Whether you share your home with a dog, a cat, a hamster, or a bird, you love your pet as much as you love the human members of the family—sometimes even more! But a few times in history, pets—some real, some fictional–have risen to a level of fame that made them the companions of entire nations and cultural icons. Here are 10 of history’s most beloved pets.
Unsinkable Sam For centuries, the British Royal Navy took cats along on sea voyages. In addition to providing companionship, the “Captain’s Cat” kept mice and rats away from food. One of the luckiest was a cat known as “Unsinkable Sam”. Supposedly, he started out on the German side of World War II aboard The Bismarck. It sank in battle on May 27, 1941. Sam was one of the ship’s few survivors, picked up by the British battleship the HMS Cossack. Later that year, that ship sunk, too. While 159 sailors lost their lives, Sam survived again. He then moved on to the HMS Ark Royal, which was later torpedoed. Sam was found “angry but quite unharmed” on a floating plank. The cat was then retired from shipboard service, and he spent the rest of his days a pampered pet in a home for retired sailors.
Hachiko Hachiko became a national symbol through an act of extreme loyalty. The dog was the pet of Japanese Professor Hidesaburo Ueno. He met his master at the Shibuya Train Station in Tokyo at the end of every day. In May 1925, Ueno died while teaching, and he never returned to the station. Hachiko never stopped waiting for him. Every day for the next nine years, the dog sat outside the train station, appearing precisely when Ueno’s old train was due at the station. A year before his death in 1935, a statue of Hachiko was placed outside the Shibuya train station, where it still stands. Bronze paw prints mark the exact spot where he stood every day.
Able Seacat Simon Able Seacat Simon was another feline of the British Royal Navy. He was the official ratter of the HMS Amethyst. In 1949, the ship came under fire in China, and Sam was seriously injured. With the help of the ship’s medical crew, the cat survived, raising the morale of his shipmates. In recognition of his gallantry under fire, the Royal Navy awarded him the Dickin Medal. He was the first and so far only cat to receive it. Sadly, Simon passed away shortly after his ship returned to England. He was buried with full military honors.
Rin Tin Tin He began life forgotten in a German bunker in 1918, but Rin Tin Tin ended it a star. The German Shepherd pup was found in an abandoned German military kennel in France by U.S. Army Corporal Lee Duncan. When the war ended, Duncan took his trained dog to Hollywood and got him movie parts. “Rinty” became popular with audiences and starred in his own films. The first Rin Tin Tin passed away in 1930. His son and other descendants continued performing in movies, radio shows, and television.
Greyfriars Bobby Beloved of Scotland, Greyfriars Bobby was a terrier who became a symbol of enduring loyalty. His owner John Gray was a member of the Edinburgh police force. When he died in 1858, Gray was interred in the Greyfriars churchyard. Soon afterward, Bobby was seen sitting on the grave. The dog spent most of the rest of his life guarding the gravesite. Shortly after his own death in 1872, a statue of Bobby was placed near the church.
Old Abe Cats and dogs are not the only animals that win our hearts. Old Abe was a female bald eagle who was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Old Abe saw battle in Vicksburg and Memphis. After the war, the regiment gave her to the state of Wisconsin, and she lived the rest of her life in a special room in the Capitol. Today, a statue of Old Abe keeps watch over the Wisconsin State Assembly Chamber, and her likeness graces the insignia of the 101st Airborne Division “The Screaming Eagles”.
Snoopy Perhaps no pet—real or fictional—is as beloved as Charlie Brown’s dog Snoopy. Inspired by his own childhood dog Spike, cartoonist Charles M. Schulz created a beagle with a vibrant imagination. When he is not hanging out with Charlie, Snoopy often can be found on top of his doghouse writing novels, pretending to be a WWI flying ace, chilling out as “Joe Cool”, or spending time with his birdie friend Woodstock. In addition to being a cultural icon, Snoopy has served as the mascot of the NASA safety program and several armed forces flying units. He is currently the corporate mascot of a major insurance company.
Winnipeg the Bear Winnipeg’s story starts in World War I. She was an orphaned cub that Lt. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian army veterinarian, purchased from a hunter. His regiment adopted her as a mascot, and Colebourn named her Winnipeg or “Winnie” after his hometown. When the regiment was deployed in 1915, it managed to smuggle her all the way to England. Before leaving for France, Colebourn left Winnie at the London Zoo. After the war, a writer named Alan Milne and his son Christopher frequently visited Winnie. The little boy named his teddy after the friendly bear, and thus, Winnie-the-Pooh was born. Winnie the Bear lived at the London Zoo until her death in 1934. She is remembered in Winnipeg with a statue.
Garfield Star of the world’s most widely syndicated comic strip, Garfield is a cat who knows how to live large. He lives the way most humans wish they could—days full of laziness, rich food, and disdain of Mondays and diets. Garfield’s laid-back approach to life frequently conflicts with the more outgoing attitude of his owner John Arbuckle and the limitless joy of the dog Odie. While the cat is frequently cynical, Garfield has a major soft spot for his teddy bear, Pooky. Garfield and his friends have starred in countless comic strips, books, an animated television series, and a pair of live-action films.
Trigger Known as “The Smartest Horse in the Movies”, Trigger was the faithful mount of film and television cowboy Roy Rogers. Originally named “Golden Cloud”, the clever horse mastered an almost endless list of tricks, including untying ropes and even shooting a gun. Starting in 1943, Trigger appeared in over 80 movies with Rogers, as well as 100 television episodes. Within a few years of his debut, he was so popular, he needed a body double to keep up with all the demands for personal appearances. The original Trigger passed away in 1965. The statue of a rearing horse that decorates the Denver Broncos home scoreboard was cast in Trigger’s image.