10 Dogs Who Made History


Donnchadh Defends the King of Scotland

Robert Bruce, Scotland
King Robert the Bruce of Scotland is shown with a group of women and priests, probably after the Battle of Bannockburn in Scotland, June 1314. His dog might possibly be one of those depicted in this painting. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Robert the Bruce was a famous warrior who secured independence for Scotland against England in the 14th century. Most British schoolchildren learn he was inspired not to give up by a watching a spider attempting spin its web in his hideout [source: Johnson]. But another animal played a fateful part in Robert's life: his loyal dog named Donnchadh (pronounced DON-nu-chu).

Donnchadh was a Talbot, an early ancestor of the modern bloodhound that Robert used to track game in the Scottish countryside. In 1306, Edward I of England gave his minions orders to hunt down Robert the Bruce, who was advocating for Scottish independence. After killing rival John Comyn in a church, Robert declared himself king of Scotland and began a guerrilla war to free Scotland of English domination.

Edward wasn't having any of that. He ordered his soldier John of Loren to track Robert down. Robert's wife had been captured by the British, and Donnchadh, which had been in her company, fell into the hands of John. John decided to use the dog to take him to Robert. John ordered his men to set the dog free, believing Donnchadh would take them to Robert. Sure enough, Donnchadh picked up his master's scent and took the soldiers directly to Robert's hiding place. But once the soldiers surrounded Robert, Donnchadh turned on them and attacked. Robert escaped the ambush and lived to reign as king of Scotland for more than 20 years [sources: Bougerol, Coren].