What Happened To Pets and Other Animals On the Titanic in 1912?

Roosters and Hens Rode the Titanic to the End

Titanic passenger Ella Holmes White of New York brought four French roosters and hens on board. Each bird required a passenger ticket.
Titanic passenger Ella Holmes White of New York brought four French roosters and hens on board. Each bird required a passenger ticket. | Source

A Big 100th Anniversary Year

The year 2012 brought a blast of commemorative events in America to celebrate history from 100 years previous. Ohio especially was full of reenactments of battles on Lake Erie in remembrance of the War of 1812 - 1814. Michigan joined in with commemorations in its southeast corner on Lake Erie, as did Pennsylvania with its land in its northeast corner on the lake.

At the same time, memorials and remembrances of the Sinking of the Titanic took place throughout the nation and not only in the Great Lakes and Northeast US Regions. An exhibit commemorating the dozen pets taken for travel on the Titanic visited Chicago in the spring of 2012, near the actual sinking anniversary of April 12, 2012. The exhibit was discussed at length on the John Corby Show on 610 AM radio in Central Ohio.

The ship Titanic had her own official unofficial pet - a cat named Jenny. She was a transfer from the Titanic's sister ship Olympic and lived in the galley of her new ship, having a litt before the ship sailed off into disaster.

A typical Airedale dog in 1915, much like Kitty, who belonged to Titanic's passengrer John Jacob Astor.
A typical Airedale dog in 1915, much like Kitty, who belonged to Titanic's passengrer John Jacob Astor. | Source

Less is heard about the animals on board the ship than about the people, but the public is beginning to ask questions since the 100th Anniversary of the Disaster. They want to know how many dogs were on shipboard and where they were kept. Were there any horses on board? How about cats and exotic animals?

We may never have the full tally of pets and their whereabouts before or after the shipwreck, but we can find that information on 12 dogs, some cats and kittens, and a group of birds. Information also exists ship's rats were impossible to eliminate before sailing. Being a luxury liner, I'd be surprised if there were not at least one pet cheetah and one horse on shipboard.

What of the Animals?

Source

Route of the Titanic

Route of the first and only voyage of the Titanic, April 10-15, 1912.
Route of the first and only voyage of the Titanic, April 10-15, 1912. | Source

The Chicago Exhibit

The exhibit concerning the animals of the Titanic was displayed in Chicago through October 2012, with a report of its contents discussed on 610 WTVN AM Radio in Central Ohio.

One fact that the Chicago exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry had in its possession is that an Airedale named Airedale was traveling on board the Titanic. This is not a case of no name being recorded for an unknown Airedale dog, according to the exhibit and radio announcers; the exhibit states that Airedale was his name. His famous owners, the Astor Family, were not very creative with names and their second Airedale was called something very plain - Kitty. However, rumors that the Astors also had a cat named Doggie are likely jokes. Jenny the cat did live in the galley with her kittens, though, and probably died in the disaster - unless the true story Titanicat (below) is about Jenny. She quickly left the ship before it's first voyage.

The Chicago exhibit listed 12 dogs based on ship's rosters and pet tickets, whereas blog accounts list only 9 dogs and are based more on word-of-mouth stories. A couple of phantom dogs that never existed have been woven into appearances on the ship as well.

Of the dozen dogs traveling on Titanic, only 3 were saved and one of them was killed soon afterward in NYC during a fight with a larger dog.

It is very likely that a Newfoundland and a Saint Bernard reported on the ship and performing heroic exploits in oral-tradition legends after the sinking of the ship did not exist at all. No tickets or ship's records were recovered for them. See the book White Star: A Dog On the Titanic below.

A French Bulldog in 1915.
A French Bulldog in 1915. | Source
A Pomeranian, bred in the Pomerania Region in Central Europe: North Poland - East Germany.
A Pomeranian, bred in the Pomerania Region in Central Europe: North Poland - East Germany. | Source
Oil portrait of Young King Charles II of England with his spaniels, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Oil portrait of Young King Charles II of England with his spaniels, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. | Source

The twelve recorded dogs that were verified by witnesses and ship's logs:

  1. “Sun Yat-Sen” – Pekinese that survived. Owned by Henry Sleeper Harper (Harper Publishing) and his wife Myra.
  2. “Lady” – Pomeranian that survived. Owned by Miss Margaret B. Hays
  3. Male Pomeranian that survived. Owned by Miss Elizabeth B. Rothschild
  4. “Gamin de Pycombe” – a French bulldog. Owned by Robert William Daniel
  5. “Frou Frou” – breed? -- Owned by Mrs. Helen Walton Bishop. Mrs. Bishop left the dog in her stateroom to die, the dog tugging at her dress with his teeth as she left him. She later put in a loss claim to the cruiseline for him, as didmany oter passengers.
  6. “Kitty” – Airedale. Owned by th wealthy John Jacob Astor IV
  7. Another Airedale - Owned by John Jacob Astor IV
  8. Chow Chow - Owned by Harry Anderson
  9. A King Charles Cavalier - Owned by William Ernest Carter. (See photo above.)
  10. An unknown breed - Owned by William Ernest Carter.
  11. Great Dane - Owner? Could be William Crothers Dulles.
  12. An unknown breed - Owner?

Real Cat On Titanic

Titanicat (True Stories)
Titanicat (True Stories)

True story! In the late 1990s, we heard of an Irishman who crewed on Titanic's trial runs. Assigned to care for the ship’s cat, the superstitious man disembarked when the cat left, carrying her kittens. He felt it an omen before the voyage and was saved.

 

Mythical Beasts On the Titanic

The oral stories of Titanic included early on that a herd of dairy cows was boarded on the cruise ship. However, no listing of them on ship's records was ever found. They are the phantom cows of the imagination.

A newspaper story about a hero dog named Rigel was discovered to be a fiction.

Rigel's original owner on Titanic, a crewman named Murdoch, had not taken his own dog on board at all and the subsequent rescuer of the heroic dog, crewman Jonas Briggs of the Carpathia, was never found in crew lists of that ship. He apprently did not exist and was another phantom - or an angel.

Passengers thought they were hearing real phantoms, however, because the galley had its own collection of chickens for eggs and meat. When the chickens crowed, they were heard throughout the ship's ventilation system. In addition, one of the passengers had her show chickens on board - French chickens and prize roosters. These birds could also be heard, along with the food chickens, through the duct work.

One canary is listed as a passenger with a $25 ticket, but I do not know if anyone heard him singing. He got off at the first stop in France, anyway.

The Mythical Titanic Dog, Rigel

White Star:  A Dog on the Titanic
White Star: A Dog on the Titanic

Totally made up, this is such a good story (invented by the press and someone connected with Titanic) that kids as well as adults have picked it up and told it as real, even in other newspapers. No rescuing crewman by the name given were ever found in crew lists, let alone as having owned or rescued any dog called Rigel. Rigel also did not have a ticket. The story is great for illustrating hero dogs, however.

 

The Phantom Dog And His Only Appearance In Print

The news media concocted the story of Rigel, who never existed.
The news media concocted the story of Rigel, who never existed. | Source

Farm and Market

How about other farm animals? A few cows for milk and perhaps meat would not have been out of order, and might not the manifests of on-boarding have been lost? However, meat already butchered would have been more convenient - then the question becomes how good was the refrigeration, if any?. There is record of only one pig and that was a musical toy, as far as investigations have uncovered to date.

Were chickens used in the galley because they were smaller, less expensive, and also provided eggs? Among the upper class passengers, one would think preferences existed for duck or goose as well.

England is famous for fox hunting at the time of the Titanic voyage; therefore, we must consider fox hounds and horses on board. No records of horses have been found, but rumor has it that a pack of 100 foxhounds was finally shipped on another vessel to Washington DC for an exhibition of fox hunting, rather than on Titanic.

The stories of dogs left behind on the sinking ship, running back and forth on deck and looking out at their masters rowing away in life boats is already gruesome enough. The loss of another 100 dogs would have wreaked havoc with the White Star Lines' reputation. As it is , some researchers feel that claims paid to pet owners for the loss of their dogs may have been inflated by an extra dog or two in some families.

The stories of dogs left behind on the sinking ship, running back and forth on deck and looking out at their masters rowing away in life boats is ... gruesome.

Mythical People on the Voyage

Passenger Ann Isham may be real or not, because in some accounts, no one seems to have ever seen her in person on the voyage.

Different reports have her owning the Newfoundland called Rigel, who never existed and was created by the newspapers, or a Saint Bernard, which was never recorded anywhere on the ship.

One legend states that a German family on another ship saw Ann Isham frozen in the sea, clasping a great furry dog (or a smooth dog, a Great Dane), also frozen. Others thought it was her own fur coat.

The 610 WTVN report of the Chicago exhibit stated that Ann Isham likely wrapped a Pomeranian dog to resemble a baby and took it on a lifeboat, even though other sources state that another woman, Mrs. Rothschild, put the dog in a large handbag. Investigators feel that it was a woman and a Pomeranian dog that someone may have seen floating together in the icy North Atlantic.

Some conspiracy theorists wonder if the Ann Isham of the Titanic was actually another woman who stole Isham's identity.

New York Times Announcement

ISHAM---At sea, on April 15, 1912, A. E. Isham, daughter of the late Edward Swift and Frances Burch Isham. Memorial services will be held in the Congregational Church, Manchester, Vt., on Sunday, May 12, at 11 o'clock.

Too Much Water, Too Much Ice

The loss of life from Titanic was devastating. In the icy water, people froze in just 15 minutes, according to estimates. Chickens, rats, kittens, and cats likely all froze more quickly, if they ever left the ship. The legends of hero dogs are just as inspiring as the images of stranded dogs barking and running across the deck in quest of their departing owners are horrid.

Boarding the Lifeboats

Source

One scene in Titanic 3D may best provide the experience of horror. In the lower decks, Leonard DiCaprio's character is chained in a cabin as the ship sinks and icy water pours in. A scene of him and Kate Winslet running down the corridor ahead of the flood is said to make audiences shiver with the cold. It already did that to me in 2D. Imagine what the water did to the animals.

In Galveston, Texas, a traveling Titanic experience has been so cold on its deck that visitors can see their breath. At the start of the tour/reenactment, each visitor was issued the name of one of the passengers on board during the disaster. At the end, each received the outcome of that passenger. It was the stuff of nightmares and a "Titanic ride" is part of the amusement park in the gripping futurist novel Disaster Park by the uncanny and talented Mark J. Konkel.

Permanent Museum of the Titanic Experience

Titanic Museum - Branson, MO. Built 1/2 scale. Guests receive the ticket stub of an actual passenger and learn his or her outcome.
Titanic Museum - Branson, MO. Built 1/2 scale. Guests receive the ticket stub of an actual passenger and learn his or her outcome. | Source

© 2012 Patty Inglish

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Comments 11 comments

Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

I was almost afraid to read this one..lol

Farm cows? Of course butchered meat, milk and eggs would have had to be on board, but livestock is very unlikely..lol

I feel so awful for the dog that died in the fight. He'd been through such an ordeal to go out like that. That is so sad.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

Patty, I had never thought about livestock being on board, but I assumed a few dogs were lost at sea. I have the DVD and really enjoyed the movie, even with some fictional characters. The Smithsonian channel had an excellent 2 hour show on TV recently with all the new information they have learned about the sinking of the Titanic. Even 100 years later, people are still curious about all the details of that disaster. Interesting hub. Voted up of course.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Hi Cardisa - It is not so unlikely, considering books from the UK by the veterinarian James Herriot mention livestock on such ships and how he checked them out regularly as part of his practice from before WWII. Moreover, relatives on ship board in UK and Ukraine & Russia a few years later, ~1918, saw cows on their own ships. But apparently no cows, pigs, or goats were on Titanic. It's just as well.

I just read a long article about refrigeration on Titanic, so there was safe storage for butchered meat loaded before launch, and I am relieved that no one experienced butchering on board except the chickens. A kill floor would have been inconvenient still, even tho the ship was large. Slaughter houses are horrendous to people as well, many of my former patients being hurt in them. It makes me shudder.

Pamella99 - Poor dogs! I'd like to see the Smithsonian DVD. See, we're mostly all fascinated, are we not? The park in Disaster Park could be reality one day - rides in which visitors relive famous disasters in virtual reality.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

Wow, your Hub made me think about a couple things. One - I never even gave thought to the fact that animals were on the ship! Two - there were reenactments in Ohio this month and I never heard about them. I really need to watch the news and read the paper more often. Thank goodness I have you to fill me in.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I missed those reenactments too!


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

Yep, I'm sure not a lot of thought was given to the animals on board when it was so many people that were going to perish. Now, 100 years later, we can speak of such things, but I guess at the time of the sinking, it would have been very different.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Sure, this was the time that foxhunting was idolized, with bull fighting not far behind. Bear baiting and rooster fighting in the States were still big activities. Upton Sinclair's investigative book about the slaughterhouse/meat packing industry, "The Jungle", was not yet in print.

And there are many reports, legends, and rumors we can't check fully - dogs locked into staterooms, women refusing to enter a lifeboat without their dogs, a dog treading water for 3 hours to guard a lifeboat full of people, and several others. I do feel bad about the locked-in chickens, but I think they probably drowned instantly or the force of the incoming water crushed them. The dogs running on the deck in fear is sickening to us now.


youngmom1986 profile image

youngmom1986 4 years ago from Arkansas

I vaguely gave thought to the animals in the past. This is a great article that really got me thinking. Thank you.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

So many stories here. Some of these animals were literally frightened to death and deserve to be remembered. Thanks for these details.


torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

very interesting story about the animals that were on the ship at the time. I am not surprised that some of the animals that you have mentioned were probably not even on the Titanic. great hub.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks, torrilynn. I keep thinking about dogs running back and forth on deck, looking for their owners.

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