Why Are Canine Known as Man’s Finest Pal? Origins of the Phrase

young man with his boxer dog in the park

We will hint our relationship with canine way back to 33,000 years in the past 1 for the earliest indicators of domestication, and archaeological information present past a shadow of a doubt that we domesticated canine not less than 15,000 years in the past 2.

This tells us that human lives have been intertwined with our canine pals for an extremely very long time. When you think about how vital canine nonetheless are to us, it’s not that stunning that the phrase “man’s greatest pal” has been used for so long as most of us can keep in mind.

It’s believed the primary one that used the time period “man’s greatest pal” was King Frederick of Prussia someday earlier than his loss of life in 1786 3. Hold studying, although, as there’s rather more to find out about how this phrase took off!


The King of Prussia’s Finest Pals (1740–1786)

Frederick II, the King of Prussia, also referred to as Frederick the Nice (1712–1786), was recognized for his love of his canine, which have been Italian Greyhounds.

He would write to his sister Wilhelmine as his favourite canine, Biche, “Solely as a result of my grasp doesn’t stroll on all fours, does he not name himself a greyhound,” and he or she would do the identical.

Frederick was finally buried close to 11 of his canine, together with his beloved Biche, which all have been buried with headstones. It’s stated that his canine have been basically his kids, and he was devastated when any of them handed away.

Italian greyhound dog lying on owner's legs
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Voltaire and Canine (1764)

Voltaire was a famend French author and thinker who wrote concerning the significance of canine to people. In truth, Voltaire and Frederick the Nice have been nice pals for a time.

In 1764, Voltaire penned the “Dictionnaire Philosophique” (Philosophical Dictionary), which labored as an encyclopedia/dictionary.

It consists of alphabetically organized articles and consists of the next entry relating to canine:

  • Chien: Il semble que la nature ait donné le chien à l’homme pour sa défense et pour son plaisir. L’homme tous les animaux le plus fidèle : c’est le meilleur ami que puisse avoir l’homme.

  • Canine: Evidently nature has given the canine to man for his protection and for his pleasure. Of all of the animals, it’s the most trustworthy: It’s the greatest pal man can have.

A Canine Poem by C.S. Winkle (1821)

Cornelius S. Van Winkle was a writer and printer who wrote a poem that was printed within the New-York Literary Journal, Quantity 4, in 1821.

It’s thought-about the primary introduction of the time period “man’s greatest pal” in the usA.:

The trustworthy canine—why ought to I try

To talk his deserves, whereas they dwell

In each breast, and man’s greatest pal

Does usually at his heels attend


Outdated Drum (1870)

Round 50 years later, the following recorded point out of “man’s greatest pal” occurred in 1870 within the American Supreme Courtroom. A Coonhound by the identify of Outdated Drum was killed by a neighbor for trespassing on his property. The proprietor of Outdated Drum was devastated and took the neighbor to court docket.

Lawyer George Graham Vest gave an impassioned speech relating to the significance of canine and acknowledged (snippet) 4:

“The one completely unselfish pal {that a} man can have on this egocentric world, the one which by no means deserts him, the one which by no means proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the canine.”

The court docket case was gained, and Outdated Drum’s proprietor was awarded $50 in damages. However the extra vital message right here is about how important and great canine are. Whereas the “man’s greatest pal” saying was not explicitly used, there’s no query that Vest’s total speech is about simply that.

Asian man is playing with his beagle dog while having morning exercise in the park
Picture Credit score: Akarawut, Shutterstock

The Outdated Drum Statue

In 1958, 88 years after the court docket case, a statue of Outdated Drum was erected in entrance of the Johnson County Courthouse. It contains a plaque entitled, “A Tribute to the Canine by Senator George Graham Vest,” with Vest’s speech from the courtroom.

Ogden Nash (1920)

Ogden Nash was an American poet who was recognized for his use of sunshine verse, of which he wrote over 500!

In 1920, he wrote a poem entitled, “An Introduction to Canine”:

The canine is man’s greatest pal.

He has a tail on one finish.

Up in entrance he has tooth.

And 4 legs beneath.

Canine prefer to bark.

They prefer it greatest after darkish.

They not solely frighten prowlers away

But additionally maintain the sandman at bay.

A canine that’s indoors

To be let loose implores.

You let him out and what then?

He needs again in once more.

Canine show reluctance and wrath

In the event you attempt to give them a shower.

They bury bones in hideaways

And half the time they trot sideways.

Canine within the nation have enjoyable.

They run and run and run.

However within the metropolis this species

Is dragged round on leashes.

Canine are upright as a steeple

And rather more loyal than individuals.

Nicely individuals could also be reprehensibler

However that’s in all probability as a result of they’re sensibler.

What Canine Do for Us

Canine have all the time labored for people, however they’ve additionally lengthy been our companions. A number of the earliest information of home canine present that they traveled with individuals migrating throughout East Asia. In frigid climate, canine pulled sleds and provided safety, however in addition they entered properties and huddled up with their homeowners to assist hold them heat.

Right this moment, for many of us, canine are members of the family, they usually accomplish that rather more than shield us and hold us heat.

  • There’s much less danger of schizophrenia: 2019 examine discovered there was a decrease danger of schizophrenia amongst individuals who owned canine.

  • They will enhance coronary heart well being: One other examine in 2019 discovered canine possession contributed to a more healthy coronary heart.

  • We dwell longer: Yet one more examine from 2019 discovered that canine homeowners typically dwell longer.

  • We study from them: In a examine from 2016, researchers discovered canine might study puzzles successfully, whereas human kids would solely observe the directions to the letter quite than determine a simpler means of fixing the puzzle.



Whereas King Frederick of Prussia appears to be the primary one who coined the time period, “man’s greatest pal,” there aren’t any particular dates related to this occasion. So, Voltaire might need truly been among the many first.

Regardless, there’s no query that canine are humankind’s greatest pal. They love us unconditionally, they usually don’t choose us or kick us once we’re down. We should always depend ourselves fortunate to have canine in our lives!

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