Titanic animals

02 May, 2010

Melbourne Museum <I>Titanic</I> exhibition entrance.
Melbourne Museum Titanic exhibition entrance.
Image: Megan Lomax
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: Is it true that there were animals on board the Titanic?

Answer: Yes, there were in fact a number of different animals onboard the Titanic. There were at least nine dogs on board the Titanic. The dogs stayed in either kennels on board or some were lucky enough to stay in cabins with their owners.

Henry Harper and his wife Myra boarded the Titanic in Cherbourg, France, with their Pekinese, Sun Yat Sen. Henry was famous in the United States of America for his company, Harper Publishing. Henry, his wife Myra and their dog survived.

Colonel John Jacob Astor and his wife, Madeline travelled with their Airedale, Kitty. Colonel Astor and his wife also boarded in Cherbourg, and travelled as First Class Passengers on board the Titanic. Colonel Astor and Kitty did not survive, but his wife Madeline survived aboard Lifeboat 4. It has been rumoured that Colonel Astor freed all of the dogs from the kennels when all hope was lost.

Margaret Hayes travelled with her Pomeranian, also boarding in Cherbourg. She and her Pomeranian survived in Lifeboat 7. The Carter Family dogs were not so lucky. Ernest Carter and his wife and children took with them their two small dogs that perished at sea. A small dog named Frou Frou, whose owners were newlyweds Dickinson and Helen Bishop, also perished. It is believed that Frou Frou was locked in a cabin while Mr and Mrs Bishop boarded a lifeboat.

In all, there were nine dogs recorded as travelling on the Titanic, of which only four survived. A champion French Bulldog named Gamon de Pycombe perished, as did a St Bernard belonging to Ann Isham. A Pomeranian belonging to the Rothschild’s survived, possibly because it was bundled into Mrs Rothschild’s bag, although Mr Rothschild went down with the ship.

Along with the dogs on the ship, Marie Young, brought her two prize winning roosters and two hens. Miss Young was returning to America and each day was taken below deck to ‘check’ on her chickens. It is also rumoured that there was a cat named Jenny on board with her kittens. Apparently, Jenny and her kittens boarded in Belfast and disembarked in Southampton. And finally, the pig, although the only pig saved from the Titanic was Edith Russell’s ‘lucky’ musical pig. The pig was in fact a toy, and not a real pig, and has become famous over the years with a number of children’s books written about it.

Comments (9)

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Jason 17 August, 2010 22:14
So there were animals on Titanic, very interesting. Apparantly they were kept on the lower decks, so they were probably the first to die. How sad!!
Artin 22 March, 2011 00:57
Very interesting.. i also recount from an article i read that had not the Titanic sank that there would've been a dog show later that fateful day.
Kevin Isiah 9 April, 2011 04:45
at Artin also goes here on me!, i have also read about that article, just few minutes ago LOL
Joseph 3 March, 2012 09:36

There are at least twelve dogs that have been documented on the Titanic when it sank but the exact figure is unknown. Only three dogs are documented to have survived: a Pekinese named “Sun Yat-Sen” owned by Mr. Henry Sleeper Harper who made his escape in lifeboat 3 with his master; a Pomeranian called “Lady” belonging to Miss Margaret Hays who tucked the dog inside her coat and got into lifeboat 7 and another male Pomeranian name unknown owned by Miss Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild. Both escaped together in boat 6 because Elizabeth refused to go on the lifeboat unless the dog came with her. She was hoisted aboard clutching her pet, which a few weeks later after the disaster her dog was killed in a fight with a larger dog in New York.

Most stories during those first weeks after the disaster were unsubstantiated rumors usually made up by the press. Contrary to what has been reported or published in many books there was no canary onboard. No pig either, at least a live animal. Miss Edith Rosenbaum Russell was reported to have brought a pet pig on board Titanic, but her lucky mascot and prized possession, was a toy covered in white fur that played a popular dance tune known as “La Maxixe”. She left on lifeboat 11 and kept the spirit of the children up by entertaining them throughout the night with her musical toy box. A couple of these stories also were to become the basis for two dog myths linked to the Titanic disaster. One is about a large dog, a Great Dane, presumably owned by Miss Ann Elizabeth Isham, a 50 year old spinster, one of the four first class female passengers who did not survive. While it is true that “a lady refused to get in the lifeboat without her large dog”, there is nothing to connect that dog to Miss Isham, just like there is no truth to the report of a woman in a lifejacket with her frozen arms wrapped around a large dog floating together that presumably was sighted a couple of days after the disaster by passengers on the German liner Bremen. Neither Miss Isham nor the Great Dane dog were ever recovered. This story was adapted by novelist Ms. Marty Crisp, for her book White Star: A Dog on the Titanic and in fact it may be based on the real story of Miss Rothschild and her Pomeranian.

The other story, published by The New York Herald on April 21, 1912, is the one most often quoted, but sadly is nothing more than a fabricated myth, about a Newfoundland dog called Rigel – allegedly the pet of First Officer William Murdoch – that survived in the water and alerted the crew of rescue ship Carpathia to lifeboat 4 filled with exhausted survivors too weak to shout who were perilously close to being sunk by the Carpathia. The story claimed that the dog was pulled to safety too and was adopted by Jonas Briggs, a crewman on the Carpathia. Records show that Murdoch did not have any pet with him on the ship, no surviving passengers or crew members confirmed this story and finally no record exists of anyone with the name Briggs listed as a crew member on the Carpathia.

However, besides dogs, other animals have been documented. Mrs. John Stuart White, first class passenger sharing cabin C-32 with Miss Marie Grice Young, was shipping some expensive French poultry aboard Titanic, and duly made a claim against White Star Line and listed among her lost property items are “roosters and hens, from Chasse Ile rage Jardin d’Agriculture.” This was confirmed by Miss Ellen “Nellie” Hocking and Miss Edwina C. Troutt, second class passenger survivors, who said that the previous night of the disaster, they had heard a cock crowing, a Cornish folklore sign of impending disaster and a harbinger of bad luck. Miss Ellen Mary Mockler, a third class passenger survivor, who later became a nun, particularly remembered that while she was heading up to the boat deck she "heard chickens and hens" that had escaped and began running around on deck but perhaps these may have been part of live stock kept for the kitchen.

This is the list of all identified dogs and their owners 1. “Sun Yat-Sen” – a Pekinese (survived) owned by Mr. Henry Sleeper Harper 2. “Lady” – a Pomeranian, (survived) owned by Miss Margaret B. Hays 3. A male Pomeranian, name unknown (survived) owned by Miss Elizabeth B. Rothschild 4. “Gamin de Pycombe” – a French bulldog owned by Mr. Robert William Daniel 5. “Frou Frou” –breed unknown, bought in Florence for Mrs. Helen Walton Bishop 6. “Kitty” – an Airedale owned by Mr. John Jacob Astor IV 7. Another Airedale, name unknown, also owned by Mr. John Jacob Astor IV 8. A Chow Chow, name unknown owned by Mr. Harry Anderson 9. A King Charles Cavalier, name unknown, owned by Mr. William Ernest Carter 10. An unknown breed (poss. an Airedale), name unknown owned by Mr. William Ernest Carter 11. A Great Dane, name unknown, owner not identified but maybe Mr William Crothers Dulles? 12. An unknown breed and named dog, owner not identified. One unverified story reported that a man with a Pomeranian, leaped overboard with it, struck a piece of wreckage and was badly stunned. He was pulled aboard a lifeboat but not the dog. Whether this may be the last unknown breed dog or not will never be known.

unkown 25 March, 2014 04:46
too much info sorry but just too much
jasmine hawes 24 March, 2012 00:45
could youput stuff about the titnic on? thanks please email me when you do
Discovery Centre 24 March, 2012 10:25
Hi Jasmine, there is quite a lot on our website, please click on the links at right under 'Related Resources' and 'External Links'.
Ace 9 June, 2012 17:51
If caption lord of the California would of responded to the distress signals instead of doing nothing , there would be a different outcome
charlene 10 August, 2015 16:44
I watch how many people and animals and children died on the titanic it makes me cry and I am very emotional its very heartbreaking poor animals poor all the souls that lost their lives on april 15 1912
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