For many of us, there is something about dogs that tug at the heartstrings. They are generally helpless creatures that do nothing more than want to please their owners, whilst for the owners themselves they are seen more like children than pets. It is therefore an absolute tragedy when any dog’s life comes to an end, but that feels even more the case when we talk about Bobi. The Portuguese mastiff went into the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest dog ever in February of 2023, having reached the ripe old age of 31. The question a lot of dog owners will want to know is how he lived so long and what his secrets to a long life were.
Who Was Bobi?
Born in the Portuguese village of Conqueiros, Bobi was one of four puppies that the dog of the Costa family had. A Rafeiro do Alentejo by breed, Bobi’s siblings had to be put down as the family had too many pets at the time. Perhaps Bobi took the years that they should have lived in order to keep going long past the point that his time should’ve been up. Leonel Costa and his family had Bobi from the moment he was a puppy to the point that he was taken from us 31 years later. Costa himself was just eight-years-old when Bobi was born, meaning that he went from being a boy to a man during the dog’s life.
The Secret to Bobi’s Long Life
According to Mr Costa, the real key to Bobi’s long life was the fact that he lived in a ‘calm, peaceful environment’. He was never chained up or asked to go on a lead, instead being allowed to roam the family’s farm at will and living ‘far from cities’. It was clear that Bobi was a survivor when the paternal figure of the Costa family went to the shed that the puppies were born in when the mother wasn’t there and stole the puppies to put them down. Gira, the dog’s mother, kept returning to the shed even though, in theory, there was nothing there for her. Leonel and his brothers followed her one day, however, and discovered Bobi hidden in some logs.
Unsurprisingly, the boys key the existence of Bobi a secret from their parents, believing that if they saw it then would not be able to put him down as they had done his siblings. What their refused to do was treat him any differently to how they treated their own kids, with Bobi eating whatever they did. That meant a diet of unseasoned human food, whilst also being showered with the love of the family who were grateful that he got to keep living when his siblings had not. That isn’t to say that if you want your dog to live as long as Bobi that you should just make him an extra dish at dinner time, of course, with a balanced diet recommended by vets.
Was Bobi Really as Old as Claimed?
Whenever there is a feel-good story that does the rounds, there will always be someone who looks to bring everyone down. Bobi lived until he was 31 years and 165 days, having been given his crown by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest dog ever on the day he was 30 years and 266 days, with what followed merely cementing his place in the record books. A pure-breed Rafeiro do Alentejo, Bobi was expected to live between 12 and 14 years, which is the standard life expectancy for such dogs. His longevity was confirmed by the SIAC, which a pet database that is authorised by the Portuguese government.
Bobi’s age was also confirmed by the Veterinary Medical Service of the Municipality of Leiria, but that wasn’t enough for some people. There remained a degree of scepticism around the possibility of a dog living for what is the equivalent of 200 years for a human. A veterinarian named Danny Chambers said, “Not a single one of my veterinary colleagues believe that Bobi was actually 31-years-old. For the Guinness Book of Records to maintain their credibility and authority in the eyes of the veterinary profession, they really need to publish some irrefutable evidence.” It left some wanting answers, including Guinness World Records.
Guinness World Records Review
Guinness World Records decided that they needed to carry out a review into the process that led them to declare Bobi the ‘world’s oldest dog’. A big part of scepticism came from the fact that pet owner’s self-certify when a dog is born, to say nothing of the fact that a photo of Bobi from 1999 seemed to show a dog with different coloured paws from the one that died in October of 2023. When genetic testing was carried out, it was merely confirmed that Bobi was old, as opposed to the exact age that he’d reached by the time that he died. Little wonder, then, that there were numerous people who didn’t believe the tale of Bobi’s record-breaking age.
The crown of world’s oldest dog had belonged to Bluey, an Australian dog who was 29 and five months when he died in 1939. In 2022, a chihuahua called Spike, from Ohio in the United States of America, died at the age of 23 years and seven days in 2022, which earned him the title in the Guinness Book of Records era. Bobi’s owners claimed that longevity ran in the family, with his mother living until she was 18, whilst another dog owned by the family had lived to the age of 22. There was something of a dissenting voice against the critics in the form of an emeritus professor of veterinary welfare, Andrew Knight, who said that there had been some ‘other very old dogs’ throughout history.
For lovers of the Guinness Book of Records and those keen to believe in Bobi’s long life story, the bad news is that an investigative journalist spoke to Eurico Cabral from the SIAC about the story. Cabral confirmed that Bobi had been registered with them on the third of July 2022, but that ‘no registration or data that can confirm’ the fact that Bobi’s owners had said that the dog had been born in 1992 were discovered. Not only that, but the Guinness World Records hadn’t contacted the SIAC to verify its information. In other words, there is no way of knowing for sure whether Bobi reached the grand old age claimed.
Enikő Kubinyi, an expert in dog longevity at the Hungarian Eötvös Loránd University, said that there is data from dogs buried or cremated in Tokyo between 2012 and 2015. That found that dogs from a mixed background, sometimes called mutts, have the best chance of a long life, with the average life expectancy being 15.1 years. There was one dog from the 12,039 looked at in Tokyo that lived to be 25. A look at 30,563 dogs that died in the United Kingdom between 2016 and 2020 showed just 23 that made it past the age of 20, with an average life expectancy of 11.2 years. So, is Bobi’s record number of years valid? Perhaps that is a matter of faith.