Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

Bull terrier tracks down owner by train


This is the extraordinary story of a dogged pet called Peter who travelled half way across Egypt by train. The tale began one day in Egypt in 1901. Mr Jobson was an official in the British Government’s colonial service and had been stationed in what was then called Upper Egypt, far up the River Nile.

Mr Jobson became used to taking the train north to Cairo for business trips, a journey that could take as long as 15 hours. On these trips he was usually accompanied by his faithful bull terrier, Peter. The pair would travel in the First Class section with Mr Jobson doing a crossword or reading some paperwork, while Peter sat quietly at his feet, not even looking out of the window at the passing countryside. Over time these trips became a regular feature of the pair’s lives.

However, Mr Jobson was then transferred to a new posting at Damanhur, near Alexandria, the opposite side of Cairo from Upper Egypt. Once again Mr Jobson would use the train to go to any business engagements south in Cairo – this time travelling south – a trip that would take a mere three hours, with Peter at his feet.

One day, Mr Jobson received an urgent cable calling him to Cairo immediately. He debated whether he should take his usual travelling companion with him to the capital, but he thought that because of the urgency of the meeting and the unpredictability of his trip, it might be best to leave Peter behind this time.

So Mr Jobson left Peter in the care of a friend who lived nearby, and hastened off to catch his train to Cairo.

Ramsese station Cairo
The railway station at Ramsese, Cairo. Photo by Wiki/Osama Khalil

Now, Peter had many virtues as a pet, but patience was certainly not one of them. The bull terrier was unhappy at being left behind, and could not understand where his owner was going and why he was going without him. As far as the pet was concerned there was only one thing for it – Peter would have to follow his master, who had surely left him behind by mistake.

So the bull terrier sneaked out of his temporary home, and trotted down to the obvious place to start his search: the train station at Damanhur. Here the animal found the right platform and then boarded the express train bound for the capital. Once he had arrived at the bustle of Cairo railway station, Peter considered his next move.

Surely his owner must have gone back up country to their old lodgings in Upper Egypt? So Peter walked to the correct platform then sat down and waited for the train to Upper Egypt, which was not due to arrive for three hours. Once on the train, Peter took his usual position in the first class compartment and settled down for the 15-hour journey ahead.

No one bothered Peter on his journey; the tough-looking bull terrier was not a dog many took liberties with. In any case, to fellow passengers and ticket inspectors Peter looked like a dog who knew where he was going. Once in Upper Egypt, Peter quickly made his way to the old house where he and his master had stayed.

To his surprise, Peter could find no sign of Mr Jobson, just some of the staff who had worked with him in the past. Disappointed but undeterred, Peter now resorted to plan B: his master had surely stayed in Cairo after all. So with little further ado, he walked purposefully back to the station, headed for the correct platform, and boarded the next train back to the capital. Fifteen hours later, Peter leapt off the train and began searching for his owner’s friends in Cairo in the hope that Mr Jobson was visiting one of them.

Peter went to the friends’ homes in turn, but there was still no sign of Mr Jobson. One friend, though. recognized the animal, and tried to shut Peter in a room while he cabled Mr Jobson for advice. Peter, however, would have none of it. He soon escaped, and once again made his way back to the railway station in Cairo. All was becoming clear to the bull terrier: his master must have made his way back home to Damanhur.

So Peter found the correct platform and, after a brief wait, boarded the next express train north to his new home. On arriving in Damanhur, Peter waited patiently until a fellow first-class passenger opened the carriage door and he jumped down with some dignity on to the platform.

The animal was now, of course, back where he had started some 42 hours ago. This time his patience was rewarded: back in Damanhur he found his master, Mr Jobson, patiently waiting for him. One of the friends who had seen Peter in Cairo had cabled Mr Jobson to alert him to the dog’s whereabouts, and the official was not overly surprised to see Peter calmly returning home by train.

The entire journey had not only taken nearly two days but had also involved four different train journeys and three different railway stations. Somehow Peter had managed to find his way across half of Egypt by train – and then find his way safely back home. His ingenuity and ability showed he was a very special dog. But what really marked Peter out was his powerful loyalty to his master. He had not allowed distance to keep him away from the person who meant more to him than anyone else.


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