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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal’s Bobi Stripped of World’s Oldest Dog Title

Updated: Mar 1

“He was happy and, above all, made many people happy, especially his family.” (Photo by Catarina Demony)

 

Guinness World Records revoked Portugal’s Bobi of his title as the world’s oldest dog following suspension of the honor one week after the canine’s death four months ago, reported Correiro da Manhã (February 22).

 

Bobi’s owner, Leonel Costa, of Conqueiro village in Leiria Municipality, had broken his silence in January, blaming “a group of parasites” feeding on the processed pet food industry as being responsible for suspension of the title, reported SIC Notícias (January 16). Costa had contended that Bobi’s diet of the family’s homecooked food partly explained his dog's longevity of 31 years.

 

However, a spokesman of the British reference book cited a different reason for the title’s revocation on February 22. He said that there was not sufficient evidence to support the claim recognized by Guinness in February 2023, reported Correiro da Manhã, (February 22).


According to Correiro da Manhã, Guinness said:

 

“The microchip data came from the Portuguese government database, SIAC (Sistema de Informação de Animais de Companhia, a database administered by the National Union of Veterinary Doctors), which, apparently, when it was chipped in 2022, did not require proof of age for dogs born before 2008.”


Microchips for dogs only became mandatory in 2008, said Guinness, according to National Public Radio (February 22). At the time of the microchipping, Bobi’s age would have been given by his owner.

 

In Correiro da Manhã, Guinness added that with the “additional veterinary statement provided as proof of Bobi’s age, which also cites microchip data”, they were left without conclusive evidence to prove Bobi’s date of birth.

 

“We take enormous pride in ensuring the accuracy and integrity of all registration titles to the best of our ability,” said Mark McKinley, director of records at Guinness World Records. However, “following concerns raised by veterinarians and other experts, both privately and in public comments, we felt it was important to begin a review of Bobi’s record.”


Processed Pet Food Lobby

 

Bobi’s owner, Leonel Costa, had suspected that the concerns, acted upon by Guinness, had their root in the processed pet food industry. In a statement sent to SIC Notícias (January 16), he said:

 

“They obviously don’t want natural food to be given to animals because then their profits would be much lower.”

 

Bobi’s owner was not the only one to question the role of the industry. A similar concern was raised by a source for an article in Wired (December 2, 2023).

 

“The lobby organization waited until the poor little guy’s cremation day to raise questions to Guinness about additional testing,” said Dana Adams, administrative assistant to Karen Becker, a veterinarian and author of The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier, and Longer.

 

“Well, those of us in the pet space know it never goes well when you threaten a multi-billion- dollar empire,” Adams wrote to the Wired reporter. “The Guardian article made it clear this is about the concerns vets have if people do what Leonel did and feed a home-cooked diet. . . . Bobi directly threatens this entire industry.”

 

Attached to the email was a screenshot of the world’s top 10 pet food manufacturers, as ranked by a pet food industry website. Topping the list were Mars Petcare Inc, Nestlé Purina PetCare and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

 

The journalist at Wired said that he contacted the top three pet food companies, asking whether they were involved in trying to undermine Bobi’s title. Mars and Nestlé did not respond to the email. However, Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s director of global communications, Melissa Chestnut, said that “Hill’s had no involvement with this effort”.

 

In Correiro da Manhã (February 22), Mark McKinley, director of records at Guinness World Records, said that proof was required for all Guinness World Records titles.


According to Wired (December 2, 2023): “This is the organization that verified the fastest time to eat a banana with no hands (17.82 seconds) and the longest human tunnel traveled through by a skateboarding dog (30 pairs of legs). For more than 60 years, Guinness World Records has cataloged the stinkiest flowers, widest mouths and the largest chicken nuggets. It had the receipts for the world’s oldest horses, cats, flags, trees, headstanders, llamas (in captivity), customer complaints, working post offices and road surfaces.”

 

Leonel Costa stressed in SIC Notícias (January 16): “At no time were there any financial or other compensations in the awarding of these recognitions. In fact, there were a series of costs that we had to bear to prove everything to the prestigious GWR institution, from consultations/ examinations with specialists and sending all documentation for the process.”

 

Leonel Costa said, that at age 8, he and his siblings saved Bobi from live burial with the rest of the litter (Photo by Jorge Jerónimo/Associated Press)

 

Member of Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons


In February 2023, Guinness World Records recognized the age and status of the Rafeiro Alentejano, a breed whose life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. However, one week after his death on October 21, 2023, it began investigating whether it was accurate that Bobi lived to 31 years and 165 days, reported SIC Noticias (October 30, 2023). 

 

Danny Chambers, a veterinarian and council member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, claimed that his colleagues in the Veterinary Voices group, which he runs, did not believe that Bobi was 31 years old, reported The Guardian (October 29, 2023).

 

“This is the equivalent of a human being living to over 200 years old which, given our current medical capabilities, is completely implausible. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no concrete evidence has been provided to prove his age.”


Alongside coverage of the secrets to Bobi’s longevity, there had been intense scrutiny of online images of Bobi in 1999, in which he had different colored paws to the dog who died four years later, according to The Guardian.

 

Some veterinarians had raised other doubts. Although his age had been registered on the national pet database, this is usually based on owners’ self-certification. Also, his genetic testing confirmed only that he was old, not his specific age.


Bobi’s age had been confirmed by the Leiria Veterinary Medical Service and by SIAC (Sistema de Informação de Animais de Companhia), a database administered by the National Union of Veterinary Doctors, reported SIC Notícias.


Previous Title Holders

 

Andrew Knight, emeritus professor of veterinary welfare, said that throughout history, “there have been some other very old dogs”,according to The Guardian.

 

Before Bobi, Spike, a Chihuahua mix from Camden, Ohio, in the United States, was the oldest living dog. Spike died at 23 years and seven days in 2022. The oldest dog ever, on record, was Bluey, an Australian cattle dog in Victoria, Australia, who died in 1939 at the age of 29 years and five months, reported The Guardian.

 

Bobi Was Loved

 

Whatever his age, Bobi was loved by his owner, Leonel Costa, his family and his village, Conqueiro, in the Municipality and District of Leiria, in a relatively rugged area of large pine forests and eucalyptus groves near Portugal’s west coast. His family celebrated Bobi's 31st birthday in May 2023 with a traditional Portuguese party, or festa, with dozens of guests, music and a pig on a spit, reported Correio da Manhã (October 22, 2023).

 

Bobi enjoyed his favorite dish: grilled sea bream.

 

“The best memories remain of a long life where he was happy and, above all, made many people happy, especially his family who today feel that one of their pillars has collapsed,” Leonel Costa told Expresso (October 23, 2023).

 

Bobi Rescued

 

Leonel Costa was eight years old when he rescued Bobi from his parents, reported SIC Notícias (February 2, 2023). With a hunter father, the family always had many dogs. Leonel’s father decided that they could not keep Bobi and his siblings.

 

“At the time, it was considered normal for people who could not keep more animals . . . to bury them alive so they would not survive,” said Bobi’s owner.

 

He and his siblings discovered that Bobi’s mother, Gira, was visiting the one who had been left behind, reported SIC Notícias (February 2, 2023). They kept the puppy a secret.

 

“We knew that when the dog opened its eyes, my parents weren’t going to bury it,” Costa told SIC Notícias.

 

Secrets to Longevity

 

Bobi became part of the family.

 

“Our animals always have lived for many years,” said Leonel Costa.

 

Gira, Bobi’s mother, lived to be 18. Another dog, Chicote, lived to be 22.

 

How did Bobi come to lead a long life?

 

Bobi thrived in the “calm, peaceful environment” of the village; drinking a liter of water every day; eating the same food as his family but soaked to remove the seasoning, and he was never chained or on a leash, reasoned Costa. He roamed the forest near the family home.

 

Bobi was hospitalized a few days before his death. Internal problems were detected and, sadly, Bobi did not overcome them.

 

The dog had walked with Leonel Costa through his owner’s boyhood and youth to the brink of middle age. The man was inconsolable, reported Correio da Manhã (October 22, 2023).

 

“It was a tough fight and only a warrior like him could have lasted this long.”


 

 

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