Titanic dogs

The story of the pets traveling on the Titanic is one of the lesser-known aspects of the disaster touched on in the compelling exhibition 'Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story' at the Maritime Museum.

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There were 12 dogs on the Titanic and kennels were situated at the base of the dummy fourth funnel. The fare was expensive – equal to a child’s – and most of the owners were Americans travelling First Class.

Canine survivors

Three small dogs, two Pomeranians and a Pekinese, survived the Titanic disaster cradled in their owners’ arms as they climbed into lifeboats.

Miss Margaret Hays, aged 24, boarded Titanic at Cherbourg and was travelling home with two friends to New York with her Pomeranian called Lady.

After the collision they put lifejackets on and waited to get into a lifeboat – Margaret had Lady wrapped in a blanket. Fellow American James Clinch Smith spotted the dog and joked: “Oh, I suppose we ought to put a life preserver on the little doggie too.”

Smith was among more than 1,500 people who died in the sinking.

Mrs Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, aged 54, also saved her Pomeranian (name unknown) when she escaped in a lifeboat. When the rescue ship Carpathia drew alongside, the crew at first declined to take the Pom Pom on board.

Elizabeth retorted that she would stay put unless the dog came with her. She was hoisted aboard clutching her pet, which later died in a fight with another dog in New York. Elizabeth’s wealthy husband Martin was among those lost in the disaster.

The third dog survivor was Sun Yat Sen, a Pekinese named after the first president of the Republic of China founded on 1 January 1912. He escaped in a lifeboat with owner Henry Sleeper Harper, a publisher, his wife Myra and two servants.

The dogs who didn't survive

Titanic dog victims included a French bulldog called Gamin de Pycombe travelling with 27-year-old banker Robert Williams Daniel, who survived.

Another dog that died while his master survived was a chow chow (name unknown) belonging to stockbroker Harry Anderson, aged 54. Harry escaped in a lifeboat and later put in a claim for $50 for the loss of his pet.

Myths - or shaggy dog stories

Two dog myths are linked to the Titanic disaster. It is true that 50-year-old Ann Isham refused to get in a lifeboat without her large dog (possibly a Great Dane or St Bernard).

However, there is no evidence to support a story that passengers on the German liner Bremen later saw a woman in a lifejacket with her frozen arms wrapped around a large dog bobbing in the waves. Neither the body of Ann nor her dog were ever found.

Another Titanic myth is the legend of Rigel the big black Newfoundland dog which again has no basis in fact. A report in the New York Herald claimed Rigel swam in front of a lifeboat and barked to alert the Carpathia. The story was thought to have been made up by an enterprising reporter.