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The Overtoun Bridge: What Makes Dogs Jump to Their Deaths?

Dozens of dogs have jumped from the same spot on the so-called “bridge of death.”

overtoun bridge
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who owns a dog knows they have emotions just like us: happiness, fear, even sadness. But dogs don’t commit suicide. At least that’s what animal psychologists say.

So, how can anyone explain the mysterious phenomenon of a picturesque bridge near Dumbarton, Scotland where dozens of dogs have leapt to their deaths? All have jumped all from the same side, at the same spot. The reports go back all the way to the 1950s with dogs jumping from the bridge at a rate of about one per year—and some years many more.

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The bridge spans a narrow ravine, heading up to a 19th Century mansion, Overtoun House. The fall from the spot where the dogs jump is about 50 feet onto rocks. There are even reports of dogs who survived climbing back up and jumping again. It always happens on a sunny day, and all the dogs have been long-nosed breeds. 

Overtoun Bridge
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, Overtoun Bridge has also claimed a human victim. In October 1994, thirty-two year old Kevin Moy was crossing the bridge with his wife and their infant son when he threw the baby over the side. He then tried to jump himself but was dragged back by his wife. The baby died the next day. Moy had reportedly come to believe he was the anti-Christ and his son was the Devil.

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That tragedy fuels rumors of a supernatural explanation for the bridge. Scotland and Ireland are famous for their “thin places”, often old Celtic sites, where the physical world and the spirit world blend into each other. The Overtoun House and its grounds are reputed to be among those places.

But others prefer more prosaic explanations. Some sleuths have gone looking for a noise, audible only to dogs, that might be confusing the animals and luring them over the edge of the bridge. Possible culprits include a nearby nuclear plant, telephone pylons, or even something inside the masonry of the bridge itself. But no such noises have been detected.

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A more promising theory is that the dogs are responding to a powerful scent, such as male mink urine, which is known to stimulate a dog’s hunting instinct. That might explain why all the canine victims have long snouts and why they jump in good weather. The only problem—at least one local hunter insists there are no minks in the area.

Despite its eerie reputation, the Overtoun Bridge remains a preferred destination for walking trips in the area. Conceding to the strange events that have occurred there, a sign has been put up, proclaiming: “Dangerous bridge—Keep your dog on a lead.”

Featured photo: Wikimedia Commons