the rank of Chief Dog. However, he was frequently demoted for insubordination to senior officers.
There aren’t many people still around who heard first-hand the story of sled dog Balto. Despite that, a new generation was introduced to his story through the eponymous 1995 Disney film.
In 1925, Balto was one of the lead sled dogs tasked with bringing a diphtheria antitoxin serum from Anchorage to Nome. Balto ran through whiteout conditions in the darkest part of the night, shepherding the rest of his team safely through the Iditarod Trail.
Balto’s stuffed remains now sit in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Another dog who has been considered an emblem of loyalty is Hachiko. This Akita would walk his owner to the local train station every morning, then return to pick him up later in the day.
One day, Eizaburo Ueno, Hachiko’s owner, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died at work. For the next 10 years, Hachiko returned to the train station every morning and evening, waiting for his master who would never come back.
A statue of Hachiko now sits at Shibuya Station in Tokyo.
Checkers was a black and white cocker spaniel that once belonged to the family of then-Senator Richard Nixon.
Nixon had just been picked as Dwight Eisenhower’s Presidential running mate when he was accused of misusing $18,000 in campaign contributions. Nixon tried to turn the discussion away from politics by talking about his dog Checkers, who was a gift from a supporter.
Many people believe it was Nixon’s loving description of the dog that humanized him. Many think that contributed to the Republican party sweeping the election in 1952.
On this day it is appropriate to acknowledge a black-and-white Cocker Spaniel named Checkers. He was the dog featured in Richard Nixon’s famous TV address defending himself during the 1952 campaign–“the Checkers speech”–on Sept. 23. Photo: Richard Nixon Foundation. pic.twitter.com/6QJLLtGjps
— Joseph A. Esposito (@EspositoWriter) September 23, 2018
Bobbie the Wonder Dog
Bobbie the Wonder Dog was a Collie-Shepherd mix.
In 1923, Bobbie was separated from his family while they were on a road trip to Indiana. The family looked everywhere but ended up heading home without the dog after a prolonged search proved fruitless.
Six months later, Bobbie turned up at the family home in Silverton, Oregon — 3,000 miles away from where he was last seen. Bobbie likely swam and walked the whole way, in the middle of winter, in order to return to his family.