Famous Dogs of History: Swansea Jack, Lifeguard

by, Jo Carol Hebert

“Help, Help . . . “ came a faint cry from the cold waters of the River Tawe in South Wales (a country of Great Britain). Jack’s furry ears perked up. A black streak went flying off the dock. Jack hit the water swimming with all ‘fours’. He grabbed the helpless child by the scruff of the neck and pulled him to safety on the riverbank.

It’s the year, 1930. A Black Labrador Retriever dog has saved a 12-year old boy, (also named ‘Jack’). This was the first of many water rescues by Jack, the Lifeguard dog. At first, few people believed the boy’s story that a dog had saved him. 

But Jack had found his ‘calling’. Within the next few weeks, Jack would rescue another  struggling swimmer. This good deed was witnessed. Jack was photographed in the local newspaper and given a silver collar (maybe he would have preferred a tasty treat). 

Before he died at the early age of seven years, Swansea Jack had plucked 27 swimmers and 2 canines from the dark and dangerous River Tawe.

The Labrador Retriever

“Do Labrador Retriever puppies dream of being a hero, like Swansea Jack?”

This breed of dog is from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The original breed is the St. John’s Water Dog. The Labrador is bred for retrieving ducks and birds for hunters. They are strong, athletic swimmers with short, water-proof fur. Physical activity is important to “Labs”. They are working dogs that love to please their owners.

A gentle, friendly and easy-going temperament are hallmarks of this breed. Loyal and intelligent, the Labrador is a ‘forever’ dog to owners that will take the time to give them the attention they crave. 

Did You Know?

  • Labradors weigh 60-80 pounds
  • have web paws and wide tails
  • are great for pets, but friendly natures do not recommend them for a ‘watchdog’
  • live 12-13 years
  • like to eat and will gain weight if not exercised
  • will feel anxiety if not given attention
  • 3 main colors are Black, Yellow, and Chocolate brown

From Mischievous Pup to Hero

Jack’s first owner found the dog to be a troublesome little pup, given to the bad habit of eating ducks at the local park.

Soon, he was re-homed to a neighbor that lived nearby. His new owner, William Thomas hauled goods on the docks of the river Tawe that ran through the Swansea Valley. He was patient with Jack and ‘rehabilitated’ him from his bad behavior (and also a fear of water!). 

Jack’s Memorial Monument, erected by the local folk at his death, reflected the love and appreciation the dog had gained in his short life:

“Never had mankind a more faithful friend

 than thou who oft thy life did lend

 to save some human soul from death.”

Legacy of Swansea Jack

  • Bravest Dog of the Year: Star Newspaper, London
  • National Canine Defence League: 2 Bronze medals
  • Dog of the Century: New Found Friends of Bristol (train water rescue dogs)
  • October, 2021/First Swansea Jack ‘Mutt and Strutt’ Festival
  • Silver Cup Award: Lord Mayor of London
  • buried in the St. Helen’s Rugby Grounds

Look for future posts on Famous Dogs in History!

Categories: Dogs

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