What Happened to Pets and Other Animals on the Titanic in 1912?
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.
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.
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.
The twelve recorded dogs that were verified by witnesses and ship's logs:
- “Sun Yat-Sen” – Pekinese that survived. Owned by Henry Sleeper Harper (Harper Publishing) and his wife Myra.
- “Lady” – Pomeranian that survived. Owned by Miss Margaret B. Hays
- Male Pomeranian that survived. Owned by Miss Elizabeth B. Rothschild
- “Gamin de Pycombe” – a French bulldog. Owned by Robert William Daniel
- “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.
- “Kitty” – Airedale. Owned by th wealthy John Jacob Astor IV
- Another Airedale - Owned by John Jacob Astor IV
- Chow Chow - Owned by Harry Anderson
- A King Charles Cavalier - Owned by William Ernest Carter. (See photo above.)
- An unknown breed - Owned by William Ernest Carter.
- Great Dane - Owner? Could be William Crothers Dulles.
- An unknown breed - Owner?
Mythical Beasts on the Titanic
The oral histories 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.
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 ship Carpathia, was never found in crew lists of that ship. He apparently 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.
Real Cat on Titanic
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.
Farm and Market Beasts on Board
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 Radio 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, a 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.
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.— New York Times Announcement
An Abundance of Water and 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.
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.
© 2012 Patty Inglish MS