Beware, Scottish dog walkers: a bridge in West Dunbartonshire is claimed to have a strange and frequently deadly impact on beloved dogs, who have been mysteriously plunging into the chasm below since the 1950s. Around 50 canines are claimed to have died beneath this eerie crossing during that period, with some sources indicating that a further 600 have miraculously survived after jumping from the bridge.
The historic Overtoun Bridge, built in 1895, has been called Dog Suicide Bridge due to its gory past, but the major issue of why dogs continue to fling themselves over its parapet remains unsolved.
Unsurprisingly, a variety of supernatural hypotheses have been proposed, with one famous legend blaming the so-called White Lady of Overtoun. The ghost is claimed to be that of John White’s mourning widow, whose father, James, constructed the adjacent Overtoun House. Locals say to have seen the melancholy apparition roaming around the grounds, however it’s unclear what this has to do with dogs or why it may lead them to leap into a deep chasm.
Bob Hill, the current tenant of Overtoun House, has provided a more plausible explanation, telling the New York Times that the scent of creatures running beneath the bridge is encouraging dogs to leap over unwittingly. “When the dogs detect the scent of mink, pine martens, or another creature, they will leap up on the bridge’s wall,” Mr Hill explained. “And they’ll simply collapse over because it’s tapered.”
Mink, with their outstanding anal glands, generate a very powerful scent and are said to have grown entrenched in the region in the 1950s, which corresponds precisely with the first incidents of dogs jumping from Overtoun Bridge. It might also explain why dogs are supposed to jump only on clear days when the mink smell is not interfered with by damp weather.
Animal behaviorist David Sands undertook an experiment as part of a TV program on the bridge to evaluate the validity of this claim, in which canines were given the option of following the smell of a mink, a squirrel, or a mouse. Surprisingly, 70% went straight for the mink, indicating that the fragrance was quite appealing to them.
Regardless of how appealing the scent, no dog would be dumb enough to risk a 15-meter (50-foot) drop only to chase a stinking semiaquatic creature. And, considering that minks reside near rivers and streams all throughout Scotland, why wouldn’t this uncommon occurrence occur at other bridges as well?
According to Sands, the cause might be due to the bridge’s architecture, which has parapets that are taller than most canines, obscuring the fact that there is a drop on the other side. Dogs enchanted by the scent of mink may leap over the parapets, thinking to land on solid ground, only to find a lethal plummet.
No idea has been proven right as of yet, and the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ inquiry into this strange phenomenon has been fruitless.
So, whether it’s mink, ghosts, or none of the above, keeping your dog on a leash when crossing Overtoun Bridge is generally a good idea.