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What was Edinburgh’s strangest pet from the past?

11th Apr 2024
What was Edinburgh’s strangest pet from the past?

Explore Edinburgh with us and discover the gems that hide behind every corner.

On National Pet Day, we’re visiting some of Edinburgh’s most unique pets of the past—from dogs to something much larger... 


1. A Royal Mile Surprise  

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The literal elephant.    

In 1705, an enormous pet lumbered its way around the Royal Mile. Abraham Sever and his Indian elephant lived in a flat on Old Fishmarket Close—and it wasn’t on the ground floor.

The baker they lived above wrote a letter to the council pleading for the elephant to be removed.    

Unfortunately, he did not win his petition, and so the elephant was shown off to the people of Edinburgh.   

A drawing of an elephant, a statue of Greyfriars Bobby, and a statue of a man with a dog at his feet.

Abraham Sever leading his elephant around Edinburgh.


2. Greyfriars Bobby  

Near the entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard you'll find a statue of a small terrier. He is Greyfriars Bobby.

Bobby spent 14 years sitting on his owner's grave and stealing the hearts of Edinburgh residents. When he died in 1872, they buried him not far from his owner.

In 2022, it was revealed that Bobby might not have been a Skye Terrier, but rather a Dandie Dinmont Terrier. Either way, his is a beloved Edinburgh story.

A bronze statue of a small terrier, Greyfriars Bobby, in Edinburgh.

Greyfriars Bobby near the entrance to Greyfrairs Kirkyard.


3. Maida  

Inside the monument lovingly referred to as the Gothic Rocket, you'll find Sir Walter Scott and his deerhound. The dog sits at Scot’s feet, gazing up at the writer.

Maida, named after the Battle of Maida of the Napoleonic Wars, was beloved by Scott. Upon Maida’s death, Scott buried him beneath a statue at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders.  

Now, both Maida and his owner are memorialised in the Scott Monument, one of the most recognisable structures in Edinburgh.

The inside of the Scott Monument, showing Walter Scott and his dog Maida.

The inside of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens.


4. Toby

If you head north of Princes Street, you can find Toby: the Irish terrier. He helped physicist James Clerk Maxwell in his research on colour blindness. 

Rumour has it that Maxwell had many dogs in his lifetime, all named Toby… Maybe Maxwell preferred their company to other people’s.

Maxwell studied the difference between Toby’s and human eyes to determine the cause of colour blindness. Now Toby has a prominent seat at the scientist’s feet.

Two photos of a statue of a man with an Irish terrier at his feet.

Toby and Maxwell on Edinburgh's George Street.


Join us on tour to learn more about the statues that dot the city, and those who haven’t yet been memorialised. Already been on tour? Take advantage of your Returner's Rewards and try something new!

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