At 30 years and 266 days old, a Portuguese dog named Bobi was crowned the world’s oldest dog ever on February 1, breaking an almost century-old record, per Guinness World Records (GWR). The previous titleholder, an Australian cattle dog named Bluey, was born in 1910 and lived for 29 years and 5 months.
Bobi has lived in Conqueiros, a small Portuguese village, for more than three decades. But he almost didn’t survive past infancy, Leonel Costa, his owner, tells GWR.
Costa was just eight years old when Bobi’s litter was born in the family’s woodshed in 1992. Costa’s father, a hunter, decided the family had too many animals already, so they couldn’t keep the puppies.
“Unfortunately, at that time it was considered normal by older people who could not have more animals at home … to bury the animals in a hole so that they would not survive,” Costa tells GWR.
The day after they were born, Costa’s father quickly entered the woodshed and stole the puppies while the mother dog, Gira, was out. For the next few days, Costa and his brothers were devastated. But then they noticed Gira continued to visit the shed, despite her puppies supposedly no longer being there. Curious, the brothers followed her and discovered a single tiny puppy safely hidden in a pile of logs. They kept the puppy, Bobi, a secret from their parents until his eyes were open.
“We knew that when the dog opened its eyes, my parents would no longer bury it,” Costa tells GWR.
Bobi is a purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo, a breed often used to guard property and livestock. These dogs normally live about 12 to 14 years, but Bobi has survived for twice as long—and then some.
“That really is an unusual thing,” Erik Olstad, a veterinarian the University of California at Davis, tells the Washington Post’s Andrea Salcedo. “Owners will always ask me, ‘How can I make my dog live the longest life that they can?’ That’s a loaded question because there are so many variants that go into life expectancy.”
Costa attributes Bobi’s long life to his diet of unseasoned human food, his freedom to roam unleashed through the forests and farmland close to home and the calm countryside in which he grew up.
“Of course our love and affection throughout his life has also helped,” Costa tells Reuters’ Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira. Apart from one health scare in 2018, Bobi has lived a relatively healthy life.
The dog’s longevity has been confirmed by the SIAC, a pet database authorized by the Portuguese government and managed by the National Union of Veterinarians. The Veterinary Medical Service of the Municipality of Leiria also confirmed Bobi’s birth date, per GWR.
In addition to earning the record for the oldest dog ever, Bobi has also ousted Spike, a 23-year-old chihuahua mix, as the oldest living dog just weeks after the title was given to Spike.
“It’s a feeling of pride we can’t explain,” Costa tells Reuters. “Some people told us we wouldn’t make it … but we knew Bobi’s age and were sure the exams would only prove what we already knew.”