The bond between people and pets is a powerful one. We feed and shelter these animals and, in return, they give us unconditional love (or, in the case of cats, pretend to). So when that bond is sundered, our animal friends can go to pretty amazing lengths to get back where they belong. Domesticated animals quite obviously aren’t intended to undertake massive migrations, but when you push them to the limit they’ll show you what they can do. Here are 10 stories of dogs, cats and other beasts of the field traveling insane distances for personal reasons.
Bobbie The Dog
Let’s start this off with one of the most famous animal adventures of all time. Bobbie was a Scotch collie who lived with diner owners Frank and Elizabeth Brazier in the little hamlet of Silverton, Oregon, in the 1920s. When the Braziers headed to Indiana for vacation in the summer of 1923, Bobbie came with — riding on the car’s running board. Unfortunately for the hound, he was attacked by a pack of strays in the Midwest and ran off, and the Braziers couldn’t find him. They left instructions with the place they were staying if he came back and headed home. Six months later, a bedraggled Bobbie showed up in Silverton, having walked a staggering 2,500 miles home. The dog had actually followed the faint scent of his owners, being spotted at the gas stations and homes they’d stopped at on the way. He also spent some time living in a hobo jungle and under the care of a woman in Portland.
Kunkush The Cat
The massive refugee migrations in Europe and Africa are breaking up families by the thousands, so it’s not surprising that some pets are being left behind. One Iraqi family fled their war-torn land with their cat Kunkush in tow, but felines aren’t really amenable to traveling, as anyone who’s attempted to take one to the vet can tell you. Midway through the journey, Kunkush slipped away on the Greek island of Lesbos, where the family had floated to on a rubber raft. The humans were taken to a refugee camp and eventually settled in Norway, but they didn’t give up on their pet. Aid workers discovered the disheveled animal and organized an effort to find his owners, and eventually they were reunited.
Cher Ami The Pigeon
Before the global telecommunications network wrapped our globe like a diaper, we were dependent on some other methods to get messages to each other. During the days of World War I, Allied forces used carrier pigeons to transmit information from the battlefield to command. One of the most famous birds of all time was Cher Ami, who saved the lives of over 100 men on her journey. During the Battle of the Argonne, the 77th Division was trapped under enemy fire. They dispatched Cher Ami with a message containing their coordinates, praying that she’d make it back to division headquarters 25 miles away. The Germans saw her and opened fire, blasting out one of her eyes, piercing her chest and nearly severing a leg. Even with those injuries, the brave pigeon made it back to her roost and delivered the message, enabling a rescue mission. Medics worked to save the heroic pigeon’s life and even outfitted her with a wooden leg.
Kuzya The Cat
Thinking about all of the possible places a cat wouldn’t want to be, the icy wastes of Siberia is pretty high on the list. But a ballsy Russian cat named Kuzya braved the frost to travel a staggering 1,336 miles to be reunited with its family in 2004. Kuzya’s owners, the Efremov family, moved temporarily from the small village of Olenyok to Yakutsk and took the cat with them. Kuzya didn’t care for city life and quickly split the scene. Three months later, Kuzya turned up on the doorstep of the Olenyok house, having crossed the brutal Siberian wilderness on foot. His claws were worn down to nubbins, his tail was scored with tooth marks, and he now hates to go outside. Who can blame the little guy?
Sophie The Dog
If you were stranded on a desert island, it’d be nice to have man’s best friend by your side. But what if your dog was lost without you? That’s what happened in 2009 when the Griffith family took their cattle dog Sophie on a sailing trip. During a rough storm, Sophie fell off of the boat’s deck and was swept away by the rushing water. The Griffiths figured there was no way she could have survived, but they were wrong. Against all odds, Sophie swam five nautical miles through shark-filled waters to the uninhabited St. Bees Island. Once on shore, she started hunting the baby goats that live there and spent the next four months essentially going feral before park rangers picked her up and reunited her with her family.
Holly The Cat
Traveling with pets is always a crapshoot. While some animals are pretty bonded to their human families, others tend to wander. The story of Holly the cat thankfully has a happy ending. Holly’s owners, Jacob and Bonnie Richter, took her to an R.V. getaway in Daytona Beach in 2012 because they didn’t want to leave her at home. At some point, Holly slipped away and the Richters couldn’t find her. After a few days of searching, they glumly returned home to West Palm Beach, Florida. Fast forward two months later and a bedraggled Holly, down to half her former weight, showed up on the Richters’ front doorstep, to their amazement. The cat traveled 200 miles in that span of time through some seriously rough country rife with snakes, gators and other predators.
Mr. Gruff The Goat
It’s not just cats and dogs that make insanely long journeys. OK, it’s mostly dogs and cats, but here’s a goat who got so pissed off at his new owners that he hit the road. When Mr. Gruff’s first owner moved from the town of Fountain Valley to Whistler, he couldn’t take the goat with him. So he found a guy in the nearby town of Cache Creek who wanted the animal and handed him off. Mr. Gruff didn’t take to his new parents too well and escaped confinement, walking 46 miles along Highway 99 back to Fountain Valley to look for his former owner. The journey wasn’t an easy one — there are lots of predators like cougars and bears in the area, as well as huge trucks speeding along the highway. He was taken in by a local businessman and eventually adopted to a new family who built Mr. Gruff a much more secure shelter.
Emily The Cat
Unlike the other animals on this list, Emily wasn’t motivated to take a journey by loyalty to her owners. Instead, it was a cat’s native curiosity that took her from Wisconsin to… France. The only transcontinental trip we have here, Emily’s 2005 adventure started when she fell asleep in a shipping container in a paper warehouse near her home of Appleton. The container was closed up and loaded aboard a ship that landed in Europe. The container was trucked to the town of Nancy and eventually unloaded at a lamination company, who were surprised to discover the hungry, pissed off stowaway. Emily’s family eventually got their cat back courtesy of Continental Airlines, who flew her back business class.
Huberta The Hippo
This list has been primarily domesticated animals, but the tale of Huberta the wandering hippopotamus is too awesome to leave out. Hippos typically don’t stray too far from their watering holes, but in November of 1928, for reasons that still remain unknown, Huberta got a wild hair and left her home in the St. Lucia estuary of South Africa, heading east on a three-year, 1,000 mile trip that would make her a celebrity. On the way to the Eastern Cape, news reports of a solo hippopotamus showed up in regional newspapers and conservation experts tried to trap her so she could be kept safe in a zoo, but she eluded all attempts at capture. When she finally reached the town of East London in 1931, she was declared a protected animal and left to live free. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop hunters from shooting her a month later. We didn’t say they all had happy endings!
Jessie The Cat
If there’s one thing that you should know about cats, it’s that they’re stubborn. Unlike dogs, which have a sincere desire to please their owners, cats do whatever the hell they please. So when Sheree Gale, the owner of tabby cat Jessica moved nearly 2,000 miles from Ungarra to Darwin (those are both in Australia, if you’re confused), the feline decided she wasn’t having any of it and took off after a few weeks. Over a year later, the new residents of Jessica’s old home noticed a strange animal hanging around. They took pictures and sent it to Gale, who confirmed that it was Jessica. The insane journey took the cat through the harsh central desert of Australia if she went in a straight line, but she might have taken the more tropical (but longer) coastal route. Either way, Jessica’s staying in Ungarra from now on.