Over the past 5 decades more than fifty dogs have jumped to their deaths from Overtoun Bridge, near Dumbarton, in Scotland. An incredible statistic, but one made more impressive by the detail, which gives this tale substance: all of the deaths occurred at the same spot, on the right-hand side of the bridge; the dogs were all long muzzle breeds: Collie, Labrador, Greyhound; their deaths all took place on clear days.
The frequency and inexplicable nature of the deaths has lead to this scenic location, to be called the “Dog’s Suicide Bridge.” Over 6 months in 2005, 5 dogs leapt to their deaths. One bereaved owner, Donna Cooper was out walking with her family when her dog, Ben leapt over the parapet and fell fifty feet onto the rocks below.
‘His paw was broken, his jaw was broken and his back was broken and badly twisted. The vet decided it wasn’t worth putting him through the pain, so we had to let him go,’ recalls Donna.
Such tragedies led to claims the bridge was haunted by an evil spirit. In 1994, thirty-two-year-old Kevin Moy threw his baby off the bridge after claiming he was the Anti-Christ, and his son was Satan. Shortly after he tried to end his own life with an unsuccessful suicide attempt from the same bridge. Moy was remanded to Carstairs State Hospital, a maximum-security psychiatric facility.
This being Scotland, there has also been a claim that the bridge is situated in, what we Celts call, a “thin place” - a meeting of two worlds. Cue mist, howl of wolf, and craggy featured old Scotsman saying, “Ye dinnae want tae go doun yon road, naw.” Indeed, B-movies have been made with flimsier plots.
In recent years, a more persistent but equally unlikely theory has emerged, which suggested dogs were committing suicide. But as leading Animal Behaviorist, Dr David Sands, who investigated the story has pointed out, “it is impossible for a dog to premeditate its own death”.
Sands uncovered the most likely explanation to the dog deaths, the onset of mink farming in the area, which started fifty years ago:
Evidence of mink was confirmed in the area not only by a naturalist, who spotted droppings beneath the bridge, but also by [an angler], who explained that the top hill quarry had lakes that contained trout (perfect mink diet).
The intense scent of mink aroused each dog’s curiosity, leading to the fatal leap of faith.
With thanks to Tara McGinley