The True Story of Red Dog

Statue honoring Red Dog in Dampier, Western Australia
© Tourism Western Australia

Whether you’re in the suburbs, out in the bush or living in the city, dogs are universally cherished creatures.

So it’s little wonder why the true story of hitchhiking, people-loving adventurer Red Dog has generated so much interest.

Who Was Red Dog?

Living in the Pilbara region of Western AustraliaAustralia’s west coast, Red Dog was regarded as a universally loved figure amongst locals.

Because of that love, the tale of Red Dog has been adapted for the screen. Based on the book by British novelist Louis de Bernières, Red Dog the movie hit Australian cinemas in early August 2011.

Red Dog was, of course, a dog, a red kelpie born in the mining town of Paraburdoo in 1971, and a much-loved member of the Pilbara community.

Known simply as Red Dog, the red kelpie was known for stopping cars on the road by walking right in the path of an oncoming vehicle until it stopped and then he would hop in and travel to wherever the car driver was going.

He took bus rides as well and, once, when a new driver pushed him off her bus, the passengers all disembarked in protest.

There's a statue of Red Dog in Dampier, Western Australia, welcoming people to the Outback town.

It was this statue that was implemented in order to commemorate the memory of this dog that generated all of the interest in the enigma that is Red Dog.

This very statue is solely responsible for prompting de Bernières, author of Corelli's Mandolin, to write the story of Red Dog. Known for writing for a number of works, Bernières' tribute to this tremendous hound was, undoubtedly, in good hands.

Little-Known Facts About Red Dog

Red Dog was a fully paid member of the Transport Workers Union, an official member of the Dampier Salt Sports and Social Club, and had his own bank account.

Red Dog's travels brought him as far south as the Western Australia capital of Perth but mostly among the mining communities of the Pilbara and the coastal towns of Dampier, Port Hedland, and Broome.

He was quite well known as the Pilbara Wanderer.

Red Dog is portrayed in the Red Dog movie by the red kelpie Koko, who bears a strong resemblance to Red Dog.

De Bernières acknowledges his novel's sources as two factual accounts by Nancy Gillespie and Beverley Duckett, respectively, as well as press clippings in the Dampier and nearby Karratha local libraries. That said, the people characters in the book (and the movie) were mostly fictionalized.

About Red Dog the Movie

Red Dog the movie stars American actor Josh Lucas, Australia’s Rachael Taylor, Noah Taylor and New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes. Red Dog is directed by Australian Kriv Stenders.

The movie highlights the landscape and unique character of the Pilbara region as well as telling the story of Red Dog with humor and great affection.

Red Dog died in 1979.

The Dampier statue of Red Dog is inscribed:


The Pilbara Wanderer

Died November 21st, 1979

Erected By The Many Friends Made During His Travels