Have you heard of Lassie? And Rin Tin Tin? How about Red Dog? All of these dogs have gained international fame through written stories and cinema, but only one of these pups inspired the legend around him. While Lassie was a fictitious character from a book and Rin Tin Tin was a respected canine actor, only Red Dog has inspired a legend based on true events. This story begins in the rugged outback of the Pilbara in Western Australia.
Western Australia in the 1970s was, in many ways, harsh territory. Iron ore mining was bringing workers to the region, often for extended periods of time away from their home and family. In many ways, it could be a lonely place. A place that was made a bit better by a canid called Red Dog.
Red Dog was an Australian Cattle Dog/Kelpie born in 1971. He quickly became well known in the area for being a nomad and traveling across the Pilbara region. Unlike most dogs, he belonged to no one owner, and was known by multiple names including Tally Ho (possibly his first given name) and Bluey. The origin of his famous moniker may be due to the red dirt in the region or due to his red kelpie heritage. He became well known for his extensive travels, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles around the region. He was known to hitch rides with people, as well as travel on his own. Everyone knew him and cared for him with food, shelter and even veterinary care. Red Dog was also recognized as a valuable member of society, holding his own bank account as well as being a member of the local sports club. His independent nature became was well loved and became part of the local lore.
Despite Red Dog’s fame and popularity in the area, he came to the end of his life in 1979, presumably due to poison. His legend lives on through local stories, books, his own statue located in the town of Dampier, and two films: Red Dog (2011) and Red Dog: True Blue (2016). He continues to be a legend and mascot to many in the Pilabara region of Western Australia.