Famous dogs immortalised in statues in UK and stories behind them | TeamDogs

Famous dogs immortalised in statues in UK and stories behind them

Each reveal a glimpse into the past

Peter Harris

Posted 12d ago

By Fiona Callow

There’s a story behind every statue- a glimpse into an event, place in time, or person’s life, and statues dedicated to our most famous dogs are no exception.

Here at TeamDogs we’ve compiled a list of some of the statues here in the UK dedicated to canines, including a few you might not have heard of and explored the stories behind why they’ve been immortalised forever.

Max, Keswick, Cumbria

This year, 13 year old springer spaniel Max was honoured with a statue in Hope Park, Keswick after he won the PDSA Order of Merit in February for providing virtual therapy during lockdown.

Owner Kerry Irving had Max trained as a therapy dog in 2016 and used a Facebook Live during the Covid-19 pandemic to broadcast his daily walks and provide comfort during lockdown.

Max became somewhat of a viral sensation, with photos of him out on his walks quickly becoming popular on social media. He has since helped raise nearly £300,000 for a number of charities through meet-and-greets, charity walks and school visits.

The PDSA Order of Merit, launched in 2014, has previously been given to 32 dogs and horses who were specifically trained to perform roles, including as police dogs, medical detection dogs and search and rescue dogs.

The statue was designed by Kirsty Armstrong, and was paid for by a crowdfunding campaign, which raised £26,000 in a single day

Read more: RSPCA warns offices need to be more dog-friendly after lockdown

Brown Dog, Battersea, London

Located between the Old English Garden and Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park, the innocuous looking statue represents a controversial and storied history.

Originally erected here in 1906, after being commissioned by activists protesting the use of vivisection, an experimental surgery conducted on live animals, at University College London.

The bronze sculpture, which was designed by Joseph Whitehead, was intended to memorialise a brown terrier that had been illegally and inhumanely operated on by William Bayliss in front of 60 medical students. It was accompanied by a provocative plaque condemning UCL.

The memorial was frequently vandalised, requiring 24-hour police protection, and sparked a series of clashes known as the Brown Dog riots.

Despite a 20,000-strong petition to save it, the statue was secretly removed by Battersea Council in 1910, in a bid to end the conflict.

In 1985, a new sculpture created by the artist Nicola Hicks was added to the original spot. The statue is modelled after her own terrier Brock.

Gelert, Beddgelert, Wales

The legend of Gelert is a sad tale, but it has given the tiny village in Wales its name of Beddegelert.

The 13th century prince Llywelyn the Great was a keen hunter and owned many hunting hounds, but his favourite was Gelert, gifted to him by the English King John.

The prince left his newborn son with Gelert guarding him one day when he went out hunting. To his horror when he returned he found his son missing, and Gelert’s muzzle covered in blood.

Llywellyn took his sword and killed his favourite dog, but as soon as he did so, he heard his son crying.

He discovered his heir unharmed,  but by its side lay a dead wolf, which had been killed by Gelert who was defending the infant.

Grief-stricken and filled with remorse Llywelyn gave the faithful hound a ceremonial burial by the river, and the rumour was that he never smiled again.


Gelert was eventually immortalised in the name the village is known by today, and two stone slabs and a statue by the river honour his sacrifice.


The Wolfhound, Atrium, Northern Ireland


This very primeval looking statue has a mystical legend surrounding it- and comes with a warning should it ever be removed from its home in Atrium Castle.


The story is that in 1607 while taking a stroll in the grounds of the castle, the new bride of Sir Hugh Clotworthy was attacked by a wolf. 


However, a mysterious Wolfhound came to Lady Marian’s rescue and killed the wolf, but vanished again after she had tended his wounds. 


One evening some years later, the Wolfhound reappeared; standing on the battlements, his howling raised the alarm that the castle was under attack. 


When dawn broke, and with the enemy defeated, the Wolfhound was transformed into stone, although some say that the hound died helping defend the castle, and Sir Hugh had a statue made in his honour. 


Superstition says that should the statue ever be moved from the castle grounds, disaster will follow, so although the castle no longer stands, the Wolfhound continues to keep his watch in the castle gardens.


Dog and Pot, Southwark, London

This statue, carved out of elm and iron, can be seen outside of Southwark Station and has a famous literary connection.

Unveiled by Charles Dickens’ great-great-grandson in 2012, the sculpture is a replica of a shop sign the novelist used to walk past as a 12-year-old child, on his way to work.

It made such an impression on Dickens he even wrote about seeing ‘the likeness of a golden dog licking a golden pot over a shop door’ when turning into Blackfriars Road each day, in his autobiography.

The original feature, which was a shop sign, is thought to date from the 16th century. It was previously on display in the Cuming Museum, Elephant and Castle.

Commissioned for the Charles Dickens bicentenary in 2012, it is a great reminder of London’s history, and a must-see for any bookworms.

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

Last, but certainly not least is Greyfriars Bobby which remains one of the most famous dedications to a dog.

However blink and you’ll miss the diminutive sculpture, which appears much larger on photographs than it does in real life.

The story of the Skye Terrier’s devotion to his master, even after death has passed into legend.

In 1858 John Gray, a night watchman for the police force, died of tuberculosis, and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. However his beloved dog, who used to accompany him on his night watch, soon touched the hearts of local residents when he refused to leave his master’s grave.

Despite the efforts of the gardener and keeper of the church yard, Bobby would return day in and out, only leaving to have food. For fourteen years the dead man’s faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave until his own death in 1872.

The statue of Bobby is now a well known tourist attraction, with visitors from all over the world coming to Greyfriars to learn his story and have their pictures taken beside him. 

Some people even rub his nose for good luck, but are now being asked to do it gently, as it has had to be restored twice. 

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