The tragedy of the Titanic wasn’t just a human disaster. Alongside the estimated 1,500 victims of the sinking were a number of pets on the Titanic who had been travelling to New York with their owners.
From dogs and cats to a variety of birds, most of the Titanic’s animal passengers perished in the disaster, often causing great distress for their owners who had to be persuaded to leave them behind. But amongst the sad stories, there are also tales of survival from four-legged friends….
Paws on Board
A number of dogs were brought on board the ship and kept, as per the rules, in the kennels which were situated on F Deck.
The ship’s carpenter, John Hutchinson, oversaw the welfare of passenger pets on the Titanic and organised their daily exercise on the poop deck (called as such after the French for stern, la poupe, and not for the dog’s activities on it!). He organised the ship’s bellboys to walk the dogs daily.
From the records that have survived, we know that were at least eight dogs on board, but there is likely to have been many more. Passenger Charles Moore of Washington D.C. had even planned to ship about 100 English foxhounds to the US on the Titanic, but decided to use another vessel at the last minute.
Some dogs were kept in First Class cabins by their owners – this must have been without the knowledge of the crew, or with them turning a blind eye as it was strictly against ship rules.
On the morning of the 15 April, many of the owners were planning to host a dog show aboard the ship but the events of the night preceding ended those aspirations.
Pets on the Titanic
Here are the tales of some of the lucky dogs who did survive the sinking, and the sad stories of the animals who perished that night…
Lady the Pomeranian
Lady was a Pomeranian owned by Margaret Bechstein Hays. The 24 year old American boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg in France with two friends, Olive Earnshaw and Lily Potter. Margaret kept Lady in her 1st Class cabin.
On the night that the ship hit the iceberg, Hays and Earnshaw were in their cabin. When the engines stopped, they went to inquire about the situation and were told to go back to bed. After making their way to Potter’s cabin and relaying the message, they decided to dress, wrapping Lady up in blankets for warmth.
Heading to C deck, they collected life jackets. Allegedly, passenger James Clinch Smith walked past Margaret, jokingly commenting “Oh, I suppose we ought to put a life preserve on the little doggie, too”.
The girls and the dog all boarded lifeboat seven – the first to be launched. They were picked up in the early hours by the Carpathia after the sinking.
Aboard the rescue ship, Miss Hays took two unaccompanied French children under her wing, who played with Lady to keep them occupied. These children were to be known as the Titanic Orphans and lived with Miss Hays in her New York apartment until their mother arrived from Nice, France to collect them. It transpired that their father had kidnapped the children. He died in the sinking.
Lady survived the ordeal and lived until June 1917, when the little dog ran away and was never seen again.
Elizabeth Rothschild’s Dog
First class passenger Elizabeth Rothschild also owned a Pomeranian who accompanied her on the Titanic voyage. Due to the confusion of the sinking, Mrs Rothschild apparently took the little dog onto lifeboat six undetected.
The morning after the sinking, when the lifeboat came alongside the Carpathia, crew members refused to allow the canine on board the larger ship. Furious, Mrs Rothschild refused to leave the lifeboat unless the Pomeranian was allowed to come with her. The crew finally relented and the little dog was hoisted onto the boat with its owner.
Mrs Rothschild’s husband, a clothing manufacturer in New York, didn’t survive the sinking.
The fate of the Pomeranian after the Titanic disaster remains a mystery – some descendants of Elizabeth claim that the dog was killed in a fight with another dog in New York, while two historians have suggested that the dog was killed under the wheels of a carriage only moments after the pair had returned to dry land in New York.
Frou-Frou was a toy dog owned by Helen Bishop, an American who was on-board the Titanic with her husband Dickson H. Bishop.
Frou-Frou was one of the few pets on the Titanic that had been given express permission to be housed in the 1st class cabin of her owners, because the stewards considered him “too pretty” to be in amongst the bigger dogs in the kennel.
Frou-Frou’s experience was not a happy one. Helen Bishop, acutely aware that there would be little sympathy for a women carrying a dog in her arms when the lives of children were at risk, made the heart-breaking decision to leave her little dog in her cabin as she left the ship and boarded lifeboat seven.
His owner later said that Frou-Frou attempted to stop her leaving by holding onto her dress with his teeth until the seam tore.
“The loss of my little dog hurt me very much. I will never forget how he dragged on my clothes. He so wanted to accompany me.”
More Four-Legged Passengers…
We know little about the experience, and fate, of other pets on the Titanic. William Carter, an American passenger, brought on board two dogs: the family’s Airedale terrier and his wife’s Pekingese called Me Too. After the sinking, in which both dogs perished, Carter claimed $100 and $200 for the dogs respectively.
US publisher Henry Harper and his wife Myra’s Pekingese, called Sun Yat Sun, made it off the boat with its owners and survived the ordeal.
Another survivor, Robert Williams Daniel, booked his newly bought pedigree French Bulldog, Gamin de Pycombe, into the Titanic kennels. The dog had cost him £150 in England (around £13,000 in today’s prices) but Daniel claimed $750 for the loss. Witness accounts claim that Gamin was last seen swimming for his life after the ship had sunk.
Other dogs on board who didn’t survive included the Astor family’s Airedale Terrier Kitty. The Astors were the richest passengers on the Titanic.
Amongst the many sad stories recounted in the months and years after the Titanic sinking, one particularly depressing tale that surfaced was that of a female passenger who refused to be parted from her Great Dane, choosing to stay on board rather than leave him.
Several days later, as the SS Bremen passed through the area of the sinking, a passenger claimed to see what she thought was the body of a woman holding a large dog’s body in her arms. One of the most heart breaking of the pets on the Titanic.
According to a number of survivor accounts, the dogs left in the kennels were freed at some point during the sinking, leading to a pack of excited dogs racing up and down the listing deck of the doomed ship. However, these reports have never been confirmed and remain Titanic mysteries.
Jenny the Ship’s Cat
RMS Titanic had her own official cat, called Jenny, who was considered a mascot for the boat and helped to keep the population of mice and rats down on board.
Jenny started her career as a working cat on board the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic. She was “transferred” onto the ill-fated ocean liner just a week before it set sail on its maiden voyage.
The unlucky cat made her home in the gallery of the Titanic, where staff fed scraps from the kitchens. During her short time on the ship, she gave birth to a litter of kittens.
Stewardess Violet Jessop, who survived the sinking, wrote that the kitchen cat
“laid her family near Jim, the scullion, whose approval she always sought and who always gave her warm devotion”.
Jenny and her kittens are sadly presumed to have died during the sinking.
Birds on Board
As well as the four-legged friends, there were also a few feathered pets on the Titanic.
Ella Holmes White, an American lady, boarded the ship at Cherbourg with four chickens. She was importing them back home with the intention of introducing them to the flock she kept in the USA.
Alongside Ella’s birds, there were also 30 other cockerels on board. Elizabeth Ramel Nye, a 2nd Class survivor, even had a yellow canary in her cabin.
Interestingly, every animal that boarded the ship had to have its own ticket – the canary cost 24 US cents to travel!
The Miracle of Brave Rigel?
A tale of dogged bravery that was first reported in a US newspaper (and is still told today) is that of First Officer William Murdoch’s Newfoundland, Rigel.
An interview with a seaman called Jonas Briggs was published in the New York Herald shortly after the sinking in which he claimed that the gigantic Rigel trod water for a couple of hours beside a lifeboat until the Carpathia arrived.
According to Briggs, it was the black dog’s warning bark that prevented the Carpathia mowing down one of the lifeboats.
Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that backs up this story. Jonas Briggs doesn’t appear in the crew manifest of the Carpathia and no Titanic survivors relayed a similar tale of doggie-paddling. More tellingly, there’s no record of William Murdoch bringing a dog on board.
Apart from the survivors mentioned above, it’s assumed that none of the other pets on the Titanic survived the horrific night of the 15 April 1912. They were lost to the Atlantic Ocean alongside the thousands of passengers who also sadly passed away.
Stay at 30 James Street – The Home of the Titanic
The perfect hotel for those fascinated in the Titanic, 30 James Street offers guests luxurious surroundings in what was once the headquarters of the White Star Line shipping company. Known as the home of the Titanic, this building was registered to the ill-fated vessel and reflects its rich history throughout.
The luxury hotel has been carefully restored to preserve the opulent architecture and heritage, incorporating memorabilia linked to the White Star Line and the famous liner.
Book a stay today in one of our luxury suites and explore the city of Liverpool, with its incredible maritime history, from a premier city-centre location. If you’re looking for a luxury restaurant to enjoy a meal with your loved ones, discover Carpathia Champagne Bar and Restaurant. Dedicated to the brave vessel that rescued the 705 Titanic survivors, this beautiful venue is the perfect place to enjoy a dining experience with a difference.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our delve into the history books all about pets on the Titanic. If like us, you love dogs, check out this guide to the very best pooch-friendly venues in the city.
If our tales of the pets on the Titanic has left you looking for more history, check out our blog for more fascinating stories. For more information, and to book a room in 30 James Street, call our team on 0151 909 2509