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Weird and Wonderful Pets from History - Part 2

April is National Pet month in the UK and to celebrate, we’ve put together a list of famous pets from history. From the bizarre to the brave, the outlandish to the alarming, the faithful to the ferocious, we’ve got everything in part 2 of this list of history’s best and most treasured domesticated creatures.

An illustration of Caligula toasting his horse - Courtesy of Victor Adam

Stop Horsing Around:

The award for the most peculiar gifts adorned on a pet goes to Roman Emperor Caligula. Caligula proved his love for his horse, called Incitatus, by apparently giving him a marble stall to sleep in, a jewelled collar to wear and an ivory manger to drink from. The horse was so pampered that he even had real gold in his diet!

But the oddities didn’t stop there. Caligula tried to make Incitatus into a consul. If you’re not sure what a consul is – it’s one of Rome’s highest political leaders! As you can imagine, the other Roman politicians were pretty insulted by the whole affair. But that was probably Caligula’s plan all along.

Peritas might have looked a bit like this dog statue in the British Museum - Courtesy of Marie-Lan Nguyen

A Canine Gladiator In The Making:

Alexander the Great is said to have been just a child when he received a dog, called Peritas, as a gift possibly from a famous king. In fact, Alexander was so young when he got Peritas, he didn’t have his title of “the Great” yet. He was just Alexander the Regular.

Peritas was an enormous, muscular dog that would have been specially bred to fight in battles. And that’s exactly what he did. Ancient historians claim that Peritas joined Alexander on numerous military campaigns.

The powerful pooch was so loyal to his master that he saved Alexander’s life several times. The historical rumour mill even suggests that Peritas fought an elephant AND a lion (though not at the same time, thank goodness!) to protect his human from certain death. Peritas wasn’t just a good dog, he was a Great dog.

An ilustration of Nerval walking his pet - Courtesy of Joy D'Orsay

Put that Lobster on a Leash:

Gérard de Nerval was a French Romantic poet and writer who lived in the 1800s. He gained a reputation as a bit of an eccentric when he started walking his pet around the Palais Royal Gardens, a public park in Paris, on a blue silk leash.

But it wasn’t the colour and material of the animal’s leash that drew attention from the people of Paris. Instead, it was the animal itself. You see, Gérard didn’t walk a dog on a leash through the park – he walked his pet lobster, called Thibault! He claimed the lobster made a better pet than a dog because it didn’t bark. What an unusual sight that would have been!

Balto the super-dog and his owner Gunnar Kassan

Super-Dog to the Rescue:

When the people in Nome, Alaska became threatened by the spread of a serious infection called Diphtheria, with no way of getting the antitoxin through the thick snow that surrounded the town, it was down to a super-dog to save them. That super-dog’s name was Bolt. Bolt had a distinct black lightning bolt on his white fur so he was immediately recognisable from other dogs. He had a super-bark and could shoot lasers from his eyes. Oh no. Wait. That’s Bolt the super-dog from the Disney animated film. My bad.

The super-dog in this story is called Balto. Balto was a husky and the head of a team of sled dogs led by their owner, Gunnar Kassan. Balto and his team were responsible for the Diphtheria antitoxin on the final leg of the journey back to the people in the town of Nome. When Gunnar was blinded by the snow, it was Balto that navigated the sled, bringing the cure to those who needed it in the isolated Alaskan town. And he did it all without a super-bark or laser-eyes. Clever boy!

All that college work can be pretty tiring!

They “Bearly” Made It:

As an adult, Lord Byron may have been best known for his poetry and the many scandalous love affairs that seemed to follow him around. But in his younger years, he was better known for a different sort of scandal that accompanied him everywhere – his pet bear.

When Byron attended Trinity College, Cambridge in 1805, he was told that pet dogs and cats were banned by the college. In protest of these old-fashioned rules, Byron bought himself a pet bear, claiming there was nothing in the college rules stopping him from having the bear. And he was right. Equally, there was nothing in the college rules stopping him from having a pet mouse, or a pet rabbit, or a pet parrot either, but Byron wasn’t one for doing things by halves!


That's it! The end of this fabulous list (I know, it's a shame it's over).

If you missed part 1 of this list, you can read it right here.

If you've already read part 1, read it again! It'll make the fun last longer!

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