Dog Passengers on the Titanic

Twelve dogs became famous in history as passengers on the Titanic. Little was known about the dogs until Widener University recognized them in their centennial Titanic exhibit in 2012. Three of the dogs survived.

Dogs on the Titanic that did not survive

There were twelve confirmed dogs on board the Titanic during her maiden voyage which sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on the early morning of April 15, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg.

All dogs belonged to first class passengers:

  • John Jacob Astor IV and his two Airedale terriers Kitty and Airedale
  • Robert W. Daniel and his champion French bulldog Gamin de Pycombe
  • Helen Bishop and her toy dog Frou-Frou
  • William Carter and his Airedale terrier and King Charles spaniel
  • Harry Anderson and his chow chow Chow-Chow
  • William Dulles and his fox terrier Dog
  • Ann Elizabeth Isham and her Great Dane
  • Margaret Hays and her Pomeranian Lady
  • Elizabeth Rothschild and her Pomeranian
  • Henry and Myra Harper and their Pekingese Sun Yat Sen

Eight of the dogs were kept in the kennel on the F Deck of the ship, which the dogs were well taken care of by the crew. The dogs were taken for daily walks around the promenade deck, and passengers would schedule their times on deck to watch the dogs stroll by. They became quite an event that an informal dog show was to be held the morning the ship sank. As the ship went down, someone released the dogs to spare them from drowning in locked cages. The dogs were seen racing up and down the slanted deck.

Four small dogs stayed in their owner's cabins which was not permitted but allowed. Three of these dogs, the Pekingese and the two Pomeranians, were the only ones to survive. According to J. Joseph Edgette, Titanic exhibit curator at Pennsylvania's Widener University, "The dogs that survived were so small that it's doubtful anyone even realized they were being carried to the lifeboats."

When boarding the lifeboat, Margaret Hays had her Pomeranian wrapped in a blanket. Edgette said the dog was assumed to be a baby.

Nobody remembers seeing Elizabeth Rothschild with her Pomeranian on the lifeboat, but the dog was noticed when the Carpathia came to rescue the survivors. The ship's crew did not want to take the dog on board. Mrs. Rothschild refused to get off the lifeboat without her dog, so they finally hoisted her and the dog up onto the ship.

Henry Harper was later asked about saving their dog rather than other people. He reportedly said, "There seemed to be lots of room, and nobody made any objection."

The fourth small dog, Frou-Frou, was regrettably left behind. Helen Bishop felt obliged to leave without her dog when it was made clear that there were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers. Later, she tearfully told how Frou-Frou grabbed the hem of her dress when she left the cabin.

Ann Elizabeth Isham, who owned the Great Dane, refused to leave without her dog. Two to three days later, Isham's body was found at sea clinging to her dog in the icy waters.

In a fortunate turn of events, passenger Charles Moore of Washington, D.C. made a last minute change to his plans to transport 100 English foxhounds on the Titanic, which he intended to use to start an English-style fox hunt in the Washington area. Instead, he made arrangements to take another vessel. Two other dogs were reported to avoid disaster when they and their owners disembarked at Cherbourg, the ship's first stop after leaving Southampton.

There is a story about a surviving dog named Rigel who helped save lives. The Newfoundland dog belonged to First Officer William Murdoch, who went down with his ship. Rigel was swimming in the freezing water ahead of the fourth lifeboat that was dangerously close to the Carpathia's starboard bow. The passengers were too weak to shout a warning of their location, but Rigel was able to alert the ship's captain with his barking. The ship immediately stopped its engines, and the passengers and dog were safely brought aboard. The story appeared in the New York Herald on April 21, 1912.

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Although a wonderful story, it is not a true one. The story was told by Jonas Briggs, a sailor aboard the Carpathia, who was said to have kept Rigel. He was paid for the story, and subsequently disappeared. There is no record of Murdoch owning a dog, Briggs does not exist in Carpathia's records as a crew member, and there was no mention of the dog from others, including survivors from lifeboat number 4.