Greyfriars Bobby may have been a different breed of dog than previously thought, book says

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The dog, famous for remaining by his master’s grave in Edinburgh for 14 years after his death in 1858, was long believed to be a Skye terrier.

However, a new book concludes the faithful animal is more likely to have been a dandie dinmont terrier, which was immensely popular in Scotland at the time – with 60 breeders in the Edinburgh area.

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Greyfriars Bobby’s statue in Edinburgh, which is probably a different breed of dog than previously thought, suggests a new book. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

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The breed was developed in the Borders, when Skye terriers tended to be confined to the Isle of Skye, some 255 miles away.

Mike Macbeth, president of the Canadian Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club – who wrote the book with Paul Keevil, said: ‘There have been so many competing stories about Greyfriars Bobby that the truth has faded like a morning mist in Edinburgh.

“But the more I researched him for our book, The Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the True Story of Scotland’s Forgotten Breed, the more the facts led to one conclusion: that Greyfriars Bobby must have been a dandie dinmont terrier.”

The two authors are judges for the Crufts dog show and have spent the past two years researching their new book on the history and social influence of the dandie dinmont terrier.

Researchers said early newspaper reports and early sightings never suggested Bobby was a Skye terrier, but was almost always referred to as a “Scotch Terrier” – a term used colloquially to describe the dandie dinmont.

The story of Greyfriars Bobby is that he belonged to night watchman John Gray, who took the dog to keep him company during the long nights.

But Mr. Gray contracted tuberculosis and died of the disease on February 15, 1858.

Bobby refused to leave his owner’s side and until his own death on January 14, 1872 he remained by Mr. Gray’s grave, even in the most dangerous weather conditions.

He was commemorated by a statue near the entrance to the cemetery.

A celebration to mark 150 years since Greyfriars Bobby’s death was held in January, with a piper playing at the grave.