March 15, 2012

Dog Deaths on Overtoun Bridge

Overtoun Bridge
The Overtoun Bridge, an arch bridge located near Milton, Scotland, over the Overtoun Burn, has a reputation for strange phenomena. In Celtic mythology, Overtoun is known as ”the thin place” – a location in which heaven and earth are reputed to be close. In 1994, a 32-year-old local man named Kevin Moy unexpectedly threw his baby son to his death from the bridge before attempting and failing to end his own life the same way. When questioned by the authorities, Moy said he was sure he was the anti-Christ and that his son was Satan.

There is another mystery related to the Overtoun Bridge: since the 1950s, at least 50 dogs have leapt to their deaths from it. Horrified dog owners have reported walking their pet over the bridge, when suddenly, without warning, the dog would jump over the edge to the rocky bottom 50 feet below. Even more confoundingly, all the deaths have happened at virtually the same spot, and some surviving dogs are known to have jumped again. Furthermore, most deceased dogs have been long-nosed breeds, and most deaths have occurred on clear, sunny days.

A number of explanations for the Overtoun Bridge mystery have been proposed. Some have suggested that the dogs are deliberately committing suicide, maybe due to picking up on depressed feelings from their owners or the bridge itself. Others still believe that something only the dogs can sense is spooking them to leap to their deaths.

In an attempt to solve the mystery, RSPB researcher David Sexton determined that there are three main species in the area: mice, squirrels and minks. Canine psychologist David Sands then conducted an experiment to see which of these scents dogs find the most attractive. Out of ten dogs, seven went directly for the mink scent.

Minks have been breeding rapidly in Britain since the 1950s, which lines up nicely with the first reported dog deaths. It may be that the dogs are simply driven wild by the scent of minks and, not knowing of the lethal drop, jump over the wall in pursuit. This even explains why the incidents have involved long-nosed breeds on clear, dry days.

But there is still one thing the scent theory fails to explain. Why do dogs jump from one specific point? Shouldn’t they be able to smell the minks anywhere on the bridge? Until this question is answered, the explanation put forward falls short of being satisfying.

Image: Lairich Rig

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