Life on Board: Animals

The Non-Human Passengers Aboard the Titanic

Photo: Show dogs on board the Titanic, taken on April 10, 1912

Show dogs on board the Titanic, April 10, 1912

by Patrick J. Kiger

Not all of the Titanic's passengers were human. As Titanic historian Walter Lord wrote in his 1957 book A Night to Remember, the Titanic was so ritzy that "even the passengers' dogs were glamorous." Canines on board included John Jacob Astor's airedale Kitty, and publishing magnate Henry Sleeper Harper's prize Pekingese Sun Yat-Sen (whose namesake was the president of China). Philadelphia banker Robert W. Daniel brought with him a champion French bulldog that he had purchased in England. Three dogs were rescued from the ship. One was Mrs. Elizabeth Rothschild's Pomeranian, who escaped with her on Lifeboat No. 6. When she and other survivors reached the Carpathia, crew members at first refused to allow the dog aboard, but Mrs. Rothschild would not leave the boat unless the dog came along too, and she held her pet in her lap as they both were hoisted aboard. But other animals and their owners were not so fortunate. Mrs. Johanna Stunke, a passenger on the Bremen, a ship that went to the scene and reported nearly 100 bodies in the water, described seeing the body of a woman with her arms still clasped tightly around a shaggy canine.

One of the most famous dogs on the Titanic, however, was fictional. In a newspaper interview, a seaman from the Carpathia apparently made up the story of Rigel, a handsome black Newfoundland, who supposedly jumped from the deck of the sinking ship onto a lifeboat, and then barked joyously as he escorted survivors to their rescue.

Other animals on the Titanic included the ship's cat, Jenny, and a litter of kittens that she gave birth to while the Titanic was docked at Southampton. Titanic survivor Violet Jessop recalled that Jenny and her litter resided in a warm corner of one of the ship's galleys, where they were tended to by a kitchen worker. The Titanic also carried several roosters and hens owned by passenger Ella Holmes White, who had purchased them in France and was importing them to America to breed at her country home. The birds probably were kept in or near the dog kennels adjacent to the Third Class Galley on F Deck. The roosters' crowing apparently was transmitted through the ship's interior ventilation ducts, because a passenger named Edwina Troutt reported hearing it on her cabin, one deck above.

Over time, other myths have developed about animals on the Titanic. As Walter Lord noted in his 1957 book A Night to Remember, for example, one such fantasy is that a herd of dairy cows were on board.

Titanic Facts

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