Let Bum the Dog be your guide to San Diego History!
San Diego’s Best Friend: Bum the Dog
Did you know San Diego had an official town dog? From 1886-1891, Bum the Dog was San Diego’s official town dog! Bum, a St. Bernard-Spaniel mix, arrived here on July 3, 1886, traveling as a stowaway aboard the steamship Santa Rosa from San Francisco. Bum found he liked San Diego, as did the townspeople who quickly adopted him as an ambassador for our growing city.
Why the name Bum?
Bum’s story was told in a local newspaper column, The Weekly Drift which was composed by James Edward Friend, an itinerate journalist who arrived just a month prior to Bum in 1886. Captain Friend soon referred to him as Bum the Dog, and the name stuck.
Bum lived in New Town (present day downtown), the city center teeming with restaurants and saloons. Bum was given beer to drink instead of water, and in his drunken state, often picked fights with other dogs including one that resulted in the loss of his front right paw, when he and the dog rolled in front of a train. Bum was also kicked by a horse which led him to reform his behavior. Bum was taken in by Ah Wo Sue, a Chinese businessman, who cared for him while he recovered.
After he healed, Bum began traveling to nearby cities, like Los Angeles, by himself. In those days Bum took the train and telegram operators along the route would message ahead that Bum was onboard. Ironically, Bum was not a licensed dog, so he could be caught at any time and put in the local pound. The city gave him a lifetime dog tag. They even put Bum’s picture on the dog license receipts in 1891.
Sadly Bum died on November 10, 1898 at the County Poor Farm in Mission Valley. He was 11 years old. San Diego children, saddened by his death, collected pennies that were used for a large public funeral for Bum. Memories of Bum continue to be shared at the Davis-Horton House Museum in the Gaslamp District today and as the ambassador for the San Diego History Center’s Kid’s Club.