The Story Behind Scotland's 'Dog Suicide Bridge'

Path Beneath Overtoun Bridge
Path Beneath Overtoun Bridge | Lairich Rig/Geograph
Tori Chalmers

There are some stories that stick with you forever, haunting your thoughts and sending shivers down your spine. The ‘dog suicide bridge’ in Scotland is one of them. For decades, dogs have thrown themselves off this bridge, plummeting to their deaths. No one truly knows why. Overtoun Bridge can be found casting an unnerving shadow over Overtoun Burn near Dumbarton. Aesthetically, there’s nothing particularly unusual or even eerie about it. The unsettling essence lies deeper than what the naked eye can see.

Built in 1895 of rough-faced ashlar, the bridge boasts three arches and was designed by H. E. Milner, a respected civil engineer. It was constructed at the request of Lord Overtoun, who inherited Overtoun House and the accompanying estate. Since he purchased the nearby Garshake estate, the bridge was a simple solution to achieving ease of access between the two places.

It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s that people started to voice concerns about the surreal and morbid phenomenon that surrounded the bridge. Copious reports state that dogs were drawn to the bridge parapet before lurching and falling the full 50 feet. Alarmingly, some dogs lucky enough to survive the treacherous fall are said to have attempted jumping a second time.

Approximately one dog per year falls to its demise. Adding to the mystery, the only linking factor is that the breeds seem to all have long snouts. What’s more, dogs appear to follow the pattern of jumping from a specific side of the bridge and during favourable weather conditions. In other words, be extra aware during clear, sunny days.

Overtoun Bridge

In response to the multiple dog deaths, numerous animal psychologists were called upon to try and get to the bottom of it. Canine psychologist Dr. David Sands explored all avenues — sight, smell and sound factors — and concluded that a pungent odor emitted from mice, squirrels and mink in the bushes below could explain the madness. An experiment conducted in a field showed that 8 out of 10 dogs went straight for the scents found around the bridge, especially the male mink urine.

However, a local hunter in the area has insisted that he hasn’t so much as seen a trace of mink in his entire 50 years in the vicinity. Another theory suggests that the bridge, along with Overtoun House, is haunted, and that a ghost is tormenting the dogs. In 1994, a man killed his 2-week-old baby by throwing it off the bridge, insisting that it was a reincarnation of the devil, before attempting to commit suicide and jump himself.

Overtoun Bridge

Despite speculations, no one truly knows how or why this unsettling phenomenon occurs. In this instance, the cat is spared and curiosity seems to kill the dog. Just make sure to adhere to the sign ‘Dangerous bridge — keep your dog on a lead’. Better still, avoid it at all costs.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article