BarkGate: Guinness World Records Is Having Trouble Verifying the World’s Oldest Dog

Confirming a dog’s true age isn’t easy.
The late Bobi is facing scrutiny over his world's oldest dog title.
The late Bobi is facing scrutiny over his world's oldest dog title. / Anadolu/GettyImages

Guinness World Records is in the business of validating some sensational claims, from who can break the most toilet seats with their head in one minute to the world’s loudest cat purr. But now the venerable institution finds itself faced with a crisis: Can a world’s oldest dog ever really be declared?

The trouble started when WIRED writer Matt Reynolds published an investigative piece in December 2023 that questioned whether Bobi, a recently-deceased Rafeiro do Alentejo from Portugal, was really the oldest dog to live. (He lasted 31 years, 163 days.) Reynolds discovered that while the Portuguese government maintained an animal database, it was at the mercy of paperwork supplied by pet owners. While Bobi’s documents confirmed that he was born in 1992, the database couldn’t verify the accuracy of that information.

Additionally, some people expressed concerns over the fact that Bobi’s paws were a different color in a photo taken in 1999 than in an image captured in 2023. Bobi’s owner, Leonel Costa, did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

At 31, Bobi would have been an extreme outlier. Depending on breed, canine life spans average 11 years or so. Because vet records can easily be lost, it’s exceedingly difficult to validate a dog’s birthdate unless they’ve been with the same owner—who keeps good paperwork—since birth.

The issues raised by Reynolds led to Guinness suspending applications for records for both the World’s Oldest Dog and the World’s Oldest Living Dog until additional research can be conducted, including soliciting the opinion of experts and asking Bobi’s owner for more information. (Bobi, however, is still listed without any asterisks on the Guinness website.) That means that Spike, a 24-year-old Chihuahua who was previously recognized by Guinness and who might now be the longest-living pooch, will need to have more proof analyzed before he can hop back on the podium to formally re-claim his title.