Bobi beats Australia’s Bluey to become world’s oldest dog
London: There isn’t much to link Conqueiros, a tiny village on Portugal’s west coast with Rochester, an agricultural town that lies just 30 kilometres south of the Victorian-NSW border.
With a population of around 3000 people, the Australian town on the Campaspe River is a bustling metropolis in comparison, with 10 times the number of residents. But both agricultural communities have now had their names etched into the history book because of two of the goodest of boys.
Bobi has broken the record for the oldest dog ever.Credit:Reuters
The eyes of the canine world were focussed on the rural village in the Leiria district of central Portugal last week when Bobi, the purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo – a Portuguese livestock guardian dog that is named after the southern region of the country from which it originates – was officially crowned the world’s oldest.
Born on May 11, 1992, Bobi takes the Guinness Book of World Records title from Bluey, who Les Hall of Rochester inherited as a puppy from his father in 1910. Bluey worked among cattle and sheep for nearly 20 years and was euthanised on November 14, 1939, aged 29 years, and five months.
“It’s a feeling of pride we can’t explain,” Bobi’s owner Leonel Costa, 38, said. “Some people told us we wouldn’t make it… but we knew Bobi’s age and were sure the exams would only prove what we already knew.”
Bobi was 30 years and 269 days old as of February 4, the day Guinness bestowed the honour on him after confirmation with a pet database authorised by the Portuguese government and managed by the National Union of Veterinarians.
The mural in Rochester honouring the life of Bluey, the one-time world record holder as the oldest living dog.
Authentic records of dogs living for more than 20 years are rare and generally involve smaller breeds. Several Australian cattle dogs have died in recent years with their owners claiming they were more than 30; however, their ages were never officially confirmed. In 1983, an Australian cattle-dog/Labrador cross named Chilla, reputedly aged 32 years 3 days, died in Broadbeach, Queensland.
Costa was just a child of 8 when Bobi and his brothers were born. He said his family had many animals and little money so his father, a hunter, generally buried newborn puppies rather than keep them. But Bobi hid among a pile of firewood. When Costa and his siblings found him a few days later they kept it a secret until the puppy opened its eyes.
“We knew that when he opened his eyes, my parents wouldn’t be able to bury him,” he said.
Bobi’s breed usually has a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years and Costa attributed its longevity to a number of factors, including living in calm countryside, having never been chained or kept on a leash and always eating “human food”.
Les Hall and Bluey on Justin Stevens’ mural in Rochester.
“What we ate, they ate too,” he said. “Between a can of animal food or a piece of meat, Bobi doesn’t hesitate and chooses our food.”
Costa said he always soaked Bobi’s food in water before serving it to his pets, to remove most of the seasonings. He believes one of the biggest contributing factors is the “calm, peaceful environment” Bobi lives in, “far from the cities.”
“If Bobi spoke only he could explain this,” he said when the secret to his dog’s long life.
To mark the 80th anniversary of Bluey’s passing in 2019, the residents of Rochester commissioned a mural to celebrate the dog’s links to the town.
Edna Staley, was just 10 when her father’s dog passed away but said at the time her father and the dog were inseparable. A grocer all his life in Rochester, Edna described her late father at the time as a stickler for the rules, which came in handy when proving Bluey’s age. He had shire registration records dating all the way back to Bluey’s birth.
“All my memories of him were as an old dog, and I remember him being very loyal to the family. I remember him walking up the street with my mum (Esma), and waiting with the pram outside the store on the main street while she went shopping, and he would keep an eye on the children because the pram was too big to go inside,” she once told the Campaspe News.
She said Bluey never went to a vet, and the only real health problem he encountered was arthritis towards the end of his life.
“I’m not sure why or how he lived so long, but he lived differently from how pets live now. In those days, your dog would just get the scraps of your dinner and other food around the place, we didn’t buy dog food or anything like that.”
Health-wise, Bobi has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free life, although he gave his owner “one big scare” in 2018 when he was hospitalised after suddenly collapsing due to breathing difficulty.
He pulled through but now finds walking difficult and mostly spends his time hanging out in the backyard with his four feline friends. Bobi now likes to lie in bed after meals and on colder days he prefers to relax by the fire.
“We have regular [vet] appointments with him and the exams have always shown that he is doing well for his advanced age,” Costa said. “Bobi is one of a kind.”
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