Dogs have been by humans’ side for centuries, providing us with protection, companionship, funny moments and, most of all, love. And the fact that they are genetically predisposed to depend on us doesn’t decrease the magic of the bond created between humans and dogs one bit… In fact, it only proves how deep the roots of their love are, granting them the title of man’s best friend above any other pets. But do you know the true origin of the saying? It’s time to do some digging!
Where does the saying come from?
Voltaire was the first to refer to dogs as the best friend a man can have, in his “Dictionnaire philosophique” of 1764. 🐕 However, the saying as we know it today is most famously attributed to King Frederick of Prussia. In 1789, he used the expression “dogs are man’s best friend” when referring to his beloved Italian Greyhound.
Despite small references after 1789, the saying only became widely popular after a famous Mississippi court case in 1870, in what is now known as the Old Drum tale. When his dog got shot and killed by his neighbor, Mr. Burden, a Mississippi farmer, proceeded to take him to court demanding compensation for the loss of his favorite buddy, Old Drum. The case ended with a very passionate and heartfelt speech by lawyer George G. Vest, titled “Eulogy of the dog”. ❤️
Instead of focusing on Old Drum, George Vest made an ode to the love and loyalty of all dogs to their owners. The speech touched everyone’s heart and eventually winning the case. Despite not having explicitly said that dogs are man’s friend, the meaning is undeniable:
“The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world . . . is the dog . . . [A] man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness . . . When all other friends desert, he remains . . . And when . . . death takes his master . . . there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws and his eyes sad but open, in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even unto death.”
George G. Vest (1870), “Eulogy of the dog”
A statue of Old Drum can now be found in front of Mississippi’s Supreme Court, in honor of all dogs.
Why aren’t cats considered to be man’s best friend?
Despite being docile and cute fluffy companions, cats are usually portrayed as mischievous and emotionally unavailable. Because of this, no one seems to be rushing to call them man’s best friend.
Unlike dogs, cats’ genes didn’t evolve to make them dependent on humans for food and survival… Allowing them to maintain a sense of independence. While dogs love us unconditionally, cats are more prone to foul tempers and passive-aggressive stances, depending on the situation and their personalities. You need to earn a cat’s respect, and to act accordingly to maintain it.
Think of it this way: while dogs are our faithful buddies, cats are our bosses! We need to keep providing proof that we deserve their respect and love – or else, we might lose our job!
Stories that prove dogs are man’s best friend
Argos is the most famous literary example that dogs are indeed man’s best friend. In Homer’s “The Odyssey”, the faithful dog is the only one who recognizes Odysseus when he returns home after fighting in Troy and wandering the world, lost for 10 years. Despite being mistreated and forgotten after his owner’s disappearance, Argos doesn’t fail to recognize his master when he comes home. Even though he looked more like a beggar than like the great man he once was! Argos, now over 20 years old, waited to see his owner once again and greeted him accordingly… Only to die when his master ignored him for fear of being recognized by others. It’s ok to cry. 😭
Jack Farrell woke up to find his bloody arm in the jaws of his German shepherd Max… And for a moment he thought the worst was happening.
In reality, Max had just saved him from sure death, after Jack fell unconscious due to carbon monoxide poisoning! The dog had immediately tried to wake his owner up… And failing to do so, tried to drag Jack outside of the house as best as he could, saving his owner’s life.
Barry was a Saint Bernard raised to rescue people in the dangerous (and aptly named) Saint Bernard Pass, located between Italy and Switzerland. The monks living in the area had trained the dogs to work in pairs. One could lay over the victims to keep them warm in the snowy mountains while the other would get help. One day, Barry found a lost child and performed his normal job, reviving and warming the poor infant… But when rescue came, they found themselves unable to reach the ice shelf Barry and the kid were laying upon.
Barry took the matter into his own paws and let the child climb onto his back, slowly pulling him to safety. The rescue was a success! Barry’s protective and rescuing instincts were so inspiring that the monks honor his memory ever since by keeping one dog named after him in the monastery at all times!
To acquire the title of man’s best friend is no small feat… But dogs surely seem to be worth of it, don’t you think?
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