Swansea Jack

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Swansea Jack
Swansea Jack memorial.jpg
Swansea Jack memorial
Species Dog
Breed Retriever, locally called a "Newfoundland dog" (see text)
Sex Male
Born Jack
Possibly Newfoundland, Canada (see text)
Died October 1937(Aged 7)
Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom
Resting place St. Helen's Rugby Grounds
51° 38' 0" North, 3° 58' 0" West
Nation from Wales
Occupation Lifeguard
Employer North Dock
Years active 1931-1937
Known for Rescuing 27 people
Title Named "Dog of the Century" by National Canine Defence League; more (see text)
Owner William Thomas
Appearance Black retriever-type, longish hair, similar to a Flat-Coated Retriever
Awards Lord Mayor of London: Silver Cup; National Canine Defence League: bronze medal (twice); Publicly funded burial monument: Marble and Bronze; more (see text).

Swansea Jack (1930 - October 1937) was a famous Welsh dog that rescued 27 people from the docks and riverbanks of Swansea, Wales.[1]


Swansea Jack was a black retriever with a longish coat. He was similar in appearance to a modern Flat-Coated Retriever,[2] but was instead identified at the time as a Newfoundland dog, despite being considerably smaller and lighter in build than the typical modern Newfoundland dog, possibly because he was reported to have been born in Newfoundland.[3] He lived in the North Dock / River Tawe area of Swansea with his master, William Thomas. Jack would always respond to cries for help from the water, diving into the water and pulling whoever was in difficulty to safety at the dockside.

His first rescue, in June 1931, when he saved a 12-year-old boy, went unreported. A few weeks later, this time in front of a crowd, Jack rescued a swimmer from the docks. His photograph appeared in the local paper and the local council awarded him a silver collar. In 1936, he had the prestigious 'Bravest Dog of the Year' award bestowed upon him by the London Star newspaper in London.

He received a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London and he is still the only dog to have been awarded two bronze medals ('the canine V.C.') by the National Canine Defence League (now known as Dogs Trust). Legend has it that in his lifetime he saved 27 people from the Docks / River Tawe. Swansea Jack died in October 1937 after eating rat poison. His death was reported by the press across the UK and the press claimed he had saved 29 lives (for example, Nottingham Journal 5 October 1937).

His burial monument, paid for by public subscription, is located on the Promenade in Swansea near St. Helen's Rugby Ground. In 2000, Swansea Jack was named 'Dog of the Century' by NewFound Friends of Bristol who train domestic dogs in aquatic rescue techniques.


A noted pub in Swansea, currently closed, is named Swansea Jack, in honour of the dog. A popular nickname for natives of Swansea is "Swansea Jack", and many people erroneously believe that this name also stems from the famous dog. The most likely source is the nickname given to sailors from Swansea and elsewhere. Since sailors travelled around, their place of origin might be attached to the name. Nineteenth-century newspapers include several violent court cases relating to sailors nicknamed "Swansea Jack". It is not impossible that these created some notoriety for the name. There are also records of horses named Swansea Jack. Another theory is that the coal miners of nearby coalfields called the miners from Swansea "Jacks" because their lunch-boxes were uniquely made of Swansea tin and called Jacks.


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