Traveling with dogs is not a new development of the 21st century. When the Titanic boarded its passengers in Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, many of those passengers brought with them dogs and other animals.
With all that has been written about the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, little has been written about the dogs that were passengers. Dedicated research by J. Joseph Edgette, Ph.D., Widener University professor emeritus, has revealed some of the details about the canine passengers
Many of those dogs—particularly the larger ones– were kept in kennels on the F deck and were fed and exercised by members of the crew. A few of the dogs were small, and they were kept in the cabins with their owners. Perhaps this was permitted, or since the people were traveling first class, the staff may have let a possible break with the rules slip by.
The dogs who survived were the lucky few who were in first class state rooms.
How Many Dogs on the Titanic?
While a count of the dogs on board the ship cannot be verified, Professor Edgette found documentation of some of them, including a King Charles spaniel, two Airedales, a chow, a Great Dane, a champion French bulldog (newly purchased in England), a Pekingese, and a “toy dog” owned by Helen Bishop. (A few more dogs are listed here.)
Another passenger, Charles Moore of Washington, D.C., intended to bring on board 100 English foxhounds. In March he traveled to England to purchase 50 pairs of dogs to bring back for the Loudon Fox Hunt in Virginia. Moore was an outstanding horseman and he was to be that year’s hunt master. For some reason, the dogs sailed separately, so they were not on the Titanic. Moore, a first-class passenger, did not survive the sinking.
Other Animals On Board
In addition to dogs, there were also birds on board. First class passenger Ella Holmes White of New York brought with her some poultry—a rooster and several hens—that she was importing from France in order to mix in with her own stock. Another woman had 30 cockerels that were coming to the United States with her. There may also have been some canaries, a popular pet of the day.
Ships generally had cats to keep down the mouse and rat population. One cat had had given birth to a new litter of kittens just before the Titanic docked at Southampton. For some reason, the cat and her kittens were left in Southampton. While one would assume there were other cats on board, there is no known mention of them.
The Night of the Sinking
Because the Titanic was considered “unsinkable,” movement toward life boats was slower than it might have been. In addition, a lifeboat drill, scheduled for April 14—the day before the sinking—had been cancelled.
When the ship began listing to one side and the staff finally began getting out the lifeboats, chaos reigned. Someone eventually thought to go to the F deck and open the kennels with the hope that some of the dogs might survive. While that proved impossible, the last reported sight of the dogs was of them running along the upper deck.
The dogs who were saved were all small ones that were kept with their owners. Margaret Hays’s Pomeranian boarded Lifeboat 7 in Hays’s arms. Elizabeth Rothschild refused to board Lifeboat 6 without her dog (also a Pomeranian). They, too, survived.
When Henry Harper (scion of Harper & Row Publishers) and his wife Myra were rescued, Myra was carrying their Pekingese, Sun Yat Sen. This was the third dog that was saved.
Other Dogs and People Weren’t So Fortunate
Of the 2224 people on board the Titanic, 1500 of them lost their lives. There were not enough lifeboats, and some lifeboats were not fully filled before they pushed off, adding to the tragedy.
A few other dog-related stories are worth mentioning. Helen Bishop’s toy dog had been kept with her in her cabin, but with great sadness she left him there when she went to board a lifeboat. At a Senate inquiry she said: “there would be little sympathy for a woman carrying a dog in her arms when there were lives of women and children to be saved.”
Insurance claims were placed on several animals: the prize bulldog, the chow, the King Charles spaniel, and one of the Airedales as well as the lost poultry.
Two stories circulate that are considered myth by Titanic researchers. One story about a dog that helped rescue passengers is thought to have been fabricated by a crew member who sold the story to a New York newspaper. He soon disappeared so there was no chance to verify it. Another story that is now discounted by experts is one about a woman refusing to leave the ship without her Great Dane. The source of this story is thought to have been a fictional story about the Titanic.
Thank you to Mike F from the Encyclopedia Titanica message boards for correcting an error my original post had.