Greyfriars Bobby-The Lie Behind the Legend

Greyfriar's Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby is known around the world as the epitome of man’s best friend, not budging from his masters grave from the day of his burial in 1858 up until his own passing in 1872. The story is well known in Scotland and around the world, through several books and films, particularly the 1961 Walt Disney film Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog. Bobby even inspired the small monument above, interestingly Edinburgh’s smallest listed building, which was originally built as a drinking fountain with an upper section for humans and a lower section for their dogs.

However new evidence goes to support the idea that Bobby was a hoax cooked up by local businessmen to keep the tourists flowing and as such the coin from their pockets.

Dr Jan Bondeson, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University, has uncovered evidence that there were in fact two Bobbies from 1858 to 1872 and that neither of them belonged to the man buried in Greyfriars cemetery whose grave they sat by.  Dr Bondeson has saidthat he ‘smelt a rat’ whilst researching the story of the famous dog for a book on amazing dogs throughout history.  His research shows the first dog was in fact a stray which wandered into the nearby Heriot’s hospital, now George Heriot’s School, and was then taken to the graveyard. James Brown, the curator of the cemetery, treated him so well that he stayed, and locals assumed he was mourning his dead master. This worked in the favour of Brown and a local restaurant owner, John Triall, with donations coming in thick and fast to Brown and many of the visitors stopping for food in Triall’s restaurant.

His research goes on to show that this dog passed of old age around 1867 and was replaced by Triall and Brown in an effort to keep the visitors flowing.  Artwork and pictures of Bobby show a distinct change in 1867.

Greyfriars Bobby

The first was an elderly, tired dog who wasn’t much to look at, and the second a lively terrier who ran around and fought other dogs. This would also go some way to explain the longevity of Bobby, who lived a long 16 years, when even today 10 to 12 years is a good life span for a Skye terrier. Dr Bondeson has also stated that these two dogs where joined by many others. Visitors would think such strays were mourning their masters and leave them scraps of food, and not surprisingly, considering the treatment they were receiving, the dogs would stay for more.

‘It won’t ever be possible to debunk the story of Greyfriars Bobby – he’s a living legend, the most faithful dog in the world, and bigger than all of us.’ Dr Bondeson added.

But what do you think? Is the story of Bobby true or does this new information hint at a Victorian money making scheme? Let us know in the comments…


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4 thoughts on “Greyfriars Bobby-The Lie Behind the Legend

  1. Amiel Schotz

    Although the story of Greyfriars Bobby may have been a publicity stunt, or basically true but embellished, there are at least half a dozen well documented instances in more modern times of dogs who displayed just the same devotion to a master who died and remained loyal for several years. Do an internet search of dogs loyal after death and see. And while unusually long lived as Greyfriars Bobby apparently was, an age of up to 18 is not so unusual. I myself have a mixed breed terrier who is now 15 and in remarkably good health. Barring accidents she could well last to 18. So why spoil a good story with yet another conspiracy theory.


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