Bobi, once named the world’s oldest dog, stripped of title after review

On Feb. 2, 2023, Guinness World Records publicly crowned Bobi the oldest dog ever at the age of 30 years and 267 days. Announcing his death in October, the premier keeper of world records put Bobi’s final tally at 31 years and 165 days.

On Thursday, just over a year later, Guinness posthumously stripped Bobi of the honor, saying that it “no longer has the evidence it needs to support Bobi’s claim as the record holder.”

“Without any conclusive evidence available to us right now, we simply can’t retain Bobi as the record holder and honestly claim to maintain the high standards we set ourselves,” Mark McKinley, Guinness’s records director, said in the statement, a little more than a month after the organization opened “a formal review” into Bobi’s age.

Bobi, having lived his whole life in Leiria, Portugal, was a Rafeiro do Alentejo, a breed that typically guards livestock and lives between 12 and 14 years. The previous Guinness record holder for oldest dog was Bluey, an Australian cattle dog that lived 29 years and five months before dying in 1939. The new record prompted news stories around the world.

Guinness wrote about Bobi again in May to commemorate his alleged 31st birthday. The organization wrote an obituary of sorts when Bobi died in October, claiming that the dog had lived for 31 years and 165 days.

Questions surrounding Bobi’s age emerged soon after his death. In October, English veterinarian Danny Chambers, a council member for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, told the Guardian that none of his colleagues believed Bobi was actually 31. He told the British newspaper that smaller breeds are typically the only dogs that live into their late teens.

“Bobi’s reported age is equivalent to a human living over 200 years, which, given our current understanding of the aging process and medical capabilities, appears highly implausible,” Chambers wrote in an op-ed for the Skeptic, a nonprofit magazine that analyzes “extraordinary claims” of unusual phenomena.

In December, Wired reported that a Portuguese government pet database had records of Bobi’s owner registering him, but did not have proof that the dog was born in 1992.

In January, Guinness announced that it was conducting the review of Bobi’s title.

In a statement to the BBC at the time, Bobi’s owner, Leonel Costa, defended his late dog’s award, calling suspicions around his age “unfounded.”

“An elite within the veterinary world … tried to give people the idea that Bobi’s life story was not true,” Costa said in the statement.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Chambers said last month that he felt for Costa, but that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and so far no concrete evidence has been supplied.”

On Thursday, Guinness said that it agreed — there wasn’t evidence Bobi had lived as long as Costa claimed. In an effort to verify Bobi’s age for the original record, Guinness said it had relied on a microchip implanted by a Portuguese veterinary service and pet database authorized by the national government. But that organization, the Sistema de Informação de Animais de Companhia, didn’t verify Bobi’s date of birth when he received the microchip in 2022, McKinley said in a statement.

When Guinness announced a year ago that Bobi had secured the record of oldest dog ever, it quoted Costa as saying that Bobi was never supposed to live beyond a few days. The puppy and his littermates were born in 1992, according to what Costa told Guinness at the time, on his family farm in Portugal in a building where they stored wood. Costa’s father euthanized the puppies after deciding that they already owned too many animals.

Unnoticed, Bobi escaped. He was soon discovered by Costa, who was 8 at the time, according to Guinness. He and his brothers kept him a secret from their parents at first. Over time, Bobi became part of the family and wandered the farm, chowed on people food and generally enjoyed a “calm peaceful environment … far from the cities” — all of which his owner credited for his long life.

McKinley said in the statement that Guinness had not decided on a new titleholder.

“We certainly hope that the publicity around the record title encourages pet owners from around the world to get in touch,” McKinley added.

Chambers, the veterinarian, said that maybe one day medical advances will allow dogs to routinely live to 31. For now, he said, a dog’s quality of life is more important than longevity.

“Dogs have no ambition to live a long time, they simply want to be happy and healthy on a day-to-day basis and enjoy the company of their owners,” he wrote in an email Friday.

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