“Islay,” the Loyal Cairn Terrier

Statues of famous dogs are known throughout the world: Greyfriar’s Bobby, Haachi, and Fala among them, but lesser known is a bronze statue of Queen Victoria’s favorite dog, “Islay,” a loyal Cairn Terrier who died too young (five years old) at the paws of a cat in a dispute that ended badly for the dog.

Sydney sculptor, Justin Robson, modeled his piece from a sketch made by the Queen in 1843. At a cost of $10,000, the statue stands outside the Queen Victoria Building, George St, Sydney, Australia (where, rumor has it, it the bronze disguises a ventilation shaft for a parking garage underneath the building). “Islay” is shown begging above a wishing well for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, and included on the well is a poem telling his story. It’s been translated into Braille, and four proverbs teaching about the morality of giving appears in six different languages, along with a piece of stone from Blarney Castle in Ireland.

Since 1998,  a recorded request for donations “from the dog” is played from hidden speakers at regular intervals. The recording can be heard in the video clip below, but if you have trouble understanding it, it says, “Because of the many good deeds I’ve done for deaf and blind children, I have been given the power of speech,” and goes on to give thanks for donations. The voice was provided by a by local radio personality, John Laws, and ends with two barks (also by Laws).




4 thoughts on ““Islay,” the Loyal Cairn Terrier”

  1. It is REALLY hard for me to imagine a terrier-cat dispute that ended in the death of a terrier, unless (1) the cat in question was a bobcat or lynx (or bigger) or (2) a person or other animal interceded (intentionally or not) on behalf of the cat.

    • It’s not in our best interest to fabricate our posts, Jan, though it’s possible that over time, the original story was embellished. Or maybe the cat was a jaguar? (kidding). Out of interest, we investigated whether or not a cat can kill a dog and learned that in certain scenarios, yes. A feral cat or even a house cat can kill a small dog, and more likely, the scratch or bite of a cat on a dog’s nose, eye, or lip can become infected and result in a dog’s death. Not common, but not impossible.

      • Cat scratch fever could do it. I can see a feral cat killing say, a chihuahua, but not a terrier the size of a Skye. I feel there is definitely more to the story, but I know you don’t have to fabricate your posts; you always uncover enough facts to make for fascinating reading. I have however, let my imagination free to embroider this one. “The game Skye terrier, Islay, spotting a cat tried to route it; unfortunately the cat was a recently purchased lion for the Royal Zoo, and the Skye entered the transport cage before anyone could stop it” . Or “Islay gamely chased the cat, but the unsporting beast ran under a cart horse and escaped, and Islay was caught in the head by the cart horse’s huge hoof”.

  2. Islay was NOT a Skye terrier, Islay was a CAIRN. From the Royal Collection Trust: “Islay was the Queen’s Cairn Terrier. In her journal entry of 19 September 1840, Queen Victoria describes how she “drew “Eos’s”, & “Islay’s” heads, & then etched them”. This etching is housed in one of six volumes, put together by Queen Victoria, of etchings by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.”

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