Friday, April 11, 2014

Remembering the Pets On The Titanic

Today is National Pet Day, and Monday will be the 102nd Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster, which made me wonder: How many pets were on board the Titanic when she sank on April 14, 1912 during her maiden voyage?  The answer, unfortunately, were many …

The Breakup
It was a Sunday night, 11:40 P.M. when the largest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic.  Less than 3 hours later the massive ship disappeared under the icy waters.  Just over a third of the 2,200 passengers and crew were still alive and aboard the half filled lifeboats, or trying to stay alive in the frigid waters. When the Carpathia arrived the next morning to rescue survivors, only 700 remained alive. So what happened to the pets?

Traveling with his dog
At the turn of the 20th century, it was in vogue to travel with a pet – or two, and those well to do traveling on the Titanic were no exception. The fare price for a dog was about half the cost of an adult ticket: about the same amount as for a child’s ticket. Rosters indicated that there were several pets on board when the ship set sail including 12 dogs, the ship’s cat, several roosters and hens, and a canary.

Cat and Kitten
It is interesting to note that the ship’s cat, Jenny had just had kittens on board –but when the ship docked at Southampton before heading out into the Atlantic, Jenny was seen carrying each kitten off the ship. She was then seen leading them away into the city. The sight was enough to make one seaman refuse to set foot on the Titanic, believing that the cat “knew something,” and that the ship was doomed. 

Pet's of the Titanic
Those pets known to have been on board and lost included John Jacob Astor’s Airedale, a King Charles Spaniel, a French Bulldog, a Toy Poodle, a Fox Terrier, an elderly Airedale, and a Chow.

Dogs on the Titanic
Many pets were not taken on deck when the alarm sounded that fateful night because passengers thought it was a drill. Some of the pets were sleeping in their master’s quarters; others were being cared for in the kennel area. Few passengers had the foresight to retrieve their pets before the sinking. Unfortunately, most of the animals were left below board to fend for themselves. It was said that as the ship began to sink, someone went to the kennels and released all of the animals in an attempt to allow them to save themselves.

Permit to Inter William Dulles
Crossing records indicated that attorney William Crothers Dulles was traveling with his dog. Both went down with the ship.

Ann Isham
There was also a rumor that Ann Isham was traveling with a large dog, possibly a Great Dane. When she was told she could not get in the lifeboat with her dog because he was too big, she refused to go. A German liner later reported seeing the bodies of a woman and a large dog floating together after the disaster.

Sun-Yat Sen
Three dogs and the canary were said to have survived the sinking. One was a Pekingese named Sun-Yat Sen owned by Henry Sleeper Harper of the Harper and Row Publishing Company. Harper and Sun-Yat survived, along with his wife, Myra by getting into Lifeboat 3.

Margaret B Hays
Lady, a Pomeranian pup survived along with her owner, Margaret Bechstein Hays in Lifeboat 7. Hays had purchased Lady in Paris and was taking her home to New York City. Lady was wrapped in a blanket and the crew allowed Hays to board the lifeboat with her, thinking it was a baby. From then on, Hays took Lady everywhere with her, even the opera. Lady died in 1920 and was cremated.

Elizabeth B. Rothschild
The third dog to survive was another Pomeranian owned by Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild who hid the dog in her coat when she boarded Lifeboat 6. When the captain of the Carpathia refused to allow the dogs to board his ship, Mrs. Rothschild refused to leave the lifeboat. The captain acquiesced and both were hauled on board. Unfortunately the dog was attacked and killed by a larger dog only a few weeks later.

Rigel ?
And there was the story of a Newfoundland named Rigel, supposedly the pet of First Officer William Murdoch (who went down with the ship) that managed to survive in the water and alerted the crew of the Carpathia where some of the lifeboats were by barking.  Rigel was taken aboard the rescuing ship and adopted by a crewman.

Newspaper Article About Rigel
The story was told by Carpathia crew member Jonas Briggs to a news reporter in New York, but the problem was that there was no Jonas Briggs on the Carpathia’s crew roster, and no survivors reported seeing or hearing the black New Foundland that supposedly saved them. But readers took the story to heart, regardless of the facts, because it provided a ray of hope that those surviving, and those reading about it needed in the face of such a tragedy.

Remembering Those Lost at Sea
Recovering Remains
Recovery ships found 340 bodies floating on the ocean, but only 209 remains could be delivered to Halifax. The other 128 were too badly decomposed to be retrieved. They were buried at sea. Of all the animals that had died, none were taken back to shore for burial.

~ Joy


  1. The cat leaving the sip was creepy, no wonder the crewman would not set foot on it. So sad all the lives were lost people and animals

    1. It's amazing how sensitive cats are. I've heard other stories where they seem to "know" when something bad is about to happen.

  2. Thanks Joy, I've read a lot about the Titanic, and never considered their pets! Great article :)