Monday, March 4, 2024
HomenewsWas Bobi the World’s Oldest Dog—or a Fraud?

Was Bobi the World’s Oldest Dog—or a Fraud?

Kubinyi herself has studied two ultra-long-lived Hungarian dogs—one aged 22 and the other aged 27. In both cases, the dogs’ age was vouched for by adults who had known them since their birth, and like Bobi, the Hungarian dogs roamed around freely and had plenty of contact with other dogs and humans—good indicators of a healthy life. But Kubinyi admits that, without verifiable paperwork, it’s difficult to know definitively how old any dog is.

One thing about Bobi raised her suspicions: From the photographs she had seen, Bobi seemed to be overweight. Such rotund dogs rarely make it to extremely old ages, she says. “Even among humans it doesn’t really happen that people with extra weight can survive for that long,” she says. Oh, and there was one other thing. In its article about Bobi, GWR had posted photos of the dog when he was much younger. In those photos, the pattern of the younger Bobi’s fur seemed to differ from that of the older Bobi. Could a dog’s coat shift over time? To answer that question, Kubinyi said, I would have to consult an expert on dog coat color.

“It is true that I am considered an expert on dog coat color,” Sheila Schmutz, an emeritus professor of animal and poultry science at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told me. “At least in terms of genetics.” I sent Schmutz, who has published multiple papers about the coats of dogs and cattle, a selection of photos of Bobi taken in 1999, 2016, and 2022, and asked her whether the photos appeared to be of the same dog.

Schmutz wasn’t sure. In a few photos Bobi’s fur appeared to be red, while in another it looked like he had a brown coat. Brown and red coats, Schmutz assured me, are two very different colors. “I had my husband look at the photo set too and he agrees that we can understand why people don’t think it’s the same dog in all the photos, but it’s not absolutely clear to us,” she wrote. “Wish this were more clearcut …” she signed off her email.

For certainty, I would have to look elsewhere, and so I turned to Karen Becker, a veterinarian and author of The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier, and Longer. In several articles, Becker was credited as the person who broke the news of Bobi’s death, in a post on her Facebook page. I sent Becker a message through her website and waited for a response.

Becker, it turned out, was away lecturing, but I did get a response from her administrative assistant, Dana Adams, who was not impressed with the Guardian article casting doubt on Bobi’s longevity. “So much is incorrect,” Adams wrote. “Bobi never ate raw food, he only ate homemade cooked food, he’s a mutt not a purebred, and the lobby organization waited until the poor little guy’s cremation day to raise questions to Guinness about additional testing.”

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