Greyfriars Bobby is probably a different breed of terrier than previously thought, a new book suggests.
The faithful pet, famous for having sat at his master’s grave in Edinburgh for 14 years after his death in 1858, is believed to have been a skye terrier.
However, according to breed experts, Greyfriars Bobby is more likely to have been a dandie dinmont terrier that originated in the Scottish borders in the 17th century.
With 60 breeders in the Edinburgh area, the dandie dinmont terrier was hugely popular in Scotland at the time, while skye terriers – now one of Britain’s most endangered dog breeds – tended to be confined to the Isle of Skye, about 250 miles away. .
“There have been so many competing stories about Greyfriars Bobby that the truth has faded like the mist of an Edinburgh morning,” said Mike Macbeth, who co-wrote the book, The Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the True Story of Scotland’s Forgotten Breed, with Paul Keville.
“But the more I researched him, the more the facts led to only one conclusion: that Greyfriars Bobby must have been a dandie dinmont terrier,” said Macbeth, president of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of Canada.
Macbeth and Keevil, who have spent the past two years researching their book on the history and social influence of the dandie dinmont terrier, said early newspaper reports and sightings never suggested Bobby was a skye terrier. He was almost always called a “Scotch terrier”, a term used colloquially to describe the dandie dinmont.
Greyfriars Bobby belonged to a night watchman, John Gray. In 1850 Gray moved to Edinburgh with his wife and son. Unable to find work as a gardener, he joined the Edinburgh Police as a night watchman and took a dog to keep him company during the long nights.
Gray contracted tuberculosis and died on February 15, 1858. His faithful watchdog then caught the attention of the locals, sitting by his owner’s grave for 14 years, until his own death on January 14, 1872.
Greyfriars Bobby was commemorated with a statue placed near the entrance to the cemetery, where he is now buried not far from his beloved owner. The dog’s headstone reads: “May his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”