When his dog was born three decades ago in a tiny village in central Portugal, Leonel Costa was only eight years old. Little did he know that his beloved Bobi would one day be recorded as the world’s oldest dog.
When Bobi, a purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo, celebrated its 30th birthday last year, Costa knew he had broken an almost century-old record held by an Australian cattle-dog that died at 29 years and five months in 1939.
Costa got in touch with the Guinness World of Records, submitted all the paperwork and a year later Bobi was officially named the oldest dog on record.
Bobi was 30 years and 269 days old as of Feb. 4.
“It’s a feeling of pride we can’t explain,” Costa, 38, told Reuters as he petted Bobi near a church in the village of Conqueiros in central Portugal.
“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.”
The Guinness World of Records, which made the announcement on Thursday, described Bobi’s story as “miraculous”.
At the time Bobi was born, Costa’s family had many animals and little money so his father, a hunter, generally buried newborn puppies rather than keep them. But Bobi hid among a pile of firewood. Costa and his siblings found it a few days later and kept it a secret until the puppy opened its eyes.
“We knew that when he opened his eyes, my parents wouldn’t be able to bury him, ” he said.
Bobi’s breed usually has a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years and Costa attributed its longevity to a number of factors, including living in calm countryside, never having been chained or kept on a leash and always eating “human food”.
“Of course our love and affection throughout his life has also helped,” he said, giggling.
Although Bobi still loves walks, age is taking its toll: the dog is less adventurous, its fur is thinning, its eyesight has worsened and it needs to rest more than it used to.
Costa hopes Bobi has many more years of life and is thankful the dog has put the remote village of Conqueiros on the map.
“There were other animals here who lived long lives but Bobi surpassed everything.”