The Dogs On The Titanic

April 15, 2012, marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
On 14 April 1912, four days into the crossing and about 375 miles (600 km) south of Newfoundland, she hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm. Passengers and some crew members were evacuated in lifeboats, many of which were launched only partly filled. Just before 2:20 am the Titanic broke up and sank bow-first. Over 1500 people plus an unknown number of dogs and possibly cats perished. The 710 survivors were taken aboard from the lifeboats by RMS Carpathia a few hours later.

The exact number of dogs on the ship is unknown, but based on eyewitness accounts and the ship's records there were at least 12 dogs on board, only three of which survived.
It was not unusual for dogs to accompany their rich owners on a sea cruise. Only first-class passengers brought dogs on the Titanic and most were kept in the ship's kennels on the 3rd class deck.
The kennel facilities on Titanic were excellent and the dogs were well taken care of. Each day a member of the crew would take the variety of dogs for a walk. Among the many breeds were a champion French bulldog owned by Robert Daniels and insured for $750, a huge amount at the time, and the Astor's, the Titanic's most prominent passengers, Airedale named Kitty. The parade was quite a spectacle and a dog show had been planned on board the Titanic for the owners for Monday April 15th.

Mr & Mrs Astor and their Airedale terrier

The three dogs that survived stayed in their owners' cabins and were so small that it's doubtful anyone even realized they were being carried to the lifeboats where pets were not allowed.

The three canine survivors were:
  • Lady, a Pomeranian that had recently been purchased in Paris by Margaret Bechstein Hays. The 24-year-old New Yorker was returning home on the Titanic from travels in Europe with friends. When passengers were evacuated, Miss Hays wrapped Lady in a blanket. Crew members allowed her to get in lifeboat 7 with the puppy because they assumed it was a baby.
  • Another Pomeranian, whose name isn't known, owned by New York clothing magnate Martin Rothschild and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Anne Rothschild. While Martin Rothschild didn't survive the shipwreck, his wife made it to lifeboat 6 with her dog, which she kept hidden. No one else on the lifeboat remembered seeing the dog until the next morning, and rescuers on the Carpathia initially refused to take it on board. But Mrs Rothschild insisted, and both made it back to New York. Not long after his salvage, the Pom died after a fight with another dog.
  • Sun Yat-Sen, a Pekingese owned by Henry S. Harper, heir to New York's Harper & Row publishing firm, and his wife Myra Harper. The Harpers were returning from a tour of Europe and Asia, joined by an interpreter they had picked up in Egypt. All three, plus Sun Yat-Sen, entered lifeboat 3 on the Titanic's starboard side. When asked later about saving the dog, Henry Harper explained that there seemed to be lots of room, and nobody made any objection. The Pekingese died half a year later.
The nine dogs confined in the onboard kennels all died. It is documented that a passenger went below and released all of them before Titanic disappeared below the waves. Among these dogs were:
  • Frou-Frou, a toy poodle belonging to Helen Walton Bishop.
  • A Fox terrier named Dog, owned by William Dulles, an attorney from Philadelphia.
  • Millionaire John Jacob Astor's Airedale named Kitty. He led his pregnant wife Madeleine to the lifeboat but was not allowed to follow her. Women and children first! He went off to let Kitty out of her kennel and perhaps also the other dogs. Madeleine Astor said later that she saw Kitty running to and fro on the deck.
  • Robert Daniel's French bulldog Gamin de Pycombe. When the ship began to sink Mr Daniel collected his dog from the kennel but had to leave him behind when he went to save himself. So it could also have been him who released the other dogs. Later, Richard Norris Williams, another passenger who was swimming for his life in the cold water, suddenly found himself face to face with Gamin. When he was pulled on board a lifeboat he was convinced that he had been subject to a hallucination.
  • Two dogs belonging to American coal magnate William Carter, who reassured his worried children that their pets were safe as they clambered into the lifeboats. His daughter Lucy was later compensated $100 by Lloyds of London for her King Charles spaniel, while his son Billy received $200 for his Airedale.
One particularly sad story involves a Great Dane owned by Ann Elizabeth Isham. Miss Isham visited her dog at the ship's kennel daily and when she was evacuating, asked to take him also. When she was told the dog was too large, she refused to leave without him and got out of the lifeboat. Several days later, the body of a woman clutching a large dog was spotted by crew of the recovery ship, Mackay-Bennet, and dinghies were dispatched. Eyewitness accounts by crew and ship's log confirm the sighting and recovery, and the body recovered is assumed to be Miss Isham.

The two photos of dogs on board were taken by amateur photographer, Frank Brown, who disembarked the ship in Queenstown, Ireland before she embarked on her transatlantic journey.

The photo showing the ship's captain Edward Smith with a Borzoi was taken on board the Titanic the day before sailing. The dog was a gift from Benjamin Guggenheim who did a lot of travelling, often on ships skippered by Capt. Smith, so he knew him and his family well. Guggenheim, although originally scheduled to sail on another vessel, ended up on the Titanic, and brought a large Russian wolfhound as a gift for the captain's daughter. The dog remained overnight, but was taken home to his daughter the next morning, so he was not on board when the ship got underway.

What about cats?
Crew often had at least one cat on board each ship to help keep the rat population down.
It's said that there was a cat with young kittens aboard the sea trials of the Titanic but when the ship arrived in Southampton from Belfast, she was seen disembarking. Up and down the gangplank she went, retrieving one kitten at a time that she deposited on the dock. She and the kittens quickly disappeared and it was later said that she must have had some sort of premonition that the voyage wasn't going to be a good one.