After decades of speculation, scientists say they have solved the mystery behind the death of one of the most famous dogs in recorded history.
The compelling tale of Hachiko is known by dog fans the world over. His story has been told in a number of books, and has been the subject of two motion pictures, including 2009’s blockbuster, Hachi, a remake of an earlier Japanese movie. Hachiko became famous for waiting at a train station for his owner every day for ten years after his death.
Until now, it was believed that the cause of death was an ingested chicken skewer that ruptured his stomach. At the time of his death in 1935 the legendary canine was widely regarded as a hero, and his organs were preserved in formalin. Scientists say tests run on those organs now prove how Hachiko died.
A University of Tokyo team used advanced methods to analyze the tissues, and in doing so discovered large cancers in the heart and lungs. They speculate that the cancer may have spread from the lungs to the heart. “Heart cancer is rare and was a completely unexpected find. Hachiko had both serious filariasis and cancer, and either one could have caused his death,” said professor Hiroyuki Nakayama, part of the research team.
Hachiko’s preserved organs are currently on display at a University of Tokyo research center in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.