The Weirdest Pets Ever Walked on a Leash

If you stroll along any town or city street, sooner or later you're likely to see a person walking a dog. It's a perfectly ordinary sight. There's nothing weird about it.

However, if you substitute a creature (or a thing) other than a dog, then suddenly this very ordinary act of walking a pet has the potential to become quite strange. The level of strangeness, of course, depends on exactly what kind of "pet" is being walked. Some pets are weirder than others. Walking a cat is different, but not exactly odd. Walking a lobster or cabbage, however, is definitely unique.

Over the years, people walking odd pets has been a recurring theme in weird news. Some people walk weird pets in order to make an artistic statement. Others do it just because they're slightly eccentric.

Below are some of the most memorable examples of weird pet walking.

Walking a Lobster

Gerard de Nerval and lobster
"Strange As It Seems," 1937. via Museum of Hoaxes.

The French poet Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855) gets credit for being the first to imagine an alternative to dog walking. In the mid-nineteenth century, according to legend, he took up the habit of walking a pet lobster through the gardens of Paris. He led it on a leash made of blue silk ribbon.

Explaining why he walked a lobster, Nerval supposedly said, "They are peaceful, serious creatures who know the secrets of the sea and don't bark."

The story of Nerval walking a lobster was first told by his friend Theophile Gautier. However, skeptics have long doubted whether he ever actually did it since a) lobsters don't live long out of water, and b) they don't walk well on land. But whether or not Nerval really did walk a lobster, he definitely introduced the idea of weird-pet walking.

Big Cats

Louis Mbarick Fall, aka Battling Siki, was a boxer from Senegal who made a name for himself during the 1920s. When he wasn't winning bouts in the ring, he was known for strolling through the streets of Paris dressed in expensive suits as he walked his pet lion cub. 

As it turns out, there's a long history of people adopting big cats as pets and then taking them for walks in public. Often this doesn't end well since the cats eventually do what predators do, which is attack.

So, for instance, there's a 1988 case of a pet lion, Samson, who pounced on an 8-year-old girl while he was being walked through a flea market in Houston. There's another case from the same year involving a pet cougar who attacked a young boy during his walk, and a 1995 case of a 350-pound pet tiger who mauled a 3-year-old boy during his walk.

Pet Deer

Beth Pitt and Star Messenger
Beth Pitt with Star Messenger. via Pittsburgh Post Gazette - Aug 19, 1941

During the 1940s, New Yorkers got used to the sight of seeing Beth Pitt walking her pet deer named "Star Messenger" through the city. When the walks were done, Pitt and the deer would return to the cramped confines of the one-room apartment they shared. Pitt was eventually slapped with a $2 fine when she allowed Star Messenger to wander off-leash in Central Park. [New Yorker, 12/6/1941]

Another famous deer walker is Albert Whitehead, who can often be seen walking his pet reindeer "Star" through downtown Anchorage, Alaska. There have actually been five Stars over the years. The first one was owned and walked by Oro and Ivan Stewart. Whitehead inherited the tradition from them. He's now up to Star VI. [Alaska Public Media, 12/24/2012]

Invisible Dogs

invisible dog on a leash
via Life Magazine - July 21, 1972

The hit novelty item of 1972 was the "invisible dog on a leash." It consisted of a rigid leash attached to a dog harness, which allowed people to take their invisible dog for a walk.

The invisible dog (or "no-dog") was the creation of former carnival pitchman S. David Walker who said he came up with the idea when he had to figure out what to do with 5000 broken child-sized rodeo whips. He figured that by attaching a dog harness to the stiff handle of the whip he could allow people to walk invisible dogs. He sold 300,000 of them, and many more were sold by imitators. [The Salina Journal, 5/1/1983]

Pet Rocks

Pet Rock with walking leash
via eBay

Advertising executive Gary Dahl introduced pet rocks in 1975. Part of their appeal was that, unlike dogs, they required minimal care, didn't need to be walked, and never left nasty messes that had to be cleaned up. 

Nevertheless, in the "Pet Rock Instruction Manual" that came with each pet rock, owners were informed that their rock could be taught to come, sit, stand, and heel. And eventually pet rocks were sold that came with a string "walking leash," for those owners who were concerned that their pet got enough exercise. 

Rooster Walk

In 1975, residents of Ann Arbor, Michigan complained when Bill Strauch insisted on taking his pet rooster Rojo on daily walks, leading the rooster around town on a leash. The problem was that Strauch and Rojo started their walks at 6:30 am, and Rojo's crowing would wake up the entire neighborhood. Despite receiving a citation from the police, Strauch vowed that, "Rojo is my friend and I won't give him up." [The Argus-Press, 9/20/1975]

Bull Walking

In 2004, police in the coastal town of Split, Croatia stopped Marko Skopljanac when he tried to walk his one-and-a-half ton pet bull down the promenade. Skopljanac protested, "If dog owners can bring their pets to the promenade unleashed and without muzzles, why can't I bring my 'Zeco'?" The police were unmoved by his logic. [Fox News, 5/31/2004]

Walking the Iguana

In 2006, officials at the MetroCentre shopping mall in Gateshead informed Paul Hudson that he would no longer be able to walk his four-foot-long pet iguana there, citing health and safety concerns. Hudson noted, "I've been taking him there once a week for eight years and was never asked to leave before."

A MetroCentre spokeswoman responded, "We have to stick by our rules otherwise we would have to allow other people to bring their cats, dogs, hedgehogs or budgies with them." [BBC News, 9/25/2006]

Pet Sheep

In 2012, police informed Douglas Luckman that he could no longer walk his pet sheep and goat on the grounds of the Trinity Gardens Primary School.  Officials at the school had complained that the presence of the animals interrrupted sports training and also that "Quite a few of the children are frightened of [them]."

Luckman protested that, "They are lovely and better than a dog as they do not bark nor bite."

And eventually local officials sided with Luckman, granting him permission to keep and walk his "girls" (as he called the sheep and goat), as long as he kept them restrained at all times. [Herald Sun, 3/6/2012]

Pet Fish

walking pet goldfish
via Twitter

Wavy Gravy, peace activist and one-time official clown of the Grateful Dead, is known for never going anywhere without his plastic fish that he walks on a leash.

But people who walk real fish have also, on occasion, been seen. For instance, in October 2015, Zach Madden posted a picture to Twitter showing his uncle taking his goldfish for a walk.

Walking the Cabbage

Han Bing walking cabbage
via Han Bing

In recent years, Chinese artist Han Bing has inherited from Gérard de Nerval the mantle of 'most famous weird pet walker.' In fact, Han has practically made an entire career out of walking things that wouldn't normally be walked.

He started back in 2000 by walking a cabbage around Tiananmen Square. He attached a string to a cabbage and pulled it along behind him. Since then he's traveled the world, walking cabbages wherever he goes. He calls it his "Walking the Cabbage Project."

Han explains that walking a cabbage is all about "inverting an ordinary practice to provoke debate and critical thinking." He chose a cabbage because it's a food often eaten by poor Chinese, whereas dog walking is associated with the nouveau riche.

Han's cabbage walking project has inspired fans and imitators around the world. For instance, in 2016 artists in Kashmir began walking cabbages to protest the ongoing military conflict there.

However, Han doesn't only walk cabbages. He's also walked other objects including bricks,  coal briquettes, and iPhones. [NY Times, 10/16/2014]