Overtoun Bridge's Curious 'Dog Suicides'

In the Fall of 2010 it seemed pretty creepy that thousands of dead birds had fallen from the sky, millions of dead fish were turning up, and tens of thousands of dead crabs were littering beaches. But it turns out these aren't the only bizarre mass animal deaths that have occurred over the years. The most bizarre, IMO, has occurred at Scotland's Overtoun Bridge, located near the village of Milton in the burgh of Dumbarton.

In the past fifty years, 50 to 600 dogs have jumped over Scotland’s Overtoun Bridge and plummeted to their deaths. A few years ago, five dogs jumped in under six months. The Daily Mail wrote an article featuring reports of horrified pet owners who walked their dog over the bridge, when suddenly the dog would, without warning, leap over the bridge, falling 50 ft to the rocky bottom below. Perhaps even more disturbing, there are reports of “second timers”...of the few dogs who have survived the fall, some jumped over the same bridge again.

Many theories have circulated about why dogs react this way to the bridge. Some suggest that the dogs are deliberately committing suicide, perhaps due to depression in their owners or even a supernatural force.

Most of the dogs were long-nosed breeds; Labradors, Collies and Retrievers. Dog deaths have occurred in every season, but notably, on clear days, a rarity in this grey, wet part of Scotland. All of the dogs leapt from the same side of the bridge.

The most logical theory would seem to indicate something with the 'scent' at the bridge. RSPB researcher David Sexton planted several traps under the bridge and found mice and mink living there, and many squirrel nests nearby. He isolated the three animals’ scents and placed samples of each in a large field. He then unleashed ten dogs of the same breeds that routinely jump from the bridge. Only two dogs showed no interest in any of the scents...while seven of the dogs immediately went for the scent of the mink. In fact, it seemed that they were driven crazy by it.

So it may be that the smell of mink is irresistible to dogs, and not knowing about the 50 foot drop from the bridge, simply go wild and jump when they get a sniff of the scent. This would also explain why the “suicides” only seem to happen to clear days, when the mink scent is undiluted by rain. It also lines up nicely with the timeline for mink populations in Scotland. The animals were only released into the wild in Scotland in the 1920s, and only began breeding in large numbers in the 1950s.

But there’s still the matter of why some dogs, once they’re on the ground after their jump, often go back up the bridge and jump again instead of chasing the mink. Or why the dogs only seem to jump from one specific point of the bridge and not others. Or why dogs go crazy for mink only here, when there are an estimated 26,000 mink all over Scotland?

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According to legend, this is a place of dark deeds, tragedy and superstition. On one occasion, a man, behaving very erratically, threw his young baby from the bridge, believing it to be possessed by the devil.

In recent years the number of deaths has risen dramatically, with five animals jumping in six months. The story continues to attract widespread media attention, giving rise to the theory that these dogs could be committing suicide.

Overtoun House and it's grounds have garnered a reputation as a centre for unexplained phenomena. In Celtic mythology, Overtoun is known as a "thin" place. A place where Heaven and Earth are reputed to be close. Some have speculated that sensitive dogs are being spooked by something at the bridge.

Listed Bridges In Scotland, including: Forth Bridge, Forth Road Bridge, Tay Rail Bridge, Brig O' Balgownie, Kincardine Bridge, Glenfinnan Viaduct, ... Bridge, Overtoun Bridge, Craigellachie Bridge

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Strange but True: Tales from Scotland

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