From Witchcraft to Walking on Two Legs – We Can’t Get Enough of Celebrity Dogs

Could a 17th century poodle be the first canine celebrity?

By Jennifer Grant


The phenomena of iconic pets, with celebrity stature, started hundreds of years ago with a humble and dedicated white Standard Poodle named, Boy. This dog, a gift to the imprisoned Prince Rupert from his uncle, King Charles I (of England), was so skilled in avoiding death on the battlefield that people started to believe he was a witch.

Photo: History Notes

A most unusual dog haircut invigorated the rumors that preceded Boy’s arrival in England. With a shaved backend and an already legendary status, Boy was no ordinary canine. Word had passed from battlefields in Austria that no one could kill his human when Boy was with him. Several Austrian soldiers even claimed to have shot Prince Rupert at point-blank range with nary a scratch.

Photo: History Notes

Fake news has always been a plague, and rudimentary social media of the 17th century did not escape its lure. A pamphlet called, Observations Upon Prince Rupert’s White Dog Called Boy was a bit of satire wildly circulated to poke fun at those who believed the dog had Occult powers.

The pamphlet was widely disseminated, claiming that Boy could speak multiple languages, catch a bullet in his teeth, keep his master bullet-proof AND invisible, and that Boy possessed the power of prophecy. All of this was propaganda, of course, but the pubic lapped it up.

Photo: History Notes

It seems that dogs have enchanted us since recorded history. While modern canines are not subject to suspicions of witchcraft, they are very much in the spotlight and shaping cultural norms.

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