Quick! What’s the most famous statue in the world? The Statue of Liberty? Huh. You really think? I was going to say it’s the gigantic fiberglass Frisch’s Big Boy back in my hometown of Richmond, Indiana. But we can agree to disagree on this one.
My point is, statues are really great, right? Because they look like things that should be alive but, for reasons that escape me (thank you, Richmond Community Schools), are not. And while honoring someone with a statue is perhaps not the most imaginative idea a person can have (hey, I think you’re really great so I made this object that looks sort of like you, only a lot bigger), it’s still an impressive expression of appreciation in a world that has forgotten how to write thank you cards.
So here are some of our favorite statues of dogs from around the world.
This statue commemorates the life of Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who famously guarded the grave of his owner for over a decade, until the dog passed away in 1872. Or at least that’s the legend. Last year, Jan Bondeson published an extensively researched biography, Greyfriars Bobby: The Most Faithful Dog in the World. In the book, he provides overwhelming evidence the terrier’s tale was spun by the graveyard’s curator as a way to attract tourists.
This row of dog statues guards the exits at Wafi City, a “mixed-use development” (in other words, “mall and hotel”) in Dubai. Like many of Wafi City’s architectural adornments, the figures were patterned from Ancient Greek art. In this case, the dogs resemble Anubis, a god associated with the afterlife. Draw your own ironic conclusions.
Islay is a talking dog statue. Which is impressive until, after admiring it a while, you realize its vocabulary is limited to these fairly immodest words: “Hello, my name is Islay. I was once the companion of the great Queen Victoria. Because of the many good deeds I have done for deaf and blind children, I have been given the power of speech.”
These garden lion dogs, known as shishi, can be found all over China in various sizes and in the many Chinatowns that have sprung up in cities internationally. Though the statues are not referred to in China as dogs, the gaffe might have been picked up by English-speaking people from the Japanese, who first received the statues from Korea and took to calling them “Korean Dogs.” Or maybe British explorers back then just weren’t as observant as they thought they were.
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Museum in Washington, DC, features an additional statue of the 32nd President’s loyal Scottish Terrier, Fala. Somewhat bizarrely, Roosevelt’s tendency to take his pup with him on official trips became the target of political attacks during his last campaign in 1944. Actually, I guess that’s more prescient than it is strange.
This statue is a memorial to the canines who helped raise the farms in the New Zealand countryside in the 19th century. The county in which the statue is found is named after John Mkenzie, a Scottish-born outlaw whose sheep-thieving has become lore in the annals of New Zealand’s agriculture boom of the 1850s.
It’s often overlooked that the Canary Islands were named after a rare breed of dog, called canem in Latin, and rendered by these statues. There’s speculation the roots of the name go back as far as Ancient Greece. In fact, the bird we call the canary was named much later, when it was officially classified after the island in the 18th century.
Zinneke Pis is a companion to the statue of a urinating boy, called Manneken Pis, which was first seen in Brussels in the early 17th century. Several legends abound around the original Manneken Pis, including one about a 2-year-old lord who won a battle for his troops by urinating on the opposition. The dog, however, appears to just be the fruit of some clever city planning.
Know of any other interesting canine-themed statues we forgot to include in our list? Let us know in the comments!
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