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Donnchadh The Faithful Dog: How A Bloodhound Helped Secure Scotland’s Independence

At A Glance

Donnchadd was a fearless bloodhound who belonged to Robert I of Scotland. His claim to fame? Helping Scotland gain independence.

  • Donnchad was captured by the British, who believed the dog would lead them to his master, Robert the Bruce. What they didn’t expect was its undying loyalty.
  • Donnchad’s act of ferocious faithfulness changed the course of history.

There have been legendary dogs that have gone down in the annals of history for their valor or undying loyalty to their masters and mistresses. And Scottish history has no dearth of examples — be it Greyfriars Bobby, Queen Mary and her 22 lap dogs, or the dogs recognized for their service at Edinburgh Castle — including Fido, Jess, and Dobbler.

But, perhaps arguably, the most important is Donnchadh the faithful dog known for his fearlessness and his role in saving the life of the future King of Scotland.

Donnchadh belonged to Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. His role in helping secure Scotland’s independence exemplifies the loyalty, tenacity, and faithful devotion of man’s best friend.

 

Who Was Robert the Bruce?

Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce, ruled Scotland from 1306 until 1329. He is recognized as one of Scotland’s greatest monarchs for his role in liberating Scotland from British rule.

However, Robert I Bruce, King of Scotland was also a controversial figure.

Robert the Bruce Image : BBC

The Scottish Wars of Independence

Following the death of Alexander III, King of Scots, in 1286, and the subsequent death of his three-year-old granddaughter Margaret, the Maid of Norway, there were no heirs to the Scottish throne.

The Scottish nobility asked the English to intervene, resulting in John Balliol becoming the King of Scotland in 1292. However, the relationship between the King of Scotland and Edward I, the King of England, soon deteriorated.

What the Fact?! Robert the Bruce rode with the English and fought against the very country that he would one day rule.

When the conflict between the two monarchs first began, Robert I sided with the English. However, he eventually supported Sir William Wallace’s uprising (famously portrayed in the 1995 movie Braveheart) when Edward I advanced against Scotland, which had allied with the French.

This was when the Scottish Wars of Independence began.

The Outlaw King: Murderous Usurper Or National Hero?

Robert the Bruce and Sir John Comyn of Badenoch, Balliol’s nephew, jointly shared the role of Guardian of Scotland after Sir William Wallace resigned in 1298 following his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk. During the First War of Scottish Independence, Robert took command of his country’s forces and led them to victory against England.

This was also when Robert the Bruce decided to declare himself the King of Scotland.

But, he had one adversary with a greater claim to the throne — John Comyn. Bruce is believed to have conspired to kill Comyn during a meeting between the two in 1306, at the church of Greyfriars to clear his path to the throne.

With Comyn out of the way, Bruce asserted his claim to the Scottish crown. Six weeks later, on 25th March 1306, he was crowned the King of Scots. He then began his campaign for the independence of Scotland.

Robert the Bruce was forced into hiding after his loss to Edward I’s army at the Battle of Methven.

It is here that his faithful companion Donnchahd enters the story.

dog lying on the ground

The Legend of Donnchadh the Faithful Dog

Donnchadh’s story reminds us that dogs have been loyal companions throughout history and will continue to be so in the future.

The name “Donnchadh” is an old Gaelic variation of Duncan and is a combination of the words “noble” and “brown.” He was a bloodhound dog, a breed known for their keen sense of smell and loyalty, which made them ideal companions for tracking game and hunting.

It is unclear how Robert the Bruce came to own Donnchadh, but it was known that he favored this dog. Back then, a bloodhound was known as a sleuth hound in Scotland. They were often used for hunting down livestock thieves and raiders (“reivers”) on the Scottish border. If a sleuth dog came knocking on your door when it was on the trail of a thief and you refused it entry, you were considered an accessory to the crime.

Pawprints That Altered the Course of History

Donnchadh is considered one of the most famous dogs in history, and his story continues to be told to this day.

After Robert’s defeat at the hands of Edward I during one of the many Scottish Wars of Independence, he was forced to go into hiding. Bruce’s advocacy for Scottish independence spurred Edward I to take drastic measures to capture him.

Knowing that Donnchadh was Robert’s favorite and most loyal dog, he conspired to kidnap it along with Robert’s wife. He devised a plan to use the dog’s loyalty and hunting prowess to seek out Robert’s location.

Unaware that he was leading enemies to his master, Donnchadh caught Robert’s scent and successfully led the soldiers to him. However, once the soldiers started attacking, loyalty prevailed, and Donnchadh, the faithful dog, turned aggressive toward the English soldiers to protect his master.

This ferocious act of canine bravery allowed Robert the Bruce to escape the ambush.

While it is not known if the dog survived the attack, if it weren’t for Donnchadh, Robert Bruce would not have survived and gone on to become the King of Scotland. Robert continued his war against Edward I, and later his successor Edward II for Scottish Independence. He ruled Scotland for another 20 years.

bloodhound dog

Impact On The American Revolution

Donnchadh’s legacy doesn’t end at the borders of Scotland. If it wasn’t for this protector of Scottish royalty, the United States of America that we know today might not exist.

Robert married his daughter into the noble line of Stuart, who would eventually rule England. And a direct descendent of Robert the Bruce from his daughter’s marriage was King Geroge III — the very same “Mad King” famous for losing the American colonies!

Donnchad’s seemingly simple act of loyalty had a ripple effect that changed the world as we know it today.

A Hero Worthy Of Salute

Robert the Bruce may have been a contentious figure, but the heroism and valor of his dog Donnchadh are undeniable. Donnchadh’s story demonstrates the unwavering loyalty of dogs — one that deserves telling thousand times over.

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Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.